It is an ancient form of meditative exercise, originating in China, used to improve and maintain good health, increase longevity and as a means of self-defence. It is practised by hundreds of millions of people around the world and can be recognised by its slow, captivating movements.
The words can be literally translated as Tai - supreme, Chi - ultimate, Chuan - boxing. Together as a phrase they represent an expression of living life to it's fullest, bending like bamboo in the face of even the strongest winds, while continuing to grow supple and strong
Where does Tai Chi Chuan come from ?
The origins of tai Chi Chuan (usually shortened to Tai Chi) are lost in time. Although descriptions of individual postures and their principles have been found from records over 3,500 years old, tradition puts the creation of the first set of recognisable postures with Chang san Feng, a monk living in the mountains of China about 600 years ago. From his meditations and experiences he understood how in time that which remains soft and pliant endures while that which is hard and rigid withers, as water and wind wear down even the tallest mountains. This resulted in a series of movements which follow natural principles and assist in the development of an internal understanding. These movements were arranged in a martial form to encourage participation and for practical benefit. In more recent times several styles have developed, the most popular of which is the Yang style, named after the Yang family.
Reasons for practising Tai Chi
There are many reasons for practising Tai Chi, to improve health, increase energy, as moving meditation to quieten and focus the mind, to understand ones nature and for self defence. tai Chi is primarily practised for health reasons today. It's slow movements allow even the stiffest and most tense person the opportunity to relax and strengthen their body without risk of strain or injury. Many people begin tai Chi with injuries or ill health and their primary focus is a means of aiding recovery, particularly with systemic problems like rheumatism, stress related problems and structural problems like back pains and knee injuries. At it's most profound levels Tai Chi leads to a greater understanding of all aspects of life, physical, mental and spiritual.
Why Tai Chi is called an 'internal art'.
Tai Chi is called an internal art for several reasons. The focus of Tai Chi is on the development of internal energy or Chi through movement and meditation. It is this which allows masters of this art to perform their miraculous appearing demonstrations. The progress each student makes internally - mentally and psychologically as well as energetically - is often more important than that made externally. Responding in a relaxed fashion to changes in life, problems that occur and hurdles that arise, is the daily challenge for Tai Chi practitioners. It is all too easy to become trapped in the external and completely miss the internal. To die too early is considered its ultimate failure.
Initial Benefits of practising Tai Chi
The first noticeable benefit is usually an increase in a feeling of relaxation and well being. In the first class a student should begin to sense their own energy or chi. After a short period of time a student will
feel this sensitivity increase and begin to improve their relaxation and energy circulation. Becoming aware of where tension is held and how to relax and soften (without becoming limp and lifeless) results in a calmer, more relaxed body and mind with an ability to do more at any moment in time. Regular practice is the key to progress.
Tai Chi as a Martial Art
Tai Chi is an extremely effective martial art, although this is not emphasised initially. The student must first grasp the fundamental principles of Tai Chi. However, each posture contains many Martial applications. Two person work (push hands) is used to develop sensitivity and understanding, with the goal of understanding oneself and one's partner in the same moment. Using internal energy as a martial art is the result of many years of dedicated practice. However, the use of it's principles as a means of self-defence is immediate
Who can practise Tai Chi ?
The delight of Tai Chi is that anyone can practise it, anytime, anywhere and in almost any state of mobile health. There is no age limit. In China some people take up Tai Chi at an early age. Primarily it is studied by adults, the external arts being easier for children to follow as they require less mental discipline