What is Tai Chi? by Sybil Wong

Sybil Wong
It is multi faceted and is different things to different people. Some people see it as a meditation, some as an exercise you do in the park, others as a form of relaxation. But to put it simply, tai chi is one of the most famous Chinese martial art of the internal style.

What
is Tai chi? by Sybil Wong

It is difficult to summarise tai chi in a short sentence. It is multi faceted and
is different things to different people. Some people see it as a meditation,
some as an exercise you do in the park, others as a form of relaxation. But
to put it simply, tai chi is one of the most famous Chinese martial art of the
internal style.

External styles concentrate
on the external form, featuring vigorous body movements and harsh punching actions.
Internal styles place emphasis on breathing and the mental component of their
training. Execution of movement is generally soft, fluid, gentle and graceful.
Breathing is deepened and slowed, aiding visual and mental concentration, relaxing
the body and allowing the life force or "Qi" to flow unimpeded throughout
the body.

These techniques help integrate
the mind and body and allow the achievement of total harmony of the inner and
outer self.

The History of Tai chi
and the 5 major Tai chi styles

The ancient Chinese created
tai chi based on their knowledge of traditional medicine, Qigong and martial
art.

There are five major styles
of tai chi and some lesser know styles. I will talk mainly about the major styles
in chronological order, not implying that one style is superior to another.

Chen Style

In 1670's Chen Wangting,
a retired army general of the Chen Village in Henan Province, developed several
Tai chi routines, which included the old frame form still practised today. This
is known as Chen style Tai chi which is oldest form of Tai chi. Chen style Tai
chi is characterised by alternating fast and slow movements, soft gentle moves
and explosive, force delivery moves.

Yang Style

Yang Style Tai chi was created
by Yang Luchan in the early 19th century. This is a more gentle form and is
the most popular form practiced today. This style is characterised by gentle
large frame movements. Our 24 forms is largely based on Yang Style

Hao Style

Wu Yuxiang created the Hao
style Tai chi which is a lesser know style. This style places emphasis on internal
force

Wu Style

Wu Jian-quan created the
Wu style Tai chi. This style is characterised by softness and emphasize on re-directing
incoming force. This style tends to have a slightly forward leaning posture

Sun Style

Sun style tai chi created
by Sun Lu-tang in the early 1900s is the youngest of all the forms. This style
is interesting because Sun Lu-tang who developed this style was a well know
exponent of Xingyiquan and Baguaquan (two other famous internal styles). Sun
style has lots of Qigong elements is characterised by lively steps and a slightly
higher stance. Tai chi for arthritis is based on this style

As you can see, all styles
have their own characteristics and some styles are more suited to certain people.
However, they all share the same principle and learning the different styles,
besides being fun; can help to enhance your Tai chi by helping you gain better
understanding in executing the different movements. It is similar to solving
a problem by using different approaches from different angles, this helps in
gaining understanding by looking at something from another perspective.

Those who have learnt Chen
style will agree with me that it has put new dimensions on their Yang style
and those who have practised Sun style will have experienced Qi in a different
way and could use this to enhance their other forms.

Benefits of tai chi and
Reasons why people take up tai chi

Tai chi can be practiced
by people of any age with any level of fitness. It is low impact and safe if
practised correctly. If your legs are not strong, practice with a higher stance.
If you are not flexible, kick a bit lower, don't go down as low. The health
benefits are the same.

Tai chi has been shown to
improve muscular strength, flexibility, fitness, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes,
respiratory disease and other chronic diseases. It improves balance, prevents
falls, helps posture and builds up immunity to disease. It also improves mental
illness, depression and stress. It is comforting for me to know that no matter
how old I am, I can still practice tai chi, enjoy it and still benefit from
it.

If I live to be 90, I don't
think I will manage to ride a horse or do other strenuous or high impact type
exercises, but I think I will still manage to practise tai chi. It is good for
me to know that tai chi, which I enjoy so much now, is something I can hopefully
keep doing forever.

Reasons
why I took up tai chi, benefits to me, why do I keep doing it

When I first tried tai chi,
I did not have any health problem, I was not particularly stressed, and was
not interested in relaxation exercises. I was interested in martial arts because
it looks exciting but martial looked too strenuous.

Tai chi looks a bit like
martial arts but looked to be easier and less strenuous. Its movements have
wonderfully inspiring Chinese names (which sound surprising strange in Australian),
like parting Wild Horse's Mane and The Rhinoceros looks back at the moon.

It looked graceful, almost
like a dance. I looked at Paul demonstrating his tai chi and he looked pretty
good so decided if I practised maybe I can look good too.

Initial experience of
what I found

I quickly realised that
it is not a dance and the purpose of it is not to make one just look good. It
is actually a martial art. Paul looked good because he has internal strength
not because he is performing a dance.

It is not easy; in fact
it is relatively strenuous, especially on my quads. It is very interesting.
It demands mind and body co-ordination and I found that there is so much that
I can look forward to learning, the different styles, fist forms, sword forms,
fan, push hand, etc.

It is fun and I enjoyed
doing it. In fact, I was hooked.

Experiences since

Sybil demonstration sword formI
soon realised that it has even more depth than I originally thought. I began
to have more understanding and appreciation of internal strength and what it
means. If I practice and pay attention to what it is that I am trying to do,
I will improve.

Although there is a lot
to learn and achieve, it allows me to have a little success or improvement/understanding
from time to time, just enough for me to feel that I am achieving something.
This sense of achievement is very rewarding and keeps me going. It is difficult
enough to keep me feeling challenged but not so difficult that it is beyond
me. It is fun to do and I feel great practising tai chi.

Important things we can
learn from tai chi

I think there are few lessons
to be learnt from tai chi. Firstly, there is peace and harmony within oneself,
extending to peace and harmony with others around us and with our surroundings.

We learn humility in knowing
that we will never be perfect, that we can always learn from others.

Because all movement are
directed by the mind, controlled by the waist and expressed by the hands, we
will develop unity of mind and body.

I think that tai chi is
a personal journey towards self awareness, awareness of one's body and life
force, remembering that perfection is never reached; rather the experience is
a journey and a never-ending challenge

On our journey, we will
reap health benefits, have improved flexibility, strength and balance, be less
stressed, make new friends and have lots of fun

I am very happy that you
are here to join Paul, my fellow instructors and myself on our amazing journey.
I hope that you will have a great time.