Common steps and sub-activities

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is a method for obtaining positive and benign spiritual experience – healing, wisdom, bliss and peace, inspiration and so on.  It uses the mind and breath to control the movement of energy in the body.

Tai chi (taiji), short for T'ai chi ch'üan, or Taijiquan (pinyin: tàijíquán; 太极拳), is thus a mind and body exercise regime.  It combines deep breathing and relaxation with  slow, graceful, continuous movements that are gentle on the joints and muscles. Done correctly, the tai chi poses flow smoothly from one into another. Many movements are completed with bent knees in a squat-like position.  By focusing the mind solely on the movements one is also able bring about a state of mental calm and clarity.

Originally developed as a martial art in 13th-century China, tai chi is now practised around the world as a form of health-promoting exercise, however, the moves were actually developed to support spiritual practise, - helping to teach mindfulness and aiding meditative and martial arts practise. 

 The ability to use tàijíquán as a form of self-defense in combat is possibly, these days, the least used of all the applications.  Yet, the use of tàijíquán as a martial art is quite challenging and requires a great deal of training, where students are taught how to respond to outside forces by yielding to an incoming attack rather than attempting to meet it with opposing force. The mind control methods are identical to many of the suppression activities described on this site.  In some senses you are in battle with yourself!

Tai chi, Neigong and Qigong

Qi Gong, Tai chi and Neigong are all ways of controlling the movement of the life force (“qi” or “chi”) internally by using the mind to direct energy in the body. Some exercises use simple physical movement, while some involve no movement.

Harmony with nature and the energies provided by nature emphasize that you are in a relationship with nature. ….. the: fusion of body, mind, and breath in a moving meditation creates the perfect balance of excitation and relaxation required for the "flow" experience, and by centering the self in the radical present sets the stage for experiencing rare moments of ‘spontaneity’

In Qigong, the flow of qi is held at a gate point and built up [for example in the Dan Tien] to aid the opening and cleansing of the channels [for example in kundalini like experiences].  In Tàijíquán, the flow of qi is continuous, thus allowing the development of power for use by the practitioner. To put this another way, Tai chi is used to build up and maintain energy, in order that the energy can be used to produce some of the more exceptional spiritual experiences – those that progress  you along the spiritual path.  Once the experiences have been obtained, the Tai chi exercises maintain the balance achieved.

All three include tuition in traditional Chinese medicine, for the obvious reason that its objective is the manipulation of the same energy flows used in acupuncture or acupressure, along the same meridian lines.

·       Qi Gong, - which literally translates as “working with the energy of life force”, is an integrated body-mind-spirit healing method that has been practiced with remarkable results in China for more than two thousand years. It has long been treasured for its effectiveness in spiritual development.

·       Taiji- The concept of taiji ("supreme ultimate"), describes the  balance and continuous flow of yin and yang, represented by the taijitu symbol .  Tàijíquán theory and practice evolved in parallel with many Chinese spiritual principles, including those espoused by Taoism and Confucianism.  The fundamental purpose of Tai chi is to increase the body’s life-force or qi, and to improve its circulation throughout the system. Once the qi flows freely and evenly, the body heals and restores itself naturally, efficiently, and consistently. Thus, emotional balance and physical balance are improved and maintained.

·       Neigong -  also refers to any of a set of Chinese breathing, meditation and spiritual practice disciplines associated with Taoism; all these variants are practiced to develop qi (life energy).  Thus the objectives of all these variants are identical, the practises differ.

Neigong exercises that are part of the neijia tradition involve cultivating physical stillness and or conscious (deliberate) movement, designed to produce relaxation or releasing of muscular tension combined with special breathing techniques such as the "tortoise" or "reverse" methods. ….. The ultimate purpose of this practice is for the individual to become at one with heaven or the Dao (天人合一).

As Zhuangzi stated, "Heaven, earth and I are born of one, and I am at one with all that exists (天地與我並生, 萬物與我唯一)".

Who can do Tai chi?

Tai chi is for everyone, but it is especially suited to the old, infirm or unfit. It is a gentle regime that is unlikely to cause injury. The exercises involve lots of flowing, easy movements that don't stress the joints or muscles.  Many of the tai chi movements can also be adapted to people with a disability, including wheelchair users.  Studies have shown that it can help elderly and retired people, for example, to reduce stress, improve posture, balance and general mobility, and increase muscle strength in the legs. 

A guide to tai chi NHS UK

Am I too old for tai chi?  No, tai chi is commonly performed as a low-impact exercise, which means it won't put much pressure on your bones and joints. Most people should be able to do it.
Is tai chi suitable for me?  ….. You may need to take certain precautions if you're pregnant, have a hernia, back pain or severe osteoporosis.  It's a good idea to watch a class or attend a free taster session before signing up for a course.
Where can I learn about tai chi?  It's a good idea to learn the basics of tai chi from an instructor to make sure your style is correct, effective and won't cause injury.  You can search online for tai chi classes in your area or find one using the Tai Chi Union for Great Britain website.

