Tai Chi Explained
Tai Chi, pronounced "ti ji", is a mind-body practice that originated in China as a martial
art system. Tai Chi is also known by other spellings, such as Tai Chi Chuan, T'ai Chi, Taiji, etc. Tai Chi, as a martial art, consists of the 3 components:
- The Form: This is the slow, meditative movements that one often associates with Tai Chi practice
- Push hands: A partner exercise that emphasizes a non-competitive way of dealing with an opponent without inflicting any pain (emotional or physical). The fixed step version is designed to use the opponents pushing energy against them by using only about 4 ounces of force to move them off balance.
- Full contact fighting: In this level, we actually attack and defend at full speed using punches and kicks, trying to overcome an opponent using only the amount of force necessary to result in a successful outcome.
A brief history:
Tai Chi's history is traced to a Taoist monk in 12th century China named Chang San-Feng (or Zan Sanfeng). Chang is said to have observed a snake and a crane fighting and through their movements, he deduced that one could overcome strong, unyielding opponents by utilizing
sensitivity and timing and not by meeting force with force. Chang developed an initial set of exercises that imitated the movements of these animals.
In the 17th century, a martial artist known as Yang Lu Chan developed the “Yang” style of Tai Chi and through his children and their students that followed, has become the most popular Tai Chi style today. One of the core concepts of Tai Chi is that the Taoist forces of Yin and Yang should be in balance. In Chinese philosophy, Yin and Yang are two principles or elements that make up the universe and everything in it and that also oppose each other.
The Three Basic Components of Tai Chi are:
- Exercise: When performing Tai Chi, individuals sink their weight into the ground to maintain good body alignment to promote stability and balance. Movements flow from one to another, with body weight shifting from the right leg to left. Some movements are even named after animals or birds, such as "White Crane Spreads Its Wings."
- Meditation: While performing the gentle and slow Tai Chi movements, individuals keep their mind calm and alert, concentrating on the moves and reaching a state called “being in the moment”.
- Self-defense: With the flow of the movements (based on self-defense techniques), we as individuals exhale stale air and toxins from the lungs, stretch the muscles involved in breathing, and release body/mind tension. This gives one a keen awareness of the movements around us so we can identify aggressive ones and deal with them in an efficient and effective manner.
Most people practice Tai Chi for various health purposes, such as:
- It is an isometric and aerobic exercise building leg strength and balance.
- To improve physical condition, muscle strength, coordination and flexibility.
- To lower the risk of falls and the resulting damage to the body, especially in elderly people.
- To ease pain and stiffness--for example, from arthritis.
- To reduce stress and related sicknesses.
- To improve sleep.
- To increase coordination and timing which is useful for various sports such as tennis and golf, among others.
- For overall wellness as noted in many holistic journals.
Important note: Before practicing Tai Chi for health purposes, it is important that you seek advice from your main health care provider, such as your family doctor.
Tai Chi Master
Tai Chi Experience:
26 years of Chen and Yang style taijiquan.