Tai Chi

Tai chi or T'ai chi is a primeval Chinese tradition that is practiced for self defence as well as the health benefits offered by this form of martial art. It is believed that the Taoist monk Zhang Sanfeng created this internal Chinese martial art way back in the 12th century.

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The term Tai chi has its origin in the Chinese phrase "t'ai chi ch'uan", which when translated into English denotes "supreme ultimate fist". Alternatively, this Chinese phrase is also translated to "boundless fist". According to available records, the influence of Tai chi dates back to the days of the Taoist as well as Buddhist monasteries.

There are various diverse styles as well as variants of Tai chi. Each of these Tai chi forms has its individual heritage as well as separate dates of origin. While some Tai chi forms concentrate on providing health benefits, there are others that emphasize on self-defence or competition.

Incidentally, numerous stories are associated with the origin of Tai chi, they are so vast in number as well as diverse that the actual one is now shrouded in mystery. Nevertheless, there is a consensus regarding the fact that the perception of Tai chi dates back to the initial days of written Chinese history - ranging from Taoism and Confucianism. It is widely believed that Zhang Sanfeng was the founder of Tai chi.

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At least three stories maintain that the Zhang Sanfeng quit his monastery with a view to become a Taoist hermit. Later, he developed his individual form of combat that is founded on softness.

Initially, Tai chi was created for self-defence, but, over the years, this form of martial art changed to an elegant exercise form, which is now often used for reducing stress as well as to treat various health conditions. Tai chi is often depicted as meditation in motion, and it helps to promote composure via gentle and flowing movements.

The ancient Chinese traditional form of martial art, these days Tai chi is practised as an elegant exercise form. Tai chi involves a succession of movements that are performed in a slow, dedicated manner. Throughout their performance, practitioners keep taking deep breaths.

Some people also refer to T'ai chi as tai chi chuan, which is basically a non-competitive and self-paced physical exercise system. It is gentle and involves stretching. Each position flows into the subsequent one seamlessly and without any pause, thereby making sure that the body is in continuous motion.

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There are several different styles of Tai chi. All these styles may possibly have their individual delicate emphasis on the various methods and principles of Tai chi. In addition, there are several variants within every Tai chi style. While some Tai chi forms concentrate on maintaining the health of the body, some others emphasize on the martial arts feature of Tai chi.

In all, there are five different established styles of Tai chi. All these different Tai chi styles have their individual techniques as well as principles. These five Tai chi styles include Chen-style, Sun-style, Yang-style, Wu-style, and the Wu- or Wu (Hao)-style.

In fact, Tai chi is believed to be safe for all people, irrespective of their gender and age, since it never exerts excessive stress on the muscles or the joints. Apart from being safe for practice by almost everyone, Tai chi is also not an expensive form of exercise as you do not need much equipment. One can practice Tai chi alone or in a group.

Findings of several contemporary studies show that Tai chi has helpful consequences on fitness, balance control as well as flexibility. Moreover, it has been claimed that this form of martial art helps to lessen the risks of falls, especially among aged people who have already endured serious problems related to the heart.

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Who can do Tai chi

Although it is a form of martial art, Tai chi has a low impact and does not exert much pressure on the muscles and joint. This particular aspect of this traditional Chinese physical exercise generally makes it safe for people of all ages and fitness levels to practice. Since Tai chi is a light physical exercise, it may be particularly suitable for you, provided you are an older adult who usually does not undertake any physical workout.

Many people may also find Tai chi attractive as it is not an expensive means of physical exercise and does not require any special equipment. In fact, it can be performed both indoors and outdoors; on your own or in a group.

Although it is safe for most people to practice Tai chi, pregnant women and people enduring back pain, joint problems, fractures, acute osteoporosis or a hernia ought to essentially consult their physician or healthcare professional before trying this physical exercise. In some cases, physicians may recommend modification or even avoiding specific Tai chi postures for such people.

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Why try Tai chi?

There are various benefits of practicing Tai chi. After one has been thoroughly trained in this form of non-competitive martial art and performs it on a regular basis, Tai chi can play a vital role in improving your overall health. In addition, it can also be a helpful part of your approach to enhancing your health in general.

Some of the health benefits offered by Tai chi comprise augmented aerobic capability, enhanced stamina and energy, greater flexibility and agility, better balance, diminished anxiety and stress and augmented muscle strength as well as definition.

