What is Tai Chi (Taijiquan)?
Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan), is part of the traditional Chinese arts of self-defence keeping fit, and improving physical and mental well being. In the west, it is simply knows as Tai Chi. Loosely translated, Taiji (Tai Chi), means supreme or ultimate, and quan (chuan) means fist or martial.
Tai chi improves and maintains health. It consists of a progression of relaxed graceful fluid movements which are captivating both to observer and practitioner. Most tai chi styles use movements that are performed slowly and flow from one into the next. The slowness of the movements co-ordination of the breath is a very subtle combination. The practice brings about inner calmness, balance, co-ordination and vitality.
Tai chi comes under the banner of Wu Shu (Kung Fu). Widely practiced among the Chinese people since the 16th century, it is an exellent way of keeping fit, preventing and curing diseases. Before the 16th Century, the exercises had different names, such as, The 13 Forms, Long Form, Shadow Boxing and so on. The name Tai Chi was give to these exercises about 200 years ago because, the movements were slow, flowing and balanced. The energy flow followed the principle of Yin and Yang, a small part of a large universe, always moving.
In Tai Chi classical Chinese literature, (the 3000 year old I Ching). "Tai", means 'the greatest' and "Chi", means 'polar, no end to the whole universe'.
This art is suitable for people of all ages and all level of physical fitness. Whether it is used for self defence, health and fitness, or stress and relaxation management, there are benefits for everyone..
Why Tai Chi?
Tai Chi is relaxing and uplifting. It mentally refreshes you, and energises your body. It will soothe your heart, and enrich your soul.
Tai chi is an exercise that can be practised throughout life and will maintain and improve flexibility, mobility and vitality. This will be without risk of injury which can happen with other forms of exercise. There is no special equipment is required. Loose clothing and flat, comfortable shoes are all that is required.
Tai Chi is known to:-
- Improve balance, co-ordination and memory,
- Strengthen joints and develop and maintain flexibility,
- Enhance circulation and digestion,
- Boost the immune system function to help prevent illness,
- Help achieve and maintain correct body weight,
- Improve physical, mental and emotional health,
- Increase general vitality,
- Heighten awareness,
- Help reduce stress by promoting a sense of calm and well being,
- Slow the ageing process and helps prolong life.
The Health Benefitts from practicing Tai Chi have been shown in Clinical Tests.
How is Tai Chi & Qigong taught?
The various forms of Tai Chi are a series of martial arts postures that flow together and choreographed to run together in an harmonious manner. The teaching of these movements can vary.
Some instructors will lead the group all the way through the entire Tai Chi form. The students follow the instructor until they remember the movements. This is teaching by example.
The usual method of instruction is by stages. This breaks the movements down, and one or two movements are taught in each session. These classes are preferable for an average learner. It is much easier to learn and practice one movement at a time and gradually accumulate the postures learned, than it is to try to assimilate an entire Tai Chi form by constantly and successively following an instructor.
Structure and format of a class.
Classes generally follow a similar format which is structured as follows:
1. The class starts with some warm up exercises. This may take 5-10 minutes.
2. The class ends with cool down exercises, usually involving Qigong.
3. The core of the class will consist of demonstrations and tuition by the instructor. One new posture will ordinarily be introduced into each class. This will be demonstrated and taught by the instructor. In this way the form gets progressively longer with each class until the whole form is learnt.
Advanced students will usually repeat beginner or intermediate classes for years. This is a way of refining their knowledge and performance of the forms.
Advanced students in a class usually serve as assistant instructors in the class.
Advanced students, can be asked to assist new students with their first experience of the form. Tai Chi, as with other martial arts, is based on a mentoring system. As an assistant, you'll usually teach the first of the three stages of T'ai Chi instruction.
First. The movements are learnt.
Second. The breathing cycle connected with each movement is incorporated.
Third. Awareness of the flow of energy through the body is learned.
Although the first step offers many benefits from the first day, the benefits get richer and deeper with each level you learn.
Tai Chi can be performed in any kind of loose clothing, but certain clothing is suggested for class.
It is helpful to wear something loose comfortable and stretchy.
The most common clothing is a T-shirt or Polo shirt and track suit bottoms. Long dresses can make it difficult for an instructor to see posture or leg placement, but if your class is in an office environment, this clothing maybe most suitable.
Flat footwear, such as martial arts trainers are the most effective. The feet need to be flat on the floor to assist in acheiving and maintaining the correct posture, however ordinary trainers can be acceptable.
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