The Way to Tai Chi Chuan, Part 1

Tai Chi Chuan or Tai Chi is probably the most popular and least understood activity in the world. Things aren’t quite as clear as in other activities like aerobics or jogging. For those who would begin this unfamiliar art, there are many questions:

Is Tai Chi Chuan for health or self-defense?

What’s the difference between internal and external movement?

What is chi?

What are the health benefits?

Why is it practiced so slowly?

How long does it take to learn?

Do you need special clothes or apparatus?

How do you know if you have a good teacher?

Are there different styles of Tai Chi ?

What does the Yin-Yang symbol stand for?

Is Tai Chi a form of meditation?
The origins of Tai Chi Chuan are disputable but most agree that it was created to be an effective martial art. It quickly became respected for its superior ability to neutralize an attack as well as issue great power. People who practiced the slow moving form also became aware of Tai Chi Chuan’s benefit to their health and longevity.

Tai Chi Chuan is an internal martial art. Unlike an external martial art such as karate, you cannot visibly notice its force or power. This is because the forced use of the muscles is kept to a minimum in applied Tai Chi Chuan. Emphasis is placed on the movement of chi and the tendons rather than muscle tension. In the process, the body is made more flexible, blood vessels are stretched, and the whole body is placed in correct alignment. All of this lends to Tai Chi’s excellent health benefits. Of course, you need the guidance of a good teacher. As they say, “one inch off can mean a thousand miles.”

Tai Chi Chuan literally means “supreme ultimate fist” and relates to a martial art. But the word “Chi” in Tai Chi Chuan does not mean the same as what the Chinese refer to as the natural source found in all things. Our bodies have chi pathways similar to electrical currents. Once tapped into, chi can have amazing curative results. Medical research has shown that Tai Chi has a noted effect on ailments such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Tai Chi Chuan is often recommended as therapy in Chinese hospitals.

It is common to see a group of people or individuals practicing the Tai Chi form in a very slow and deliberate manner. It seems to be ineffective as an aerobic exercise or martial art. Actually, the slow movement approach is an exact and effective means of training. It is designed to improve body alignment and gradually builds internal strength. The slow movement improves circulation, flexibility, and balance. Martial Tai Chi Chuan is applied with quick, decisive, and explosive movements. But the power is hidden like “a needle in cotton”.

Because Tai Chi Chuan has a prescribed standard, it must be practiced correctly for its benefits to be effective. The rate of progress depends on the individual and the amount of time spent practicing. After a while, it becomes a lifetime commitment and unlike some activities, skills improve with age.

Tai Chi Chuan can be practiced just about anywhere, indoors or outdoors. No special clothes are required, although comfortable, loose-fitting workout clothes are recommended.

Some people prefer the traditional Chinese uniform in competition or demonstration but it isn’t necessary to practice Tai Chi. For those who are interested, Tai Chi has advanced forms in its curriculum which involve the sword, pole and spear.

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