Tai Chi Chuan, or simply Tai Chi, is a Chinese martial art. Similar to Indian yoga, physical exercises are based on a system of ancient philosophical traditions. Also, like yoga, Tai Chi has gone beyond the bounds of its spiritual homeland, attracting devotees all over the world. Wherever they are, Western disciples can find a Tai Chi Chuan Hopewell NJ teacher fairly nearby. So, what is Tai Chi, and what makes it so popular?
The Mental Aspect
The philosophy behind Tai Chi Chuan dates back thousands of years to the beginnings of Chinese civilization, specifically the opposing forces of yin and yang, or softness and hardness. In Taoism, the energy of the universe, or qi, operates according to yin and yang. Tai Chi is about deflecting the violence of an opponent’s attack (yang) with gentle (yin) movements to either offset or redirect your attacker’s energy against her.
The Physical Aspect
The typical fluid motions of Tai Chi Chuan promote soft power. Initial training focuses on the technical principles of correct posture, coordinated breathing and controlling motor skills. Solo Tai Chi routines are mainly about maintaining one’s center of gravity, increasing blood circulation and joint flexibility. Those practicing Tai Chi for its complementary health benefits will likely stick to such solo forms.
Following prolonged solo training, students are taught so-called “push-hands” routines with a partner, which are practiced from different distances. Advanced stages involve sparring with various weapons. The result after years of study is a slow but deadly defensive style.
The Ultimate Benefits
An emphasis on mental and physical refinement in Tai Chi Chuan encourages balance on both sides. Practitioners learn to pay more attention to how they move, and to move more purposefully overall. Controlled breaths and meditation exercises cultivate inner calm, while languid external motions enable better blood flow and flexibility throughout the body. Best of all, soft movements make basic Tai Chi easy to do, even for elderly and infirm individuals.
Tai Chi Chuan has much to offer open-minded learners. If you’re curious, seek personal instruction from a knowledgeable master.