There are some evidences showing that performing Tai chi may also be helpful in some other ways. For instance, Tai chi may reinforce the immune system, improve the quality of sleep, help to reduce blood cholesterol levels as well as high blood pressure, and diminish the chances of falling, especially in the case of older adults. There are also evidences that practicing this low impact traditional Chinese physical exercise may help to alleviate joint pain, result in improvement of overall health in the older adults and also improve symptoms related to congestive heart failure.

Getting started with Tai chi

Several books and videos on Tai chi are available in the market. While you may purchase or rent them to serve as a guide, it is advisable that you seek the guidance of a qualified and competent Tai chi instructor in order to learn the right techniques and obtain the best benefits of performing it.

These days, several communities hold Tai chi classes as this concept of low impact physical exercise is increasingly becoming popular worldwide. If you are trying to find a Tai chi class close to where you reside, get in touch with the fitness centers, senior centers and health clubs in your neighbourhood. In order to become a Tai chi instructor one does not need to undergo any standard training program or obtain a licence to train. Therefore, before you join a Tai chi class, make sure that you enquire about the qualification as well as experience of the trainer. At the same time, if possible also try to get some recommendations.

It is advisable that when you start practicing Tai chi for the first time, you seek the guidance of an experienced instructor or trainer who will teach you the techniques of practicing this traditional Chinese low impact martial art safely. This is particularly important if you are suffering from any chronic conditions, injuries or problems related to balance or coordination. Despite the fact that Tai chi is a slow as well as gentle form of physical exercise and practically does not have any adverse side effects, it is likely that you may hurt yourself if you are not aware of how to perform it in the proper manner.

After you have attended a Tai chi class and practiced it for quite some time, you will be confident to try performing the postures all by yourself. However, if you take a liking for the social element of performing Tai chi, you may consider continuing attending Tai chi classes in a group.

Maintaining the benefits of Tai chi

You will get some benefits after attending a Tai chi class for a minimum duration of 12 weeks, but you can enjoy additional benefits of practicing this ancient Chinese traditional physical exercise provided you continue performing Tai chi for a longer period and become further skilled in this low impact martial art.

Practicing Tai chi at the same place and the same time daily as a routine will be very helpful. However, even if you have an irregular schedule, you can perform Tai chi whenever you get some free time - maybe even a few minutes. It is not necessary to always practice the actual movements of Tai chi. On the other hand, you may just practice the calming body-mind theory of Tai chi, especially when you are passing through a stressful period; for instance when you are caught in a traffic jam or have a stressed meeting at work.

How tai chi works

Tai chi is a safe, low impact physical exercise that can be performed by people of varying ages. Often Tai chi is compared to yoga, the ancient Indian form of physical exercise. Similar to yoga, Tai chi also has innumerable forms. The form of Tai chi that is practiced most commonly is called Yang style Tai chi. In addition, some other forms, including the Chen, Sun, Hao and Wu, are also popular.

The styles of each Tai chi form are somewhat different from the other. However, all of them give emphasis to slow, conscious and carefully coordinated movements - one movement flowing effortlessly into the next, something similar to a choreographed dance. In the case of Tai chi, this type of composed routine is called a set or form and every set comprises a particular number of postures or movements. For instance, the Yang-style Tai chi may include up to 150 postures in a particular set. Alternatively, a set of this style of Tai chi may include just eight movements. Sometimes, Tai chi practitioners perform a set holding a weapon, for instance staffs or swords, or they may also practice a set without holding anything in their hands.

At an extremely fundamental level, Tai chi may begin as one of the many postures or movements that include a slight bending, sling twisting, moving the arms up over one's head as well as forward, and moving the legs from one side to another. While these are very simple movements, they seem to be helpful in building strong muscles and also improve concentration, provided the deliberate movements/ postures are performed in the right manner.

A standard Tai chi form or set generally comprises movements that are meant to be warm-up workouts. These movements offer restrained aerobic activities, facilitate in preparing the musculoskeletal system for more exercises and, at the same time, promote deep breathing as well as relaxation. After one is done with the warm-up movements, he/ she will perform different postures that train the different body parts, varying from the chest and upper body to the hips, legs and feet. These postures are named such so that students of Tai chi are able to learn how they ought to move their bodies.

In addition, a usual Tai chi set may comprise cool-down workouts, which are designed to make sure that the energy set off while performing the exercises of a set is distributed equally all through the body. While you are performing Tai chi there are several such discreet spiritual components that include the Chinese perceptions regarding balance, or qi and yin-yang, or flow of energy.

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