T’ai Chi for Kids, Move Like the Animals by Stuart Alve Olson

T’ai Chi for Kids Move Like the Animals by Stuart Alve Olson is an enchanting book for children, grandchildren, and all ages.  The images illustrate the names of eight common T’ai Chi poses and help in learning the form. On the cover is “White Crane Cools its Wings.”

From the author:
“I probably should have titled the book, Tai Chi for Kids (of All Ages), as many older Tai Chi adherents have made similar comments as yours. I think why that is, is because the book is about “play,” most Tai Ji Quan books (my other books included) have a more serious approach by exploring the deeper aspects of Tai Ji Quan, but Tai Chi for Kids was written and approached purely from a playful standpoint. Kids play, it is how they learn to interact with others and use their imagination, which if you think about it, is the core of Tai Ji Quan practice. ”

–Stuart Alve Olson     Valley Spirit Arts

8 Brocades by Mimi Kuo-Deemer

Below is a link to the “8 Brocades” Qigong practice demonstrated by Mimi Kuo-Deemer.  When beginning to learn Tai Chi, this is a wonderful exercise sequence to do on the days between lessons.  It will help you to learn to focus your Qi and develop strength in your legs and arms.

Sequence of the 8 Brocades:

1 – Two Hands Support the Heavens:  Push the hands, with fingers loosely entwined, over the head and stretch toward the sky.

2 – Separating Heaven and Earth:  Press one hand with palm upwards to the sky and the other hand with palm downwards towards the earth.  In a smooth motion, switch the position of the hands so that the one that was pressing upwards is now low and  pushing downwards while the downward facing hand is now over the head pressing upwards.

3 – Drawing the Bow to Shoot the Golden Eagle:  While in a horse stance (feet wide apart, knees bent, tailbone tucked under, back vertical and straight) imitate the action of drawing a bow to either side.  Turn the head to look in the direction the bow is pointing.

4 – Wise Owl Gazes and Looks Backwards:  Stand in resting position, arms relaxed and slightly in front with palms facing the body.  In a smooth motion, sink the tailbone, open the palms outwards, and turn the head (from the neck only) to one side.  Return to resting position with eyes facing front and palms turned back towards the body.  Repeat to the other side.

5 – Swing the Head and Tail:  Squat in a low horse stance, place the hands on thighs with the elbows facing out and twist from the waist to look backwards on each side.

6 – Two Hands Climb the Legs:  Stretch arms upwards to the sky and then bend forwards and hold the calves/ankles/toes.  Tuck the tailbone under and roll the spine upwards until body is once again vertical and at rest.

7 – Punching with an Fierce Gaze:  Stand in horse stance (feet wide apart, back straight and vertical, tailbone tucked under) and punch with loosely clenched fist to the front.  Alternate arms.

8 – Shake the Back 7 Times:  Roll feet forward and push upward from the toes to stand briefly on the toes.  Relax feet/legs and drop onto heels, creating an impact vibration that spreads up the legs and spine.


Beginner Exercises

We have developed a series of exercises, Qi Gong movements and t’ai chi postures, to expedite learning and accommodate and respond to individual needs and conditions. The following are a few examples of exercises that we employ before we begin the t’ai chi form:

  1. Sitting in a chair, imagine your head and body are suspended from a string and that your spinal column is a string of pearls that are your vertebrae. Now slowly lift your hands and arms and pretend that you are driving a car. Relax your shoulders and breathe deeply into your belly.
  2. Stand against a wall with the heels of your feet ~6” from the wall with knees slightly bent. Think of the natural “S”-curve of the spine. Although straightening the curve is not possible, imagine doing so: imagine pressing the back of the neck (the “jade pillow”) against the wall and, at the same time, pressing the lower back against the wall.
  3. Shoulder width and root; standing quietly, suspended from a string, sink and relax with your feet under each shoulder with a natural width. Feel your feet spread from outside to inside, toes to heel and embrace your body weight as you find your balance. Use your breath as a guide towards calm that sustains that balance.
  4. Bow posture provides a structural building block for learning t’ai chi’s postures and form. With either foot forward, find a strong root with 70% of the weight in the front foot and the other foot slightly toed out and shoulder width behind. With both knees bent, the back straight and the body suspended as if from a string, relax into the posture.

We emphasize the importance of bending the knees over the toes, slowing down our movements, listening to our bodies and doing everything possible to avoid injury or harm.

Indeed, our entire approach revolves around healing injuries, promoting health and well being. All our practices and classes are non-competitive. We strive to provide a safe, secure and friendly environment to learn T’ai Chi.

With practice, gateways to the wonder of t’ai chi will open for you immediately. Give it a try!


Meditation proves elusive for many of us, so we find solace in t’ai chi’s breathing, postures and movement to ‘eliminate random thoughts’. That can be the rub – quieting the mind from the noises, stresses and worries of everyday life. T’ai chi opens the gateway immediately to all in the search for ways to meditate. With quiet standing we can simply count our breaths, slow, quiet and continuous and concentrate our minds on our dan-tiens (centers). Easier said than done, we help each other by practicing ‘moving meditation’ with our t’ai chi and qi-gong exercises together.  As quickly as possible, we try to share techniques and integrate the t’ai chi instruction with letting go of random thoughts, and worse, worries, that clutter our minds and distract our living in the moment.  Sooner rather than later, we discover that simply practicing t’ai chi provides a meditative path to promoting centering, calm and tranquility.