What is Tai Chi?

Tai Chi is a Chinese martial art and system of exercises consisting of sequences of slow, controlled movements. Translated from Chinese it means “Great Ultimate Boxing”. It was said to have been realised when the great Taoist martial artist Chang San-Feng observed a Crane and a Snake fighting in their natural habitat and gained an insight into the art of neutralizing (yielding). What started out originally as 13 postures were developed and linked together in harmonious order into that which is commonly referred to as the Form. This Tai Chi ‘form’ can be seen being practised throughout the parks and schools of mainland China still today.

The basic premise of Tai Chi is to create a good body habit. Movements should seek to create harmony within the body, starting from the feet, travelling through to the crown of the head, opening the spine and expanding the lungs.

Tai Chi can promote relaxation, calming the mind while at the same time causing one to be more aware of one’s body, become more connected to and be in more control of one’s body. It can concentrate the mind, teaching awareness of weight distribution and improving balance by attaining a central equilibrium.

Health, Meditation and Martial Art

The three main components of Tai Chi are Health, Meditation and Martial Art.

Although within the Middle Way School of Tai Chi we emphasize the practice of the first two primarily, the Martial aspect can be highlighted through practising the application of Tai Chi postures after some experience of the form has been achieved. The meditation aspect comes through developed concentration and a relaxed and healthy mental state allowing us to develop perception and refine the quality of awareness.

The Tai Chi we have developed can be adapted to help people of all abilities, singly or in groups. These exercises can be an excellent way to rejuvenate the body, allowing it to gain flexibility and strength; it is also good fun. Our experience will allow us to combine these exercises with other disciplines, such as chi kung to aid those with a variety of conditions. Without having to study the subject in great depth, its principles and movements can give people an increased awareness of their bodies and help make improvements in areas such as balance and breathing.

Regular practice of Tai Chi can allow the qualities we develop in the classroom to enter into all aspects of our life: from maintaining good posture at work, to maybe standing on a bus stop with correct alignment, to maybe aiding recovery from illness and to our appreciation and connection to ourselves and others. Due to the meditative side of practice, this can develop the good mental health aspect of qualities that can aid us in spiritual pursuits in our lives too.

Chi (energy) Connection

Chi (Qi) is a central part of Tai Chi and Chinese Medicine. It seems for many an illusive or even esoteric aspect, but could be loosely seen as the subtle end of the spectrum of energy compared to physical brute force being the heavier end. In investigating chi in Tai Chi we must first learn to relax the body and mind. Then through our expanded perception and sensitivity we can observe and utilise this subtle energy to open up our Tai Chi practice and bolster our health. We can learn to connect to a “chi feeling” at all times through developing the good body habits we learn in the form.

Spiritual Connection

Tai Chi can open up towards Spiritual aspects in becoming more open hearted and less bogged down the superficial facets of life. An open heart is a natural and honest heart, and in spiritual terms this can give way to one’s compassion and positive outlook in life to develop into something which can benefit not only ourselves but all others we come into contact with.