In general, tàijíquán schools do not require a uniform, but both traditional and modern teachers often advocate loose, comfortable clothing and flat-soled shoes.

Many forms of Tai Chi exist, but in western culture, it is most commonly taught as a series of slow, gentle, low-impact movements that integrate the breath, mind, and physical activity to achieve greater awareness and a sense of inner peace and well-being. The meditative movement is designed to strengthen and stretch the body, improve the flow of blood and other fluids, improve balance, proprioception, and awareness of how the body moves through space; and it may be practiced in a group format or alone]. Results from the 2007 National Health Interview Survey—a survey of a representative sample of adults in the USA—estimated that approximately 2.3 million adults in the USA practiced Tai Chi in the past 12 months.[PMID: 27460789]

Tai chi and health

An extremely large number of research studies have been undertaken to see if Tai chi can help, improve or even cure conditions such as cancer, Parkinson's disease, musculoskeletal pain, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), lack of muscle strength and flexibility, poor aerobic capacity, cardiovascular disease, high resting blood pressure, osteoporosis or poor bone mineral density, type 2 diabetes, psychological problems and even in fall prevention and improving balance.

Without understanding the principles of the entire regime, many studies have simply gone through the exercises as though this was a gym workout regime.  Needless to say this approach got them nowhere, Tai chi was declared a failure and no one was any the wiser.  Ultimately the method was rejected because the researchers were found wanting.

But in those studies where serious note was taken of the underlying principles of the approach, its contextual status within spiritual practise, its links with Qigong, Neigong, Taoism and Confucianism and its basic foundation upon spiritual principles, Tai chi helped.  It has improved well-being, eased pain, reduced blood pressure and even helped with psychological problems.

Bing YeYoung, "Introduction to Taichi and Qigong".

The benefits ….are obvious in those who practice it correctly. These exuberant individuals sleep more soundly; feel increased strength and heightened sexuality, and in their mind-body-spirit they achieve the harmony of true health.

The physical techniques of tàijíquán are described in the "T‘ai-chi classics", a set of writings by traditional masters, as being characterized by the use of leverage through the joints based on coordination and relaxation, rather than muscular tension. The slow, repetitive work involved in the process of learning how that leverage is generated, gently and measurably increases, opens the internal circulation - breath, body heat, blood, lymph, peristalsis.

Tai chi is essentially meditation aided by gentle almost ballet like movements, it deliberately forces the person into a relaxed state and thus invokes the parasympathetic nervous system.  The mind is stilled, the ego squashed, desires are eliminated, and as a consequence the person becomes spiritually open.  Stress and anxiety is reduced, the immune system can function and kicks in again and helps to fight the CAUSE of the underlying disease.  The same principles are in operation whatever the disease.  It works via the mind.

Tai chi styles

There are five major styles of tàijíquán, each named after the Chinese family from which it originated:

Chen style (陳氏) of Chen Wangting (1580–1660) - Examples from youtube

Yang style (楊氏) of Yang Luchan (1799–1872) – some example videos are shown below

Wu Hao style (武氏) of Wu Yuxiang (1812–1880) and Wu style (吳氏) of Wu Quanyou (1834–1902) and his son Wu Jianquan (1870–1942)

Sun style (孫氏) of Sun Lutang (1861–1932)

 
The order of verifiable age is as listed above.  The order of popularity (in terms of number of practitioners) is Yang, Wu, Chen, Sun and Wu/Hao.  

The main differences between the different tai chi styles are in the speed of movement and the way the body holds the postures.  While tàijíquán is typified by some for its slow movements, the three most popular: Yang, Wu and Chen have secondary forms with faster pace. Some traditional schools teach partner exercises known as tuishou ("pushing hands"), and martial applications of the postures of different forms (taolu).

References

Books

  • T‘ai-chi ch‘üan: Body and Mind in Harmony - Sophia Delza, a professional dancer and student of Ma Yueliang, performed the first known public demonstration of tàijíquán in the United States at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1954. She also wrote one of the first English language book on t‘ai-chi, "T‘ai-chi ch‘üan: Body and Mind in Harmony", in 1961. She taught regular classes at Carnegie Hall, the Actors Studio, and the United Nations.
  • Cheng Man-ch'ing (1993). Cheng-Tzu's Thirteen Treatises on T'ai Chi Ch'uan.
  • Sun Lu Tang (2000). Xing Yi Quan Xue
  • Yang, Yang (2008). Taijiquan: The Art of Nurturing, The Science of Power. Zhenwu Publication; 2nd edition.
  • Yang, Jwing-Ming (1998). The Essence of Taiji Qigong, Second Edition : The Internal Foundation of Taijiquan (Martial Arts-Qigong)
  • Yang Jwing-Ming [2010] - Tai Chi Chuan Classical Yang Style: The Complete Form Qigong

Papers

  • Lomas-Vega, R; Obrero-Gaitán, E; Molina-Ortega, FJ; Del-Pino-Casado, R (September 2017). "Tai Chi for Risk of Falls. A Meta-analysis". Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 65 (9): 2037–2043. doi:10.1111/jgs.15008. PMID 28736853.

 

Observations

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