Whether you’re looking for a way to relax or be able to defend yourself, Tai Chi is the answer for you. Tai Chi is a martial art which can provide countless benefits to one’s physical and mental well-being, as well as add to one’s self-defense capabilities.
Composed of fluid actions, Tai Chi is designed to transfer energy throughout your body and keep your spirit in balance. In less metaphysical terms, it promotes general health and wellness by using relaxing movements that can increase flexibility, circulation, and mental clarity.
When people think of Chinese religion, they tend to picture Buddhist monks humming in some mountaintop temple. However, the two main traditions that contributed to Tai Chi were Confucianism and Taoism, both of which promote social harmony and moral improvement.
The founders of Tai Chi took these precepts and created a new martial art. This one focused more on being conscious of oneself and focusing internal and external energy effectively.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine reports that 2.7 million Americans did Tai Chi in 2007, showing that Tai Chi training is spreading over the world and becoming more popular among non-Chinese audiences.
There are a number of Tai Chi organizations that have been established to enlighten and promote teh martial art of Tai Chi. You can learn more from the American Tai Chi and Qigong Association(ATCQA), formerly American Tai Chi Association(ATCA), Taoist Tai Chi Society of the USA, and the Tai Chi Foundation.
Tai Chi is generally ascribed to Taoist monk Chang San-feng. According to legend, he based Tai Chi on his observations of animals and the liquid way they moved.
As such, Tai Chi uses slow, graceful movements that emulate the movements San-feng saw. The interactions of the crane and the snake were said to be particularly helpful.
In the traditional style, there are over one hundred actions designed to relax the mind and the body. These movements not only allow energy, referred to as chi, to flow, but also is meant to allow yin and yang to be in harmony within you.
In essence, Tai Chi channels your energy effectively to leave your muscles calm and you in better control of yourself. This is accomplished by employing the three main components of a Tai Chi session:
Movement: This is critical to moving chi throughout your body and working all parts of your body. Doing it slowly allows for more focus and concentration, which is why forms are practiced at a snail’s pace compared to other martial arts.
Meditation: The movement is compounded by thinking about oneself, which is a critical part of Taoism and Confucianism. Meditation can help you better understand your life and help you handle its pressures.
Deep Breathing: In, out…in, out…in, out…you get the idea. This breathing helps your lungs increase their capacity, and it also allows for better relaxation.
Tai Chi training can happen almost anywhere, whether it’s a formal establishment or a public park. Practicing at home is also encouraged.
Tai classes generally have a warm-up, form training, and the warm-down exercises. Forms are a combination of different moves designed to help you regain energy and develop a clearer mental state.
Am I too old? Will a medical condition interfere with my Tai Chi training? Tai Chi is for all, young and old. The speed of the movements can be adjusted based on your athletic level.
For the elderly, it’s particularly useful because of its low impact nature and its slow movements. It can provide exercise without the unwanted soreness and ice bags that often accompany other forms of exercise.
If you have a medical condition, Tai Chi can still be a viable form of exercise due to its gentle nature. It’s always a good idea to check with a doctor to get a professional opinion.
Tai Chi won’t just sound exotic when you tell your friends you’re doing it; it also has many health benefits that can help you in the long run.
For one thing, Tai Chi training can help you be in better control of your body. As you work your muscles while concentrating, you can become more aware of not only yourself, but your relationship to the world around you. You can better handle pressure as you learn to handle yourself.
Tai Chi is also a good form of aerobic exercise. Why go run five miles when you can perform a relaxing series of movements in the comfort of your own home? Aerobic exercise is helpful for weight loss and cardiovascular health, and Tai Chi can provide an alternate approach to hitting the gym.
Other benefits can include better flexibility, strength, balance, focus, and bodily control.
Tai Chi was not developed as an age-inclusive pastime, however. Its initial focus was on combat and safe self-defense.
While not as common as the all-too-familiar “Walking Dog” routines, Tai Chi’s martial applications do exist. They are focused mainly on yielding to an attacker and then countering based on their opponent’s first strike (remember the crane and snake thing from earlier?)
Some classes do exist that teach this aspect, but it is important to research locations before signing up. Many Tai Chi schools focus primarily on the non-violent application of the art.
Whether you’re five or a one hundred and five, Tai Chi can provide numerous benefits to your health. Its grace and near-spiritual focus help its practitioners learn to relax, soothe, and strengthen the body and mind, all while promoting a healthy exercise routine that can also be applied to self-defense.
So, why wait? Ready to find the perfect place to begin your trip towards better health?
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Tai chi ch'uan, also known as tàijíquán or simply “tai chi”, is an internal style of martial art that originates from China. Tai chi is most commonly practiced by people around the world for its meditative, fitness and health benefits, but is also a form of self-defense training. As with many of the martial arts, the term "t'ai chi ch'uan" has several different meanings, including "supreme ultimate boxing," "boundless fist" and "supreme ultimate fist."
Tai chi classes train students to master both soft and hard martial arts techniques and to pass from one pose to the next in a fluid, dynamic motion. Each pose is held for a long period of time, thereby straining and working out each muscle in the body and improving endurance, strength and balance. Tai chi also teaches students a suite of self-defense moves, hand “pushes” (not strikes) and drills, but these tend to be more choreographed in nature. This form of martial art is most popular for its demonstration competitions and for its deeply meditative nature, which is excellent for combating stress in today’s highly demanding lifestyles.
Learning tai chi involves mastering five separate elements:
There are also five traditional tai chi martial art forms or schools, the three most popular being Chen, Wu and Yang. Most modern versions of tai chi are a derivative or a combination of these schools.
Interesting Tai Chi Fact: There is scientific evidence supporting the health benefits of regular tai chi classes. According to this research, tai chi can actually help to improve the posture, balance and overall general health of students, especially of its older practitioners.
To learn more about Tai Chi, check out the links to come soon, below: