What is Tai Chi?
What is Tai Chi?
What is Tai Chi, Tai Chi Chuan, T’ai Chi Ch’üan, or Taijiquan — literally “supreme ultimate fist?” Taiji, most commonly known as Tai Chi, T’ai Chi, or Taiji, is an internal Chinese martial art. If you are familiar with Tai Chi, you may be surprised that it is considered a martial art.
Often we think of martial art as a more aggressive practice, such as in karate or tae kwon do. But not all martial arts are the same. Tai Chi is considered a martial art because of the way in which it helps students with defense. To use it this way, students must be very advanced and learn faster moves. In an actual battle, you would use Tai Chi to receive and absorb blows. That’s why it is so important to relax your muscles when you practice Tai Chi, and to remain stable so that your opponent is unable to topple you. Today, Tai Chi classes are mostly used to help students with balance, focus and mind-body connection.
There are different styles of T’ai Chi Ch’uan, but most schools can trace their development to the system originally taught by the Chen family to the Yang family starting in the early 1800s.
Click here to learn a bit more.
What is Tai Chi — the Practice
Tai Chi is often promoted and practiced as a martial arts therapy or exercise for the purposes of health and longevity. The movements in Tai Chi classes are slow and gentle and therefore excellent practice for anyone with physical limitations. These include surgeries and injuries to the musculoskeletal system such as the knees, hips, back and neck. These areas are traditionally problematic as people age, and the fact that they can be painful and troublesome often prevents those with these types of injuries from getting the exercise they so sorely need. Oftentimes those with musculoskeletal conditions must resort to swimming as the only form of exercise their bodies can tolerate.
Tai Chi lessons, however, are easy to tolerate because the practice is not jarring and uses soft, fluid movements. For this reason, it has unfairly gotten the reputation of being easy to do, but if it is done correctly, Tai Chi is quite challenging. That’s because there is so much more to it than meets the eye. Tai Chi incorporates an essential mind-body connection, and it’s here that the most important benefits of the practice are found.
Tai Chi movements can be taken to deeper and more challenging levels offering more strength and flexibility to those who desire more physical challenge as well. In our Tai Chi on-demand classes, our practitioner gives modifications not just for those with limitations, but also for those who want to progress at a faster pace.
Keep in mind that no matter how you choose to practice Tai Chi, its base origin is rooted in martial application.
Tai Chi is known to help promote better balance and alleviate and prevent symptoms of ailments associated with aging. Part of the reason balance declines with age is because the musculoskeletal system deteriorates and weakens. Another reason is because it becomes more difficult to glean
information from the senses and process it quickly and efficiently. Thus, taking Tai Chi classes helps delay or prevent these issues from occurring.
Here are some related articles:
Tai Chi Helps Reduce the Risk of Falling
Tai Chi and Fall Prevention for Seniors
Tai Chi for Arthritis Proven Effective for Arthritis
Tai Chi for Parkinson’s Disease
Relief for Piriformis Syndrome Sciatica and Sacroiliac Dysfunction
What is Tai Chi — the Style
Tai Chi Chuan is considered a “soft style” or internal martial art — an art applied with as much deep relaxation or “softness” in the muscles as possible — to distinguish its theory and application from that of the hard, or external, martial art styles which use a degree of force in the muscles.
This is one reason Tai Chi is known as a defensive martial art. The discipline teaches students to avoid injury in battle by employing a certain plasticity that defuses blows.
Because the mind-body connection is so essential in Tai Chi classes, these benefits easily translate to mental defense. Instead of reacting to “attacks” from bosses, family members or others, you learn to simply sidestep and deflect while maintaining your balance. This is an important component in reducing stress, which allows you to focus more of your energy usefully on pursuits such as work, hobbies and self-care.
What is Tai Chi — the Variations
Variations of Tai Chi’s basic training forms — including Chen, Yang, Wu, Sun and Hao — are well known as the slow-motion routines that groups of people practice every morning in parks across China and other parts of the world.
Yang is the style most people practice in the U.S. today, with slow, fluid movements. Other styles incorporate explosive movements or emphasize footwork. The most advanced style, practiced by few, is almost wholly internal, focusing on making small movements through inner concentration.
Traditional Tai Chi classes are intended to teach awareness of one’s own balance and what affects it, awareness of the same in others, an appreciation of the practical value in one’s ability to moderate extremes of behavior and attitude at both mental and physical levels, and how this applies to effective self-defense principles.
Click here to read an article that explains more about the flavors and variations of Tai Chi.