Tai Chi (Tai Ji Chuan) For Health, Fun & LongevitySean Russell
As we know exercise is an integral part of our daily health. I also find it important to be able to have fun when exercising to not get caught in the ‘boredom’ factor and lose sight of the overall health goal. Many alternative health practitioners, especially those in eastern arts, use Qi Gong or Tai Chi for exercise. Tai Chi is a very fun way to get exercise in that is done in a fun way. Tai Ji Chuan is a moving combination of meditation, Qi Gong, concentration, balance, and martial art. This makes a great all in one way to combine things that you aren’t good at doing individually. Personally I am not good at meditation and I rush through things like Qi Gong too quickly, making Tai Chi perfect for me.
The health benefits go beyond the exercise of the art. You practice breathing techniques, how to ground yourself, and how to realize your energy potential. Science also has done studies that prove the increase in balance and the superior rebounding skills after getting knocked off balance. This is what makes Tai Chi a superior seniors exercise above all the rest. Increase an elderly persons balance can dramatically increase their longevity!
So lets look into some history of Tai Chi as known in the west or Tai Ji Chuan in Mandarin Chinese. Then lets look at what to expect if you want to start taking Tai Chi yourself!
Tai Chi is a form of martial arts that has existed for thousands of years, yet is a bit different than what you might have in mind about ‘martial arts’. Watch a Martial Arts student in action–what gets imprinted on your mind? It is the superb physique, lightning speed of movements, and the sheer brute force that come into play while resisting an opponent! Well, a student of Tai Chi (one of the oldest forms of these Arts) may come across as someone surprisingly different! Despite the battlers being in close contact, Tai Chi does not advocate the expression of strong movements similar to the enemy’s. Soft and subtle movements are the key to getting one’s foe totally exhausted!
Now, what is the philosophy behind this method of teaching? The Yin and Yang (as the Western world knows it) have a foundation of active and receptive principles. Tai Chi has descended from the Taiji symbol (shown below)
The opposition force should be forestalled with the proper application of the Yin-Yang balance. Tai Chi believes that grievous injuries can result from rigid and vehement movements. Brute force has to be subdued with gentle force—this implies the style and attitude of this form of Martial Art.
Let’s assume that you have taken admission in a school teaching Tai Chi techniques. The experts will concentrate on two important features of core training. The Solo form focuses on “I”. You will receive training in different natural movements aimed at maintaining balance. Get the center (center of gravity) of your body in alignment with the rest, and you end up with a perfect posture! Your circulatory system will go into top gear with repeated practice! Blood circulation from any point of the body is wonderful! Your muscles and joints attain dependable, tremendous flexibility. Finally, your familiarity with the important Martial Art application sequences indicated in the varied forms will be enhanced. The key aspects concerning “Solo” are—slow and steady movements that are dependent on an erect spine and well-balanced body; skillful moves; and restrained abdominal breathing.
The star performer of the Push Hands technique is the “palm”. Your palm is trained to adopt practical and beneficial movements. Just put all your energy behind your open-palm punches, and view the dramatic results! Tai Chi will train you to strike and push at the same time; your foe will be propelled forwards or backwards. You will notice that your small weapon has managed to lift your enemy from the ground! Due to this vertical lift, his/her center of gravity loses its alignment. The energy you apply to your strike can even lead to traumatic internal damage. This what makes Tai Chi a martial art rather than a simple exercise as many people know it. You DO learn self defense techniques.
Tai Chi is a traditional form of Martial Art; so, the styles of its various forms can differ. The waving movements of the hands or the positioning of the legs, or the body’s reaction to varied movements, or even the pace can be different. Regardless of all these, the central idea of Yin and Yang remains the same—the idea is to defend oneself against enemies, as well as train the body and mind to function in harmony!
Want to get started? Look around for a local place to get you enrolled. Here is a tip that may help you: if you are looking for more of the exercise benefits of Tai Chi try Yang Style. If you want to go with learning the martial part of Tai Chi as well you should give Chen Style a try! Most places are free for your first visit so you can give it a try and see what you think!