What is Tai Chi?
When discussing the history of tai chi it is often difficult to sort out fact from fiction. However many experts trace Tai Chi back to approximately the 2nd millennium B.C. with the practice of yoga in ancient India.
Legend has it that this yoga and meditation practice was the earliest form of tai chi. In the 13th century A.D., a Taoist monk by the name of Chang Sang Feng developed what we know as Tai Chi today. Many styles of Tai Chi came to be associated with different families in China.
The name T’ai Chi Ch’uan is held to be derived from the T’ai Chi symbol, the Taijitu or T’ai Chi t’u (tàijítú), commonly known in the West as the yin yang symbol. T’ai Chi Ch’uan techniques are said therefore to physically and energetically balance yin (receptive) and yang (active) principles: “From ultimate softness comes ultimate hardness.” Which is why tai chi chuan is often called the ultimate fist.
The practice of Tai Chi promotes the circulation of Chi or life energy within the body, encouraging wellness and vitality of the individual. Tai Chi benefits both male and female including people of all ages. Tai Chi today is known as a Chinese martial art that is primarily practiced for three reasons.
Tai chi and chi gung work to reduce the physical effects of stress on the body. The regular practice of tai chi combined with chi gung can:
- Reduce stress
- Control your Weight
- Control Emotions
- Improve Concentration
- Improve your Circulation
- Increase Energy, Agility and Flexibility
- Loosen and Strengthen Joints and Muscles
- Improve your metabolism, digestion
- Simulate the lymph system
- Rejuvenate Body, Mind and Spirit
Tai chi emphasizes complete relaxation, and can be used as a form of meditation. It has been referred to by some as moving meditation. Tai chi is characterized by soft, slow, flowing movements that emphasize force, flow and direction, rather than brute strength.
According to Chinese medicine, tai chi masters, and tai chi philosophy, one becomes ill when the flow of the chi through the body becomes blocked. The Chinese recognize several means for freeing up the flow of chi. Some of the more commonly known forms are acupuncture, tai chi and chi gung.
Tai Chi’s martial capabilities come from sensitivity essentially being able to redirect an attack. The centre of gravity is extremely important in both maintaining ones balance and also upending an opponent’s when under attack. Effortless flow between movements enables an experienced tai chi exponent to either deflect, or control and capture an aggressor.
Among the martial arts texts, authors discuss two basic types of martial arts: the hard martial arts and the soft martial arts. In a complete martial art such as Nam Pai Chuan this is a bit of a misnomer as the notion of hard and soft are seen as ying and yang therefore both essential.
Lohan Chi Gung is an internal exercise that uses movement and breath control to manipulate the flow of Chi along the body’s meridians. It is both a physical and mental exercise. Inwardly, it is taught to cultivate the Jing, the Chi and the Shen. Outwardly, it is practised to develop and maintain a strong and healthy body.
Lohan Chi Gung is an ancient Chinese healing exercise created by Bodhidharma (Da Mo), the founder of Chen (Zen) Buddhism 1500 years ago. Legend has it that Bodhidharma spent nine years meditating in a cave outside the Shaolin Temple. During that time, he discovered that the lack of movement of his body and limbs over a long period of time, combined with the climatic conditions caused degeneration of his body.
To reduce this degeneration process Bodhidharma devised a set of exercises based on Indian Yoga, Chinese exercise of the time and his observation of the natural movements of wild animals. This set of exercises is known as the “18 Lohan Chi Gung”.