Continuing Education

Discussing Tai Chi with Instructor Dennis Sharp

Veteran CE Tai Chi instructor Dennis Sharp first set foot on his path to martial arts studies in the late 1970s at the Seattle Kung Fu Club. Immersing himself in the study of Hung Gar Kung ImageFu, Sharp eventually became an instructor at the school in 1985. Upon leaving the school in 1992, Sharp took up the study of Tai Chi (Taiji or Taijiquan) in 1993 concurrent to opening his own class teaching Hung Gar Kung Fu in 1993. “I learned the Symmetrical (Double) Yang style Tai Chi form of Master Tchong Ta Tchen,” Sharp recalls.  “At first, my reason for learning Tai Chi was for the martial arts aspect, it wasn't until a few years later that I discontinued teaching Kung Fu because of its negative effects on my health and began focusing more on Tai Chi. I studied with Sensei Andy Dale and Sensei Dave Harris until 2000. I began teaching at North Seattle (Community) College in 2004.” Upon retiring from teaching Kung Fu in 2011, Sharp began to dedicate his time to teaching Tai Chi and Qigong.

As a centuries-old martial art, Tai Chi is now also referred to as "movement meditation." “The form is practiced slowly because the practitioner is coordinating breathing with movement lead by mental intent,” says Sharp. “This combination has a profoundly positive effect on all aspects of health.”

As his preferred form to teach, Sharp says that Symmetrical (Double) Yang style of Taijiquan is unique from other versions of the Yang style. “Unlike the other versions of the Yang style, movements and postures are learned on both sides of the body: everything from the solo form, to weapons, to martial applications.”Image

Sharp appreciates that learning to commit and focus on a discipline like Tai Chi can be daunting for the newcomer, but time and again he has proven to students the rewards are worth the challenge. “I find that the greatest obstacle new students face is learning how to overcome preconceived ideas about what Taijiquan is, and the feeling that it’s just too hard for them to learn,” Sharp assures them it is not. “I teach them that the underlying principles that Taijiquan is based on is more important than perfecting the movements. As long as the student perseveres, they will receive positive benefits. The postures and transitions help increase flexibility, the breathing and mental intent strengthen mental acuity and perception. Many students new to Taijiquan experience the positive benefits almost immediately.”

For many, the word “discipline” is a bit off-putting, particularly when discussing self-discipline. “Another daunting aspect of Tai Chi is self-discipline is a choice that most people want to Imageavoid, mainly because it involves major lifestyle changes that seem insurmountable. There was a time in my training when I made the choice to make teaching my life goal, and I could no longer live my life the same negative way.”

Though Tai Chi is a discipline conceived and refined in another culture, Sharp says that which the student looks forward to learning crosses all borders. “There are some people who experience a bit of cultural shock with Taiji because of its Chinese roots. I tell them that the principles taught by Taijiquan are universal to all cultures.”

“I love teaching beginners and seeing their reactions when they see that they are really getting it,” says Sharp “It’s like seeing light go on above their heads.”

Learn more about Dennis Sharp's classes, Beginning Tai Chi (Grasping the Sparrow's Tail) and Continuing Tai Chi (Grasping the Sparrow's Tail 2).