Have you ever seen people doing those slow motion exercises…
…in the park or in the background of Chinese movies? That slow motion Chinese exercise is called Tai Chi Chuan (Taiji).
More recently, Taiji has been gaining attention all around the world for its healing powers and its ability to prevent illnesses. It is a complete exercise of the mental and physical in one art form.
A Brief History of Tai Chi Chuan
Tai Chi is a martial art based on harmony. It was developed in the Song Dynasty, enhanced through the last 1000 years to achieve efficient body and soul alignment. Despite of the martial art application, the Tai Chi practitioner will gain health benefit and enjoy the integrity of body motion/movements.
The Yin and Yang of the Tai Chi symbol represents two extreme forces united in one. When practicing Tai Chi, the power grows and diminishes to the extreme. By attaching these forces to a partner, one can turn the situation to benefit oneself. Tai Chi Chuan originally consisted of eight hand movements or eight different forces using hands and five different steps.
Through the years, it developed into more than one hundred stances. Each stance has its own individual application. The application is always based on the assumption that one can avoid a conflict and follow the situation, eventually gaining an opportunity to outperform the opponent. New form can always be developed; new stances will emerge. Only the good ones will stand and the less efficient ones will go. There are simplified and more traditional forms, as long as it is adapted to the principal of Tai Chi, it will sustain. By combining the 8 forces of hand movements and by using 5 steps, various movements can be developed. How to string all the stances together is based on the personal preference. However, each stance should contain a perfect logic or application. When you put different stances together, it becomes a form, a routine. From one stance to the next stance in a form, there might not be any logic; you can consider the form as a book which contains short stories as stances. Therefore, whether the form contains a 24, 42, 68 or 108 stances, it’s just a way of compiling movements.
In the past thousand years, many families developed its own unique form and they are called different styles of Tai Chi Chuan. For example, there are the Chen, Yang, Sun, and Hao styles of Tai Chi. They may look different, but they all try to apply the same principles. By understanding the principle of Tai Chi, you gain the essence of this martial art instead of being confused by biases of the different styles. By observing the movement of the form, you realize the coordination is powered by the internal energy directed by the practitioner’s mind. Energy flow not only gives the power to the movement, but also strengthens the practitioner’s mind and body.
In my class, I use Yang style to illustrate the principle of Tai Chi. But any school of Tai Chi may be analyzed by the same principle.
Yang Lu Chan (1799-1872), also know as Yang Fu Kui, is considered the founder of Yang-style Tai Chi Chuan.
Yang Chien-Hou (1839-1917), Yang Lu-chan’s third son, learned Tai Chi later in life, but he became an accomplished master. He passed on the family tradition to his two sons Yang Shao-Hou and Yang Cheng-Fu
Yang Ban-Hou (1837-1892), Was the Second child of Yang Lu Chan and had started training Tai Chi from a very young age. Bellicose by nature, Ban-Hou had very few disciples and therefore didnot pass the family tradition.
Yang Shao-Hou (1862-1930) was famous for overcoming strong attacks with soft movements, adapting himself to others’ movements and following up with quick attacks, using the motion of “sudden connection” to defeat the opponent with suprise attacks.
Yang Cheng-Fu (1883-1936) [also known as Yang Ch’eng-pu and Yang Chao-ch’ing] is largely responsible for the popular transmission of the Yang Family Style to many people in the east and west.
Hsiung Yang-Ho (1886-1984) was a famous Tai Chi master in Taiwan and a student of Yang Shao-Hou, who passed on his knowledge to T.C. Hou.
T.C. Hou is the founder and main instructor of the T.C. Society
Come to learn the essence of Tai Chi so you may develop your own style.
The Medicinal Benefits of Tai Chi Chuan
Tai Chi has benefited millions throughout its history of three hundred years. People use it in every aspect of their lives including:
- illness prevention
- self defense
- fitness/flexibility/muscle toning
- stress relief
How does Taiji offer so much to an individual?
Taiji cultivates a person’s inner strength with his/her physical abilities and channels “natural energy” (Qi) throughout the body.
Taiji emphasizes the coexistence of yin and yang in a person and the adjusting of yin and yang to cope with the changing environment. Tai Chi Chuan helps an individual be in his/her prime condition of mental and physical health.
The following is what U.C. Berkeley Taiji Club listed as the benefits that Taiji practice can add to your quality of life:
- Control your stress level and lower your blood pressure
- Build strength and improve balance through the practice of Taiji forms.
- Increase the level and flow of qi (internal energy) in your body through the practice of qigong exercises.
- Learn a system of self-defense that neutralizes an opponent’s actions and uses his own strength to your advantage.
Research on Tai Chi Chuan
There is a good deal of research and many studies proving the benefits of practicing Tai Chi Chuan. The following are some of them:
- Significant improvement in balance maintained (Wolfson 1996)
- Most recommended aerobic exercise for coronary artery disease (Ng 1992)
- Reduced tension, anxiety fatigue, depression and confusion (Jin 1989)
- Improved mood states, reduction of anxiety states, (Jin 1992)
- Reduced falls by up to 47%, reduced fear of falling (Wolf 1996), (Wolf 1997), (Henderson, 1998) , (Myers & Weiner, 1996)
Immune Response (Blood T-Cells)
- Marked increase during and after practice (Sun 1989)
- Enhanced ventilary capacity without cardiovascular stress (Brown et al, 1995)
- Efficient use of ventilatory volume, efficient breathing patterns (Schneider 1991)
Weight Bearing Exercise
- No exacerbation in joint symptoms of individuals with RA (Kirstens 1991)
- Improved co-ordination, skeletal muscle strength (Koh 1982)
- Relaxation therapy for chronically ill (Jin 1992)