A Very Brief History.
Long before the practice of Taijiquan, Chinese Daoist monks were using herbs, meditation and physical exercise to become one with the Dao and achieve spiritual immortality. Like other Chinese monks and spiritual practitioners, a lot of Daoists were well versed in Chinese martial arts. It was only a matter of time before the Daoists merged the health, martial and meditative practices together. Wudang Quan was created by the legendary Zhang San-Feng in 1300AD. It is believed that Taijiquan emerged from Wudang Quan but it was not until the mid 17th century that Taijiquan as practiced by the Chen family was formally documented. It was another two hundred years (late 19 century) before Taijiquan became popular with the Chinese masses as the health exercise that is common-place around the world today.
How is Taijiquan pronounced?
Phonetically Taijiquan is pronounced; tie-jee chew-an
It is often written as Tai Chi in the western world, but this is not used in China.
Taiji means Yin and Yang combined and Quan is fist, boxing or fighting, so you could say it means Yin and Yang fighting.
What is Taijiquan?
The practice of Taijiquan could be described as meditation in motion. It is a slow moving martial exercise system that is renowned for its health building and therapeutic values. Taijiquan is practiced in set sequences of movements known as forms; each form consists of various numbers of martial movements that should seamlessly flow from one to the next in a continuous fluid manner.
Why is Taijiquan so relaxing?
Slow, smooth movements along with slow, smooth diaphragmatic breathing, postural alignments that allow for muscular relaxation and a meditative awareness, all combine to make Taijiquan such a relaxing exercise.
Why is Taijiquan good for physical health?
It is well known throughout the world that exercise is imperative for maintaining health. However, the amount and type of exercise that has the greatest benefit to a person’s health is under a great deal of debate. Almost everyone agrees that an obese individual who has very little physical activity is unhealthy, yet at the other end of the scale many people believe that tense, athletic, cardio pumping gymaholics are also at risk.
Taijiquan stays very much in the middle ground. It is enough of a cardiovascular exercise to maintain health and relative fitness, without overworking the heart. It exercises the lungs and massages other internal organs through diaphragmatic breathing. It maintains natural healthy muscle tone without introducing tension. It improves flexibility and joint movement through relaxation, and combined with a healthy diet it will help to maintain weight.
In essence Taijiquan is moderate exercise without tension, stress and strain.
Can Taijiquan benefit mental health?
Work has become less physically demanding over the years as technology has progressed, however things have become more mentally demanding. Not only work but more and more leisure activities are designed to stimulate our minds and senses. Over-stimulation of the mind can drain vital resources leaving the body depleted of essence and Qi energy. This can have a negative influence on our emotions and make the body more susceptible to illness and disease.
Slowing the breath within Taijiquan calms the mind allowing the practitioner to enter a meditative state of awareness. This exercise for the mind provides mental clarity and can minimise the desire for mental stimulation.
What happens during a Taijiquan class?
In our regular classes we do a gentle warm-up and then practice an entire form together along to a piece of music. The bulk of the class is then spent practicing one or two movements from the form at the student’s own time and pace. Occasionally, instead of spending time practicing a particular movement, we cover aspects like breathing, structure, meditation etc. At the end of the class we practice the entire sequence again to music.
What do people wear?
Any clothing that is loose fitting and doesn’t restrict movement is best. We sell school t-shirts and sweat shirts but there is no particular dress code. Most students prefer soft shoes with a flat sole.
Can anyone practice Taijiquan?
People can benefit from practicing Taijiquan at all different levels. From children to the elderly, from people with restricted mobility to the fit and flexible, all can practice to their own ability. The soft, gentle movements within Taijiquan make it a very accessible exercise for the elderly, people with poor health, injury or disability. However, the same movements can be practiced with a lower stance, concentrated diaphragmatic breathing and internal movements making it a challenge for the young and athletic, yet still remaining relaxed and calm.