Tai Chi, a Chinese martial art, is often practiced to promote health and longevity. Tai chi is considered as a gentle way to reduce stress. Its training forms are well known as the slow motion routines that groups of people practice together every morning in parks around the world, especially in China. Medical studies of tai chi support its effectiveness as an alternative exercise and a form of martial arts therapy. Tai chi chuan is considered a soft style martial art – an art applied with internal power to distinguish its theory and application from that of hard martial arts. There are many different styles of tai chi but most modern schools trace their development to the system originally taught by the Chen family to the Yang family starting in 1820.
Tai chi is used to:
- Reduce stress
- Increase flexibility
- Improve muscle strength and definition
- Increase energy, stamina and flexibility
- Increase feelings of well-being
In addition, tai chi also improves posture, an important component of health. Developing correct posture will result in less wear and tear of the joint muscles. When your posture is upright, the lung space is larger. Try taking a deep breath and expanding your chest. You’ll notice that there’s more space in the chest. Now try to hunch. The space in your chest diminishes, doesn’t it? As you can see, the body works better in an upright posture.
Researchers have found that long-term tai chi practice has some favorable, but not statistically significant, effects in promoting balance control, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness, and in reducing the risk of falls by elderly patients Studies also report some reduction of pain, stress and anxiety in healthy subjects, and improved cardiovascular and respiratory function in healthy persons as well as persons who have had coronary artery bypass surgery. Patients that suffer from heart failure, high blood pressure, heart attacks, stokes, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s may also benefit from tai chi.
More research is needed to determine measurable health benefits of Tai Chi. However, the feeling of well being associate with movement, as compared to being inactive, makes practicing it worthwhile.
The basic technique for Tai Chi has two primary features:
- The solo form, a slow sequence of movements which emphasize a straight spine, abdominal breathing and a natural range of motion; and
- Different styles of pushing hands for training movement principles of the form in a more practical way.
The focus on calmness cultivated by the meditative aspect of tai chi is considered necessary to maintain optimum health (in the sense of relieving stress and maintaining homeostasis), and in applying the form as a soft style martial art.
For Martial Arts
Originally developed for self-defense, tai chi has evolved into a graceful form of exercise that’s now used for stress reduction and a variety of other health conditions. Often described as meditation in motion, tai chi promotes serenity through gentle, flowing movements.
The ability to use tai chi as a form of self-defense in a conflict is said to be the best proof of a student’s understanding the art’s principles. The study of tai chi martially is the study of appropriate change in response to outside forces; the study of yielding and blending with outside force rather than attempting to meet it with opposing force.
Tai Chi Instruction
Tai chi only requires comfortable clothing.
Movements must be learned through instruction to avoid overdoing a movement and causing injury.
Instruction may be obtained by using tapes or DVDs that are available for home use.
Classses are often given at a local YWCA or YMCA, and at senior citizens centers, as well at other community locations.
Remember the Health Power motto: Knowledge + Action = Power!