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Tai Chi

Tai Chi is a incredible hobby to learn in that it is very relaxing and will keep you very fit at the same time. Below is a terrific introductory article where you can learn the basics and how to get started. You can help grow our learning community by contributing your knowledge to the article. Just click on the edit tab in the wiki article below.

Use the white subtabs above to navigate the other Tai Chi resources. We have a Tai Chi forum where you can get your questions & doubts answered, a page with Tai Chi how-to videos, a page with the best handpicked links to other sites, and a page with the best Tai Chi books and products.

Good Luck and Have Fun!
Duncan Davis


Introduction


Tai Chi is a meditative exercise that is characterized by slow, lazy movement. However, don’t let that fool you. It has excellent health benefits, assists relaxation and is a self-defense martial art. Tai Chi is therefore regarded as “meditation in motion”. Tai Chi is also known as Tai Chi Chuan, T’ai Chi, Taiji, etc. This ancient Chinese martial art is popular across the globe for its health benefits and relaxing effects, and is increasingly being used as an alternative to the other forms of martial art.




Martial arts can be divided into two basic categories: the hard martial arts and the soft martial arts, also known as internal arts. Karate and Kung Fu are examples of hard martial arts. Ba Gua and Tai Chi are examples of soft martial arts. The movements in Tai Chi are slow, delicate and flowing and emphasize on force rather than on the brutal movements of the hard martial arts. These flowing, soft and slow movements are executed with precision to attain the right effect.




Tai Chi is popular in the West, as many people have taken to Tai Chi for its relaxing properties and for its health benefits. The way it is practiced in western countries, it can be best describes as a moving form of meditation and yoga combined; The art is practiced in a number of forms or ‘sets’ that constitute of a sequence of movements. Many of these movements have been derived from the martial arts, and may from the natural world; like the natural movements of birds and animals. The creatures whose movements were copied were the tiger, deer, bear, ape and birds. All the movements are slow and graceful with a smooth transition from one movement to the other.




History


It is difficult to trace the origin of Tai Chi; therefore, one has to rely on legend to know the actual source of this beautiful martial arts form. Tai Chi traces its origin to China in approximately 220 to 265 AD. Yoga was known in China as Saolin chuan (chuan means boxing). Chang San Feng, a Taoist monk, further developed the art of Tai Chi in 13th Century AD. This art form was subsequently associated to different families in China. Each family developed its own form of Tai Chi based on the original form and designated them the family name.




All other forms of Tai Chi developed from the art developed by the Chen Chang-hsing family (1771-1853). A man called Yang Lu Chan (1789-1872) studied Tai Chi from the Chen family and later developed his own style now known as the Yang style of Tai Chi, and is today the most practiced traditional style of the art. This style of Tai Chi again has three forms that are followed today namely the short form, the long form and the simplified form.




The Chinese characters of Tai Chi Chuan, translated into English are “Supreme Ultimate Boxing/Force”. This supreme ultimate is the “Tao”, the framework within which in the field of time the dualities (male/female, dark/light, active/passive, forceful/yielding, etc) of Yin and Yang are manifested. Tai Chi within itself, in its movements, patterns of breathing and shapes, contains all that is necessary to bring the forces of Yin and Yang to interact and reconcile to attain the Supreme Ultimate and thus is given such a name. It can be said that originally, Tai Chi Chuan, was a sophisticated method of fighting that brought about the interaction and reconciliation of the two dynamic dual forces. Thus, in this art form, speaking structurally, a practitioner tries to neutralize the force of his opponent and then applying a counter force. In this interaction of give and take, the highest expression or the “supreme ultimate” is found.




In its developmental stage, Tai Chi was a very potent form of martial art, and was zealously guarded by a few families who used it for self-defense. The techniques of breath control and relaxation, the different and proper postures for transmitting energy, and the methods of single-weightedness were all created with the singular purpose of engaging in combat in a scientifically efficient manner. This aspect of Tai Chi is very important and has to understood and appreciated by every student of Tai Chi, in order to utilize the art to the fullest. All forms of Tai Chi emphasizes on grasping the meaning of the movements and forms 1/3rd of the real purpose of learning Tai Chi. Other purposes of Tai Chi are physical well-being and spiritual, mental and emotional well-being. ‘Push hands’ are also an important part of modern Tai Chi. it is a two person sport and exercise regime in which both the people are sensitive and responsive to other person’s vital force or ‘chi’.




The Tai Chi philosophy, it is believed, has been taken from the two Chinese philosophical texts, the I Ching and the Tao Te Ching. Tao Te Ching when translated has many meanings; one of which is “the classic way of integrity”. I Ching is a Chinese system of divination. The 13 basic postures of Tai Chi, created by Chang San Feng, are associated with the 5 elements in Chinese alchemy namely fire, water, earth, metal and wood and with the 8 basic I Ching trigrams. Other movements of the art form are also related to the full 64 trigrams of I Ching philosophy.




Both, I Ching and Tao Te Ching, stress on “chi” that denotes a form of energy. Literally, it means something like “breathe”. “chi” in ancient Greek language meant ‘spirit”. According to Chinese philosophy, ‘chi” flows through an individual’s body. Tai Chi masters, Chinese medicine and Tai Chi philosophy believed that when this energy is blocked one becomes ill. Thus, Tai Chi is also acclaimed to have health benefits as it fosters the circulation of “chi” in a body. This “chi” is circulated in patterns that are closely related to the vascular and nervous system. Thus, Tai Chi is also closely connected to acupuncture and other arts of oriental healing.




Tai Chi also has meditative benefits. It is said to help a person understand himself/herself thus enabling the person to deal more effectively with others. For this a person needs to self control. This can be attained by the two notions of the Chinese philosophies Tao Te Ching and I Ching. These two notions are Yin and Yang. These two opposite principles merge into one another to create a balance of the outer world and inner self. This in turn brings about a person’s spiritual and physical well-being. Precise execution of Tai Chi exercises fosters a tranquil and calm mind. This provides a person with a practical avenue to learn balance, rhythm of movement, alignment, genesis of movement from various body parts, fine-scale motor control, and more. Practicing Tai Chi thus also helps its practitioner in some measure to stand, walk, run, move, etc in a better way. It also helps to correct poor posture, movement or alignment patterns, etc which might contribute to injury or tension.


 




Learning


In modern society, we can apply the benefits of Tai Chi in our daily life. In fact, Tai Chi is already very popular in western countries as a hobby sport. This hobby promotes the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical well being of a person and also provides inner calm and tranquility. Tai Chi can be used to fight stress, fatigue, overwork and the lack of understanding of oneself and ones body. Tai Chi, if practiced perfectly, increases one’s longevity and gives you a tool for self-defense should the need ever arise. It also helps in the proper circulation of “chi” in the body keeping you healthy and free from diseases. Practicing Tai Chi daily helps in attaining mental clarity and develops a healthy body. With so many advantages, Tai Chi has become quite popular among the European and western countries. You too can practice Tai Chi as a hobby and later practice till you attain perfection to achieve all-round well being.