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The information on this page is drawn from the parent Zhong Ding site.
 
What is Tai Chi?
The Origins of Tai Chi Chuan
Health Benefits
Stress Relief
Tai Chi as a Martial Art
Tai Chi is Not
Why Learn Tai Chi Chuan?


What is Tai Chi Chuan?

To most people who have heard of Tai Chi Chuan it is known as a relaxing form of gentle exercise which has become associated with stress relief and health improvement. Some people will also have heard that it is a martial art. All of this is true and this site will endeavour to shed further light on the subject.



The Origins of Tai Chi Chuan

The Legend

There are many different stories concerning its origins and creation. The most popular legend, which has few hard facts to back it up, is that of Zhang San Feng, a Taoist who had already mastered Shaolin Boxing, who caught sight of a crane fighting a snake. Intrigued by the yielding, smooth evasion and darting counter attacks of both creatures, he was inspired to develop a form of boxing which would embody the natural philosophy of the Tao.

The Known Facts

Legend aside, in the middle of the eighteenth century a soft boxing was being taught in the village of Chenjiakou, in Henan province. This soft boxing was finally popularised by Yang Luchan (1780-1873) who, through diligent effort, learnt the Chen family boxing and then went to Beijing where he taught the art, in a modified form, to the Manchu court. This Yang school of boxing was destined to become the most popular form of Tai Chi Chuan, with the help of Yang Cheng Fu, the most widely known descendant of Yang Luchan. It is characterised by large, smooth and flowing movements with an unbroken even tempo, avoiding strenuous over-exertion.



Health Benefits

Tai Chi Chuan promotes natural correct posture. Throughout the exercise the cardiovascular system is gently exercised. Because of the positions the student adopts throughout the movements, strength is gradually increased, especially in the legs. Because students are taught slowly there is not the same risk of injury as would be the case with more aerobic activity.

Stress Relief

Physical

By holding the spine in correct alignment and turning and moving the waist, the student stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which results in a decrease in heart rate and dilation of the blood vessels resulting in improvement in the circulation. This is the body's restraint on the flight or fight syndrome and is of vital importance in lessening the effects of negative stress.

Mental

The practise of Tai Chi Chuan not only benefits the body, but also the mind. The form that is learnt consists of many different movements. The mind is so absorbed by this that day-to-day worries are left aside. This results in a perceptible increase in mental sharpness and self confidence as the student becomes more proficient.

Tai Chi as a Martial Art

Every posture that is learnt by the student has martial application. Those students who wish to learn the self defence aspect of the art will learn how to apply the principles of the art in order to divert an aggressor's attack and counter attack. Students train with partners, learning how to sense the direction of an attack and, to quote the classic teaching of the art, to 'use one ounce to deflect a thousand pounds'.

The training of martial skills in Tai Chi Chuan starts in the same way as training for health and relaxation. That is, slowly and without over exertion. However, to reach a good standard of martial skill will take a dedication to solo practise and physically demanding training. The most important approach to the art, whether you simply wish to improve your health or become a martial artist, is patience.

Tai Chi is Not . . .

Tai Chi is not an instant health cure, nor a ten week self-defence course. It is an art and, like all arts, it takes time and diligent practice to perfect. For those willing to persevere the benefits are amazing and are not diminished by the constraints of old age; in fact there are many practitioners around the world in their eighties and still teaching.

Why Learn Tai Chi Chuan?

When asked by a student, 'What is the most important reason to study Tai Chi Chuan?' Master Cheng Man Ching replied, 'The most important reason is that when you finally reach the place where you understand what life is about, you'll have the health to enjoy it.'
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