Sunday, June 8, 2014

Tai Chi

Martial arts are often portrayed as mere pugilism. It is easy to regard them purely as methods of violence, but such a view is woefully incomplete. The self-discipline required of serious martial artists can actually make them mature, level-headed, friendly individuals. In fact, many students of one particular fighting system are not even interested in combat. They learn how to punch for the sake of bodily health and mental tranquility. They learn taijiquan, or tai chi.

Taijiquan (tai chi chuan, t'ai ch'i ch'uan) is commonly translated to "supreme ultimate fist." It is a martial art that emphasizes yin-yang philosophy and efficiency of movement. There are several main branches or styles of taijiquan: Chen, Yang, Wu (Hao), Wu, and Sun. Each style is named after its founder and reflects his particular mindset concerning martial arts.

Taijiquan is an internal martial art. As such, practitioners focus on sensations within the body. Moving slowly allows them to carefully study how their muscles and bones work together. They ask themselves questions like "Do I have correct posture? Where do I feel tension or pain? Am I coordinating my whole body in unison?" They also think about yin and yang in the context of fighting. Hard and soft, push and pull, rise and fall, slow and fast, advance and retreat. This inward focus leads to heightened physical awareness and peace of mind.

Taijiquan's slow, meditative method of practice makes it a well-suited exercise for sick and elderly people. These practitioners may not be concerned about combat readiness, but they reap benefits for their health. Taijiquan promotes many things: deep breathing, good blood pressure, increased balance and coordination, a calm and focused mind, and increased blood circulation. Far from being just a fighting system, taijiquan is studied as a tool for longevity and personal growth.


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