What is T'ai Chi?

What is that slow motion movement that the Chinese do in the parks each morning? What is T’ai Chi?

T’ai Chi is an ancient Chinese exercise that promotes good health by increasing the energy which circulates through the body. It gently strengthens each muscle, joint and organ. T’ai Chi movements, performed in the proper way, teach the principles leading to health and relaxation in the body, balance in the emotions and quietness and clarity in the mind.

T'ai Chi in Park
Poster Sample In order to obtain these results, precise teaching is needed as well as practice over a period of time to incorporate the principles. Having incorporated these principles, ones understanding, and the body itself, will have changed. The Chinese say that whoever practices T’ai Chi twice a day over a period of time, will gain the pliability of a child, the health of a lumberjack, and the peace of mind of a sage. T’ai Chi translates as “Supreme Ultimate”.
If you watch someone doing T’ai Chi, it seems at times to resemble dance, yoga, meditation or a sport. T’ai Chi looks like a dance because of its graceful flow of steps and movements. In dance, however, one may make up new steps and improvise, but T’ai Chi is a specific series of movements (called the T’ai Chi Form) designed to balance each part of the body in turn. Through T’ai Chi, we learn a pattern of relaxation which releases the tensions that occur in our daily lives. T'ai Chi Lift Kick
Silk Thread T’ai Chi is like yoga because it also works with postures and positions. Unlike yoga, T’ai Chi does not hold one position for a long time (except when learning), but rather flows continuously from one to another. This flowing movement can be described more easily by using an image. If you draw silk thread out of the cocoon steadily and slowly, a long, unbroken thread can be obtained. If the thread is pulled too fast, or if the motion stops and starts, the thread breaks.
The same thing happens with the movements of T’ai Chi. Its gentle flowing movements are designed to re-establish the normal circulation of energy in the body. The more flowing the movement, the more directly the circulation of energy works to rebuild health. Flowing movement
Cheng relaxed T’ai Chi can also be described as a meditation. It promotes even respiration, balance and relaxation and leads to a feeling of being “centered”. Most meditations are done motionless in a sitting position. T’ai Chi is performed standing up, moving at slow speed. It is rather like a meditation in motion.
T’ai Chi is sometimes thought of as a sport, but unlike sport or exercises in which your participation grows less and less as you grow older, T’ai Chi can be practiced and perfected by persons of any age. Most sports concentrate on developing muscular strength, working primarily with weight, force and speed. T’ai Chi concentrates on relaxation, and does not focus on muscular force or strength. However, this does not mean weakness. It means dealing with force by yielding. Cheng relaxed
Sensing The most efficient way to deal with force is to move with it. A force is directed at you, and you yield, lightly adhering. The force is withdrawn and you follow. Within this unity, there are no shocks or crashes – no contradictions. As we change from position to position with as little movement as possible, our sense of activity is replaced by a feeling of stillness, a stillness which can persist through the most violent encounters. Therefore, in its later stages, T’ai Chi develops naturally into one of the most sophisticated of the martial arts.
© 1994 The School of T’ai Chi Chuan.
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