What is Tai Chi?
Tai chi today means many different things to many different people depending on what they have previously read, seen or have been taught in the past. Some say it is a health exercise and not a martial art while others feel it is a moving meditation for spiritual growth. In fact it is all of these and more as I will describe.
Tai chi still is and was originally a martial art, its full name is "Taijiquan", literally translated as "Grand Ultimate Fist". Although we may not need our fists as much today to keep us safe. We can still apply the tai chi principles to maintaining a fit and healthy body and help keep a keen and stress free mind by fighting off the evils of a modern sedentary lifestyle.
Tai Chi does not rely so much on strength, force or speed but rather on dynamic movements, combining soft and hard, with fast and slow actions in a balanced and natural way that adheres to the philosophical Taoist principles of yin and yang from the "yijing" (Book of Changes) making it ideal for both men and women, the young and the old and the strong and weak, alike.
These dynamic movements are learned in the art's forms (sequences) which are a connected series of shadow boxing applications (attacks and defences). The student during these forms constantly interprets the movements as if they where boxing with a real opponent, thereby exercising the nervous system and the brain as well as the muscles.
The forms can be practiced with bare hands or with weapons such as a fan or sword and are practiced slowly to help learn and perfect each movement or application as well as to train the body to relax, the breath to be controlled and the mind to be focused. It is easy to see why the art has been called a "Moving meditation".
The movements within the forms are generally fluid helping to maintain inertia and are economic to accomplish their goals swiftly which makes the movements very harmonious, beautiful, elegant and emotionally uplifting to both take part in and watch.
Tai Chi is an holistic art, it works on the mind, the emotions and the physical body improving a persons over all health, demeanor and ability to protect one self from the stresses and strains of modern life and can benefit all.