Tai Chi Chuan
What is Tai Chi ?
Originally, Tai Chi Chuan (Taijiquan) was a spiritual practice that integrated mind and body for enlightenment through the discipline of Tao meditation and martial arts training. Today, Tai Chi Chuan is still practiced by many purists as a fighting form, but its popularity is mainly based on Yang Style Tai Chi For Health which combines slow simplified martial arts movements into a relaxed aerobic set for health and relaxation, a kind of moving meditation for well-being and longevity.
Tai Chi Chuan means ‘fist of the mind’ and is an internal martial/healing art that emphasizes Nei Gong (internal practice). It is based on the principles of Yin Yang for developing conscious movement and energy interpretation. Legends tell us that Tai Chi Chuan began around 1000 years ago in China, with Taoist monks experimenting with moving meditation and the physical interpretation of the philosophy of Tao. Later, Chinese military leaders blended their own style of martial arts with Shaolin Kungfu into the original Taoist system which resurfaced in the 1600’s in the Chen family village.
Goals of Practice
- To teach beginners to feel their qi – Beginners usually do not have even the slightest concept of qi. Our courses gradually give you an understanding of qi through feeling and experience. This kind of knowledge is necessary for any kind of advancement in Qi Gong and Tai Chi Chuan. For this reason, beginners are usually taught some of the many simple Wai Dan forms.
- To teach beginners to regulate the body, breathing, and mind – Once you have grasped the idea of qi, you then start to learn to regulate your body. This includes how to relax the body from the skin to as deep as the internal organs and bone marrow. Through this relaxation you are able to feel and sense your center, balance, and root. You must also learn to regulate your breathing—normal abdominal breathing for relaxation and reverse abdominal breathing for qi expansion and condensation. Most important of all, you must learn to regulate your mind until it can be calm and concentrated without disturbance. All of these criteria are the critical keys to the correct practice of Qi Gong and Tai Chi Chuan. If you start learning the sequence without having already done this basic training, you will be preoccupied with the complicated movements and will only be able to perform them in a superficial way.
- To teach beginners to use their mind to lead the qi efficiently – Once you have regulated your body, breathing, and mind, you will then be able to use your concentrated mind to lead the qi to circulate smoothly and effectively.
- To teach practitioners to circulate qi in the twelve primary qi channels and fill up the two main qi vessels – If you are able to use your mind to lead the qi efficiently, you have completed the basic training. This is then the time for forms or sequence training. In addition, you should continue your Qi Gong and Tai Chi Chuan training and learn to build up your concentration to a higher level and, consequently, build your qi to a higher level. In addition, you should also learn to increase the qi in the two main vessels—the yin conception vessel and the yang governing vessel. Still meditation is normally used for this.
- To teach practitioners to expand their qi to the surface of the skin and to condense the qi to the bone marrow – When the body’s qi has been built to a higher level, you then start learning to lead the qi to the skin to increase the skin’s sensitivity and into the bones to nourish the marrow.
- To teach practitioners to use the qi to energize the muscles for maximum jin manifestation – When you are able to lead the qi to the skin and condense it to the marrow efficiently, you can then use this qi to energize the muscles to a high level. This is the secret to internal jin. Internal jin is the foundation and root of external jin.
- To lead advanced practitioners into the domain of spiritual cultivation – The ultimate goal of Qi Gong and Tai Chi Chuan practice is to lead you into the domain of emptiness, where your whole being is in the no-extremity (wuji) state. When you have reached this goal, the qi in your body and the qi in nature will unite and become one, and all human desires will gradually disappear.
Difference Between Tai Chi & Qi Gong
Tai Chi Chuan (Taijiquan) and Qi Gong (Chi Kung) are two forms of mind-body exercise from ancient China that have more similarities than differences. Most people who practice Tai Chi Chuan also incorporate Qi Gong into their practice as they result in similar benefits including increased oxygenation of the whole body, mental calmness and renewed strength and vitality. Tai Chi Chuan and Qi Gong both centre around the philosophy of cultivating Qi, the life force or vital energy in our body. Both involve good posture and gentle movements. Both practices integrate breath with movement and use cognitive skills such as imagery and visualization to heighten awareness of energy circulation.
