To most people who have heard of Tai Chi Chuan/ Taijiquan it is known as a relaxing form of gentle exercise which has become associated with stress relief and health improvement. Some people will also have heard that it is a martial art. All of this is true and this site will endeavour to shed further light on the subject.
Tai Chi Chuan promotes natural correct posture. Throughout the exercise the cardiovascular system is gently exercised. Because of the positions the student adopts throughout the movements, strength is gradually increased, especially in the legs. Because students are taught slowly there is not the same risk of injury as would be the case with more aerobic activity.
By holding the spine in correct alignment and turning and moving the waist, the student stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which results in a decrease in heart rate and dilation of the blood vessels resulting in improvement in the circulation. This is the body's restraint on the flight or fight syndrome and is of vital importance in lessoning the effects of negative stress.
The practise of Tai Chi Chuan not only benefits the body, but also the mind. The form that is learnt consists of many different movements. The mind is so absorbed by this that day-to-day worries are left aside. This results in a perceptible increase in mental sharpness and self confidence as the student becomes more proficient.
Tai Chi Chuan as a martial art
Every posture that is learnt by the student has martial application. Those students who wish to learn the self defence aspect of the art will learn how to apply the principle of the art in order to divert an aggressors attack and counter attack. Students train with partners learning how to sense the direction of an attack and, to quote the classic teaching of the art, to use one ounce to deflect a thousand pounds. The training of martial skills in Tai Chi Chuan starts in the same way as training for health and relaxation. That is, slowly and without over exertion. However, to reach a good standard of martial skill will take a dedication to solo practise and physically demanding training. The most important approach to the art, whether you simply wish to improve your health or become a martial artist is patience.
Tai Chi is NOT.......
Tai Chi is not an instant health cure, nor a ten week self-defence course. It is an art and, like all arts, it takes time and diligent practice to perfect. For those willing to persevere the benefits are amazing and are not diminished by the constraints of old age; in fact there are many practitioners around the world in their 80's and still teaching.