Tai Chi is an internal art of defense that can be gentle and soft. It may and ought to be practiced in a smooth slow way for people of all ages. Nowadays, especially, in China and the West, people past the age of 50 are taking up tai chi while the younger generations are not so keen in practicing this ancient traditional form of martial art!
The 3000 years of Chinese practice of Tai chi and the recent clinical studies have shown that this type of exercise and meditative art can be extremely beneficial to the health of the individual practitioner. Total recovery from colds and even diseases such as cancer has been recorded through assiduous practicing of tai chi.
This healing art can also be used to alleviate arthritis. We recommend that you train under a highly experienced teacher in China or one who has more than a decade experience and had his training from a well-recognized master with verifiable “lineage” or in China. This will help you learn tai chi correctly and thus you can achieve a healthier body, a clearer mind, and steady but sure recovery from any health challenges you may be experiencing or have experienced.
In English, Tai chi chuan translates to “supreme ultimate fist”. It is really about cultivating the spirit, body, mind, and of all kinds of energy. It doesn’t have a corresponding counterpart in the West. This energy is known as chi and exists in the body from birth. We derive and sustain chi from the food we eat and the air we breathe. Exterior energy is the energy within the universe. In tai chi, we learn to develop and utilize the chi in our bodies for the betterment of our wellbeing and health. This is the medical side of tai chi. When we train ourselves to use the exterior energy in tai chi, this will pertain to the martial side of tai chi.
Tai chi is believed to have first been practiced around 5000 years ago. There are two legends that describe how this method came to be. One was by Chang Seng Feng, a Taoist priest who passed the knowledge to the ancient Chinese people and the other was by a group of people who were believed to have been 7ft tall. These individuals were called “the sons of mirrored light” and were said to have conveyed the practice to the Chinese which made their civilization so advanced 3000 years ago as demonstrated by the silk and porcelain items that archaeologists have uncovered.
It was believed that Chang Seng Feng witnessed a fight between a snake and a crane and observed the striking and yielding motions of these animals. He created tai chi based on these observations. Thus, Tai Chi is performed in a constantly changing and slow way, much “like a river” to foster wellbeing and long life. Does the elephant or turtle move fast and quickly? And how long do these creatures live? Isn’t it then possible that we ought to slow our lives down and relax as these long-living creatures do to better our own chances of living long lives?
In the different forms of tai chi, we mimic the movements of various animals. We perform a set of postures or movements that smoothly segue into each other. These strengthening and stretching exercises come with grandiose names, such as Fair Lady Weaving the Shuttles, Golden Cock Standing On one Leg, White Crane Spreading Its Wings, etc.
Tai chi is a health-giving exercise that enhances circulation. It incorporates movement and breathing as well as interior massage of the organs of the body organs and stretching of ligaments, tendons, and muscles. It’s essential to keep a clear mind and even if the exercise is not strenuous (anaerobic), the body still feels energized after proper practice and one can the feel energy flowing within after the activity – therefore, there’s no need to overdo it. The thing to remember is to practice daily and consistently and totally taking responsibility for your health.
Cindy Chamberlain is a licensed acupuncturist and a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) of Eastern Healing Solutions, LLC in Overland Park, KS