One major difference is that Tai Chi Chuan was originally created as a martial art with all its movements being either attacking, defensive and neutralizing. Tai Chi Chuan also has partner exercises known as Pushing Hands for developing advanced techniques, self-defense and martial power. Health Qi Gong is not a martial art and does not have any self-defense movements or Pushing Hands exercises. Health Qi Gong can be practiced sitting, standing and moving, but Tai Chi Chuan only has moving exercises. People get confused because when practiced slowly for health and relaxation Tai Chi Chuan is categorized as a form of Health Qi Gong.
However, both are easy to do, benefit everyone, and the results can be extraordinary. Each lesson builds on the next which helps to create a conversation of sensing, feeling and relaxing that engages your whole being in a process where old habits can be replaced by new awareness and skill. To train the mind to deeply connect with the language of the body is an art that requires guidance form a teacher and regular practice. As your own inner wisdom awakens it guides you through your healing journey and beyond.
3 Catagories of Tai Chi Chuan
- Health Tai Chi – the internal art of mental & physical well-being (Health Qi Gong)
- Martial Tai Chi – the external art of energy extension for self-defence & healing others (Martial Qi Gong & Medical Qi Gong)
- Spiritual Tai Chi – mastering the art of Tai Chi Chuan through a deep understanding of the mystery of nature and the universe, becoming one with the Tao (Spiritual Qi Gong)
Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan
Yang style Tai Chi Chuan was founded by Yang Luchan (1799-1872) and was popularized by Yang Chengfu (1883-1936). After he was already an accomplished martial artist, Yang Luchan learned Chen Style Tai Chi Chuan from Chen Changxing in the Chen village Henan Province, which he later modified into the Yang Style. He taught his new style in Beijing where he remained undefeated acquiring the name ‘Yang The Invincible’. When Tai Chi Chuan was passed down to his grandson Yang Chengfu its movements had undergone great changes, removing some of the more difficult martial forms. Characterized by its easy, nimble and leisurely style, combining vigor with grace, this newborn school of Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan has since been very popular among the Chinese people. The Yang lineage was also influential in the establishment of the Wu, Hao, and Sun family styles of Tai Chi Chuan. Since the 1950’s, Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan has spread across the world becoming the most popular Tai Chi style for improving health and curing illness. Extended and graceful, carefully structured, and relaxed, gentle and flowing, Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan is loved by tens of millions of practitioners for being enjoyable to learn and providing a remarkable contribution to the health of mankind.
How It Works
Tai Chi focuses on relaxation, body alignment and breathing, and has very distinct mechanisms of benefit unique from conventional vigorous exercise. Tai Chi emphasizes sensory learning which results in movement that is more flexible, pleasurable and free from aches and pains. Guided by the instructor’s experience and encouragement you let go of all tensions and move more gently and lovingly with improved posture and alignment. A sense of space, lightness and openness is created by relaxing the mind in the present moment through the felt connection to your body’s Qi (internal healing energy). Reduced muscle tension, combined with slow, deeper breaths, results in greater blood flow and oxygen distribution throughout the entire body (including the organs), as opposed to more vigorous exercise where muscles are tense and only the main muscle groups are usually affected. Relaxed mindful movement increases blood oxygen saturation and diffusion resulting in enhanced metabolic function, which increases the disease-fighting and healing abilities of the body.
Pushing Hands (Tui Shou) takes your Tai Chi to the next level making it a true living art, and introduces you to moving meditations with a partner meditations. Pushing Hands is a subtle and sophisticated sport of control, practiced in friendship and harmony that requires two people to engage in a variety of “light touch” moving and walking routines, with the central concept of mutual exchange, where both players are learning to become sensitive while assisting each other to develop their Tai Chi skills. Basically, it teaches you how to put the real feeling of Tai Chi into your mind and movements, which can increase your understanding of the solo form and efficiency of smooth Qi flow. Tai Chi was originally based on martial arts which were used for self-defense, where every movement has its unique martial purpose. Without this martial root, your Tai Chi practice will be limited to an aerobic dance, lacking deeper meaning and feeling. You may start Pushing Hands any time after you finish learning the solo form, and focuses on developing Tai Chi’s sensing, listening, and yielding skills. Without such understanding, your Tai Chi forms remain dead, like buying a car and not learning how to drive it. You don’t have to become a fighter, you simply need to understand the true meaning of Tai Chi Chuan through gentle partner exercises and advanced moving meditation skills.