Tai Chi Perspectives

Tai Chi Chuan is a physical art/exercise that has grown from ancient martial and medical arts in China. Over the last 3 centuries, several schools of Tai Chi Chuan (Chen, Wu, Yang, Sun) have evolved with a variety of similar long and short combat forms.  Chinese medicine has found that  these exercises  promote general health and fitness.  New forms, including the 'Simplified 24 Forms'  have recently emerged that emphasize these health and fitness benefits. 

The practice of Tai Chi Chuan can be approached from several directions.

As a fitness routine, it is a low impact non aerobic exercise.  It promotes strength, flexibility and resilience in the legs, develops sense of balance and controlled graceful movement.  The slow turning movements of the body and the lowered stances increase circulation throughout the body.  Tai Chi is not a calorie burning aerobic exercise that will burn off pounds but it is a discipline that will teach your body to carry whatever weight you have more surely and gracefully.  Several research studies have shown that older people who had studied Tai Chi, were  less likely to fall and less likely to break bones when they did fall.    Although it is not fast or aerobic, Tai Chi Chuan is strenuous and should be approached with respect..  Check with your physician as you would before starting any other sport or regular strenuous physical activity.

As an alternative health therapy, Tai Chi and Qi Gong have been seen to help with many disorders and are often prescribed by Chinese physicians as part of a treatment.  Tai Chi Chuan is beneficial to health because it is a regular exercise that promotes blood flow and massages the internal organs with its turning movements.  Another health benefit of Tai Chi Chuan, especially the Qi Gong components, comes from its effect on the flow of Qi in the body.  Qi  is the internal life force recognized by traditional Chinese Medicine as well as the source of power in the martial arts.  Qi is essential to health and life and it is needed to fight disease and to repair injuries. 

As a martial art, it is one of the internal arts.  In the internal arts, the combatants are  in close contact, too close to punch or kick.  The emphasis is on maintaining your balance while unbalancing your opponent and neutralizing the force directed against you.   Tai Chi Chuan responds to an attack not by confronting or blocking the attack but by redirecting it in a harmless direction.  Other internal martial arts like Aikido, Judo, Chin Na start with Tai Chi control of center and balance and then apply a throw or lock to the opponent after his attack has been neutralized and his balance upset.

As a meditation, the Tai Chi Chuan forms are an exercise in relaxed, controlled, mindful movements done with slow  abdominal breathing.  When you are focusing completely on the perfection of your movements, there is no room in your mind for the day's stress and worries.  Each regular form practice can be thought of as five minutes of peace in a frantic life.

Tom Ross
Superior, WI.  2006