Tai Chi is classified as one of the martial arts, but it stands apart from some of the other well known martial arts in that many of the movements involved in Tai Chi are slow and gentle, ideally being smoothly flowing movements. It’s a practice which is suitable for people of all ages, and it is becoming especially popular with people over 50, both in its native China and the rest of the world.
Book Knowledge versus Muscle Knowledge
Starting to do Tai Chi can be very hard on the joints and time consuming. As a practitioner of Tai Chi for the past 10 years (off and on), I’ve found that it is both relaxing and challenging. As with anything else you set out to master, it takes time to transfer the book knowledge into muscle knowledge where your body knows what to do next without much conscious thought on your part. Because Tai Chi is such a versatile art form and exercise combined, it has remained a popular martial art.
Tai Chi was developed over 3000 years ago and is believed to be beneficial to physical and mental health alike. Clinical studies into the health benefits of Qi Gong (which is closely related to Tai Chi), suggest that there are many beneficial effects on human health associated with practicing Tai Chi regularly. With diligent practice, it is thought to aid the body in recovering from illnesses ranging from the mild to the very severe.
Teachers Come in Many Forms From All Walks of Life
My first Tai Chi teacher was a Jewish guy who had been practicing the art all his life. He taught in his basement and his students, myself included, were happy to pay and practice with him. One reason you can get hooked on Tai Chi is because of the way it causes your body to react. You chi or lifeforce begins to move and free itself, and you can feel it moving through your body like a soft river, at once powerful yet very subtle. It’s something, that once experienced, you want to recreate again and again.
Tai Chi Can Also Help Reduce the Severity of Arthritis
If you’re interested in taking up Tai Chi, you should seek out a very experienced instructor (meaning someone who has ten or more years of experience), preferably one who has learned the art in China or from a well known Tai Chi master. You want to make sure that you’re learning the real thing and gain all of the physical and mental health benefits that Tai Chi can provide, so it’s important to choose a well qualified instructor.
You Will Always Come Back to Practicing Tai Chi
As I’ve grown older and fought various illnesses including cancer, I’ve always come back to practicing Tai Chi, knowing it will bring me peace and build my endurance and resolve. A truism in Tai Chi is that you learn to move like a mighty river yet be still as a mountain. As you practice the art, you learn to plant yourself which makes you very resistant to being pushed around. It’s like tentacles come out of your feet and grip the surface. The river part is in your movement. Rivers are fluid, and so are your movements. Depending on the situation, you can flow like a river around the trouble or plant yourself against the trouble.
Supreme Ultimate Fist
The name tai chi (actually tai chi chuan), can be translated as “supreme ultimate fist” “great extremes boxing” or simply “the ultimate”. What does that mean? That’s a matter which is open to interpretation, but what’s not in dispute is that the goal of Tai Chi is to cultivate physical, mental and spiritual energy, particularly the universal energy known as chi in Chinese tradition.
This is energy which is present in every one of us and in the universe around us. We take in chi from the air we breathe and the food we eat. Tai Chi helps us to build up this energy in ourselves and this energy, in turn, helps us to achieve better health. This is the internal aspect of Tai Chi – there is also an external aspect, which is the martial facet of this art.
Energy Is Another Benefit That Makes the Practice Worth It
You are less tired, more energized and able to spring into action from a resting place if necessary. As people age, this fluidity and resilience is lost, but with Tai Chi, you can maintain your levels and get even more energy than you had before you started.
The Legends of Tai Chi
There are several different legends about the origins of Tai Chi. One is that it was developed by a semi-mythical Taoist priest named Zhang Sangfeng. Another is that it was taught to the Chinese people by a race of 7′ tall people approximately three thousand years ago. Although the strongest case for the origin of Tai Chi is that the art was developed by Chen Wangting in the 1600s based on his military experience and his studies of other martial arts, the legend of Zhang Sangfeng is an enduring one which includes a lot of insight to the practice of Tai Chi.
Legend has it that Zhang Sangfeng watched a fight between a snake and a crane, observing the different fighting styles of these two animals. Along with the patterns of nature and the movements of certain animals, it inspired the poses and movements which we now know collectively as Tai Chi.
Most Tai Chi movements are intended to be performed very slowly in order to promote good health and longevity. After all, the tortoise is a very slow moving creature and these animals can often live far longer than humans. It’s not unreasonable to think that we may be able to give ourselves a better chance of living a long and healthy life by learning to slow down and relax like the tortoise.
Self Defense and Tai Chi
If you find yourself in a position where you need to defend yourself, Tai Chi can come in pretty handy. As you practice, it’s slow and steady, but if you speed up those same moves, you can block, deflect and defend yourself using the fluidity of your body and the weight of the attacker against them. While I’ve practiced Tai Chi for a while, the self defense aspects is one of the parts that most people don’t talk about.
After my first Tai Chi teacher died, I found a second Tai Chi teacher who taught not only the health benefits of Tai Chi, but the self defense aspects. It was here that I learned that Tai Chi is the root of all martial arts practice, and that what I was learning was akin to building a core set of skills that could be carried over into any martial art I decided to practice.
Many Tai Chi movements and postures are inspired by animals, as evidenced by their names. For instance, there are movements with names like Golden Cock Stands On One Leg and White Crane Spreads Its Wings, just to name a few.
Tai Chi is a healthy form of low impact exercise which improves circulation, develops balance and builds strength. It has been used to help heart attack patients recover at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield. The breathing exercises, movement and stretching which characterize Tai Chi have been shown to be very helpful to people recovering from cardiovascular disease.
Tai Chi can be very energizing. Even though it’s an anaerobic workout which isn’t necessarily strenuous, you’ll be able to feel the energy flowing through your body after practicing your movements and poses; just don’t overdo it. With consistent practice and a commitment to taking control of your own health, Tai Chi can benefit your health in a number of ways.
Source: Tai Chi Buzz