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Tai Chi Chuan
So you've seen all the catalogs with famous people making Tai Chi
workout tapes and were wondering what it was all about. Well, we're here to clear up at least a little of the confusion. You see, it all starts with Chi...
What is Chi?Good question! Chi is a word usually translated as "intrinsic" or "vital" energy. It is the same energy that is the basis of the ancient science of acupuncture. It is considered the basic "life force" of the individual. T'ai Chi Chuan is concerned with the development and control of this energy which is the basis of the many healthful effects resulting from its practice.
T'ai Chi ChuanT'ai Chi Chuan is an ancient Chinese system of exercise that is gaining widespread popularity in the United States. It is a series of slow, continuous, relaxed movements that are performed with great attention. The exercise usually takes approximately 15-20 minutes to complete (there is also a 3-5 minute version of the exercise,) and should be practiced daily in the morning and before retiring. The movements are done without strain and provide exercise and toning for every part of the body, including the internal viscera. The exercise is symmetrical, providing for a balanced development of the body. In addition, T'ai Chi Chuan has a relaxing effect on psychological tensions and develops concentration. Rather than a chore, T'ai Chi is a pleasurable experience and is easily integrated as a daily means of exercise. It requires little space and has practitioners ranging in age from 8-80.
T'ai Chi for a Tranquil and Directed MindIn our busy lives, a little tranquility and direction can mean the difference between control and mayhem! T'ai Chi Chuan, in its ultimate practice, is a profound form of meditation and is an essential aspect of the esoteric system of T'ai Chi Kung. T'ai Chi Chuan is known for its relaxing effect, by bringing new energy to the system and by conserving energy usually squandered by emotional tension. The mind becomes clearer and the ability to direct one's attention increases from regular practice. Once T'ai Chi Chuan is integrated into one's life as a daily exercise practice, there is a noted absence of boredom with the exercise. This prompted Wordsworth Likely, an editor for Newsweek who did an early article on T'ai Chi, to call it "the thinking man's exercise."
The Inner School of Martial ArtsT'ai Chi is considered to be one of the "inner" schools of the martial arts, focusing on the control and movement of intrinsic energy. It is clearly one of the most powerful and advanced systems of martial art, but takes many years to develop. The self-defense aspect of T'ai Chi is clearly secondary to its other functions, but results in incredible sensitivity and power. Students strictly seeking self-defense ability are advised to seek instruction in an outer school of martial art such as Shorin-Ryu where the purpose will be realized much more quickly. Matsubayashi Shorinryu and Motobu Ryu under the Seidokan Organization in Okinawa are available in classes held at other times and are also available for children. These classes employ blocking, kicking, punching and the forms learned are referred to as Kata. These classes in and of themselves are quite strenuous and demanding by tradition.
Practices for the Advanced StudentAfter the form has been developed, the more advanced student can look forward to three areas of advanced practice:
Push Hands (Tui Shui) or "Joint Hands Operations"
This method involves working with a partner to develop various aspects of Chi including "sensate," "adhering," "interpretive" and "discharging" energies. The principles of T'ai Chi are brought to bear and develop with push hands practice, which is essential for the serious student.Seizing, Catching, Holding and Controlling (Chin Na)
This form involves the many aspects of the application of the form in such a manner that the least amount of violence needed is used. Chin Na uses joint locks to limit mobility and attacks acupuncture cavities and other sensitive parts of the body with strikes, grabs, pressure and other techniques.Chi Development (Chi Kung)
Series of exercises for the rapid development of Chi are taught to the most advanced students. These exercises, handed from Master to disciple in China, are strenuous and powerful. They are rarely taught in the Western world and provide the opportunity for the highest development of Chi.NOTE: the advanced aspects of the T'ai Chi Form are not taught under any circumstances until the form, in its entirety, is completed and the student has developed through forms correction.
T'ai Chi; Psychological and Spiritual devolvementThe more advanced practices of T'ai Chi are extremely sophisticated methods for evolving personal awareness. T'ai Chi reflects, in its physical form, personal attitudes and behavioral propensities. These manifest as tension, aggressiveness, retreating or reactivity that clearly indicate patterned traits. The student of T'ai Chi is thereby confronted with his own reality and soon recognizes how he is not centered physically or psychologically. No other system of exercise so clearly reflects the complete connection of mind and body. As one develops in T'ai Chi, the Tan Tien (the center of energy with its locus in the lower torso,) evolves and results in the experience of feeling centered and separated from the mechanical, chaotic emotional experience of energy and provides a sense of connection with a higher order of existence, with the cosmos, providing a powerful tool for spiritual development. The potential of T'ai Chi is only limited by the student's efforts.
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