Tai Chi is an internal Chinese martial art practiced for its defense training, mind-body-spirit, health and self-awareness benefits.
The learning process for an internal martial art such as tai chi appears to be longer than for an external martial art since it starts from the inside out - first understanding the inner mechanics of the body, qi gong (energy work), centring, grounding, linking, tension releasing and emptying. Higher level skills include expression of power, silk-reeling applications. Seasoned Tai Chi practitioners learn to let go of tension to use their relaxed structure, centre and internal power to control an opponent.
Along the way Tai Chi promotes good health, inner strength, endurance and mental clarity. And you meet and make some great friends too!
Forms, Push Hands and Silk-Reeling applications
Tai Chi is practised following a sequence of dynamic movements called a form. The movements in the forms assist in extending soft and hard qualities, fast and slow actions and are performed in a slow repetitive manner with emphasis on relaxation.
Push hands exercises are designed to increase sensitivity in the hands and feed awareness into the body. Adhering or "listening" to the other's hands, both partners experience the changes in yin and yang principles within themselves and their partner. This "listening" gives Tai Chi practitioners great insight into anticipating their opponent's next move.
Chen style Tai Chi is especially reputed for its unique silk reeling energy movements, spiralling, twisting, low stances, leaps and explosive energy releases.
Chen family and history
Tai Chi Chuan originated in the home of the Chen Family in the town of Chen Jia Gou in Henan Province, Northern China.
Chen Style Tai Chi is the original style of tai chi and its teaching was closely kept and passed down within the Chen family for centuries.
It is the most encompassing and balancing of all the Tai Chi styles with regard to yin and yang principles, incorporating hard and soft martial art techniques, low and high stances, slow and fast paces, soft and explosive power applications, etc.
Other styles evolved from this original style and include the Yang, Wu/Hao, Wu and Sun styles. Although they adhere to the same Tai cCi principles, they each have their yin and yang focus, characteristics and balance and are constantly changing.
This martial art, as you would expect by its very name, is still very much on the move with yet more styles still emerging.
Practising Tai Chi regulates all systems within the body (digestion, respiration and circulation) and strengthens the immune system. By reducing stress levels, it contributes to restoring and maintaining homeostasis and boosting immunity within the body
Stress release and other benefits
It is widely acknowledged that stress is at the root of causing and sustaining disease. A reduction in stress-related disorders occurs when the mind begins to focus on the task in hand during tai chi. This may be the most important health benefit given our busy everyday life styles to be gained from Tai Chi - slow down, focus on one thing at a time giving it all your attention, take the time...
Perhaps for the first time in our lives, Tai Chi teaches us to take the time to replace fragmented and rushed body movements with a slower, more integrated, natural and stress-free way of movement. Now our body is allowed to relax, be at ease and can enjoy expressing itself. Our consciousness, breathing and actions are allowed to connect closely - this allows tremendous and emotional psychological release of stress.
Integration of mind-body-spirit results in the body being able to move more efficiently. When the intention, mind and body work in unity, movement is effortless and joyous. Without being Olympic athletes, everyone has experienced moments like this and recognises the "high" of being in the flow where inner confidence, peace and connectedness with all things spontaneously arise.
Inner Feng Shui
The Tai Chi symbol represents moment to moment balancing of the different energies to achieve harmony.
As shown in the image, it is represented as forming the centre of our lives and body, namely the area of health and wellbeing. Since energy always moves outward, in Feng Shui it also represents the central courtyard, nowadays the hall in our house.
This is a space that needs to be balanced so it can remain empty - if you don't empty your belly or keep the hallway free of clutter, problems build up very quickly!
Learning and practising Tai Chi and its principles enables us to explore our individual yin and yang aspects, our habits, likes and dislikes to change. We start to become aware of this centre and to move towards balancing these aspects.
When yin and yang are in harmony, the centre is empty ready for whatever life brings. The mind calms and our being is centred. We become one with the forever changing flow of life and move easily without struggle in our lives.