‘Tai Chi is born of Wu Chi and is the mother of Yin and Yang. In motion it separates. In stillness they return.’ Tai Chi is according to legend rooted in the Chinese philosophical systems of Taoism and Confucism. The idea of bai shi and the teacher student relationship come from Confucius. The doctrine of the mean and the idea of enough, no more no less come, as far as we know from a grandson of Confucius. Taoism arises from ancient Chinese thought, the term tai chi appears in the I Ching. Its roots may lie in shamanism. It now has many branches both Mystical and philosophical. The branch that is of most interest to us is the philosophical school of the Complete Reality Sect. It is an over simplification but to put it simply, Taoism presents a method for being natural i.e. Comfortable within yourself, comfortable within your environment. Tai Chi training is a representation of that method in action. The term Tai Chi can be translated as meaning Supreme Ultimate. The Taoists called it Tao, meaning ‘the way’. So how does this help us? To begin with you can say that to be at one with the way is to be natural, at ease, comfortable within yourself and your surroundings. Anything else can be said to be a state of disease. Many modern and not so modern ailments can be argued to arise from this state of disease. So how does it work? For most people the way Tai Chi works is through the Hand form. What is the Hand form? The Hand Form represents a way of applying the principles of Tai Chi to movement. Four of those principles are: 1/ Suspended from above, supported from below Posture relates directly to, provides a window into, our physical and psychological well being. Working with posture is working within that window. Some styles call this suspended head top. Others may talk of the Golden Thread. It relates to correct, natural, posture and is a method that when applied creates a base upon which the other principles can be developed. Basically it means to extend the spine from the crown of the head, by use of that Golden Thread, allowing the body to hang from the spine, while at the same time relaxing into your feet by unlocking the knees and extending gently out through the hands.
2/ Natural breathing To breathe naturally means here, to breathe from the diaphragm. That is to breathe into the belly, long and slowly. By doing this we use our respiratory system more economically and breathe more easily. We also cause the body to relax and aid digestion. This is the way babies breathe. Over time as we grow and our surroundings take us over, we may lose this natural facility and begin to chest breathe, which is associated with the fight or flight syndrome, anxiety, tension and Asthma. 3/ Distinguishing Yin and Yang This relates to balance and also closely to another principle; Balanced Turning and stepping. Yin and Yang are polar opposites. They combine but do not mix. By learning to distinguish Yin from Yang you will learn to move freely. Yin is still, heavy, dark, female and night while Yang is active, light, bright, male and day. There can be no one without the other. At the extremes one becomes the other. In the Tai chi Symbol, One always contains a small amount of the other. 4/ The Dantian The Dantian is the Chinese name for the point; one to two inches below the belly button and two thirds of the way in towards the spine, which is roughly the body’s centre of gravity. Becoming aware of this point and working with it greatly enhances relaxation, balance and co-ordination. Body systems As can be gleaned from above, Tai chi works primarily on the musculoskeletal system, joints, the cardio vascular system and the respiratory system. The results of this work though are felt in the central nervous system and the digestive system By working on ourselves using the aspects discussed above we create an upright relaxed awareness within ourselves that is balanced and co-ordinated.
Sports All sports will benefit from the practice of Tai chi: The improved relaxation, posture, breathing, balance, visual field and co-ordination not to mention the mental benefits, enable sports people to improve their performance. One aspect that many people comment on is the development of tai chi reflexes. Also a relaxed person uses less fuel than a tense person and so has greater endurance. Illnesses and injuries Applying the principles of Tai chi to your life can prevent injuries happening. If they do happen they can help speed recovery. There are research papers that tell of great benefits in fall prevention, it is recommended in cardiac recovery. The light gentle twisting and turning of the exercise works very well on arthritic conditions. The low impact weight bearing and postural work is very good for people with Osteoporosis. M.E., M.S., Parkinson’s and Asthma (to name but a few) sufferers all benefit from the training. Age As we age our bodies change. If we fail to stay active and or respond negatively to our environments then the results will show. Posture, stance, balance can all be affected. Staying on our feet can become a problem. We may have skipped and hopped and jumped in our youth, stood on one leg even just for the fun of it. These things can be lost with time. Tai chi training is that it works to develop skill in all these areas. The training can be adapted to the needs of any person wishing to give it a try. Work can be done from a seated position. Breath practise can be done anywhere as can Dantian practise. If the legs are weak and or balance poor, training can begin with a mixture of sitting and standing postures (without stepping). So no matter what the starting position Tai chi has something to offer everyone. From the relaxation/ meditation work of the breath and Dantian, through the movements of the form and beyond. Training in Tai Chi really does prolong active life.
The I Ching: the classic of change. The Tao Te Ching: The Classic of the Way and its Virtue is the primary book of Taoist thought. Taoism is a Chinese Philosophical/religious system The term Tai Chi originates in Taoism. Tai Chi Chuan literally means the Fist of the Way. Tai Chi means Supreme Ultimate. The Taoists call it the way. There is another term Chi which means breath/energy (as in transformation) and is used to in relation to another set of Chinese exercises called Chi Kung; breath/energy work(Kung=work). Chuan means fist and is a term used to designate a martial art in Chinese. The art of Tai Chi Chuan is thought to have been developed by an obscure Taoist adept called Chang San Feng (literally Chang of the three peaks) around the 12th and 14th centuries. The Martial Art of Tai Chi Chuan consists of 5 components. These are Hand form, Applications, Pushing hands/partner work, Weapons and Internal Work (Nei Kung).