Generally nowadays we can imagine what tai chi is, we can even look at tai chi practitioners on YouTube or similar platforms and marvel at the fluidity of movements. In China it is not rare to see groups of people practising tai chi ‘in the park’. Here in the UK there has been a growing interest in tai chi as well. And you have maybe thought of joining a class… But you are maybe not quite sure what it is, how it will work and what it will ‘do’.
First off I would say that Tai Chi will be beneficial to all who practice it in a fairly regular fashion. The other important point to remember is that it does not address itself to a particular age group or level of fitness. Tai Chi comes from the same roots as martial arts. It needs a minimum of dedication to learn the set. The set is a series of movements which are learnt a little every week. In my classes, each week we warm up, practice some TaiChi altogether then split into groups to learn and practise our new moves. Each week you are given a new move or two to build on the sequence you already know. In between classes it is good to find some time to practice at home. In the beginning 5 minutes 4 times a week are enough. This way over the course of a few months you can learn the 108 moves that form the set quite effortlessly. Each person learns at their own pace. There is no one size fits all here.
The approach that I teach has a lot of emphasis on health benefits, but we also look at moves applications. Our practice remains non contact ( that means no sparring or practising the moves on someone else). Our lineage teaches a very traditional form of Yang style Tai Chi which was taught to our Japanese master before the cultural revolution. So this form has remained unabbreviated, unaltered, all the elements have been preserved. For more information on our lineage please view my post on Tai Chi Lineage.
Master Fu Zhong Wen (part of our lineage)
You have heard before probably that TaiChi bring great health benefits. Let’s look in a little more depth at what those might be:
-TaiChi will help to build your core muscles, and your muscles generally which in turn will help to combat chronic aches such as lower back pain or knee pain. Because Tai Chi is very low impact it reduces the risk of injuries and even helps those recovering from injuries.
-Tai Chi stretches your muscles, ligaments and tendons helping you keep a full range of movements. All through our lives we keep loosing flexibility. We can combat this and regain our flexibility through our practise.
-Improves balance. As you work through the set your balance will soon improve. The set comprises a lot of very stable poses as well as kicks and turn, which all help improve balance. Because we have to focus on our moves it also improves the balance in our mind.
-Improves your body, mind , spirit connection: very often we inhabit our bodies in a superficial manner. We are not used to working WITH our bodies.Tai Chi makes you very aware of how your body works, it also lets you inhabit your body fully, giving your full attention to ‘you’.
-Helps fight stress effectively. Tai Chi is often referred to as meditation in movement. It takes around 15 minutes for our bodies to get relaxed. The long form of Tai Chi takes around that much time to complete, so it is the perfect exercise to relax to. After you have practiced a while you also lose yourself in the movements and can fully relax your mind and enjoy the ’emptiness’.
-Lowers blood pressure and helps balance the immune system.
-Helps improve the circulation of Qi. In traditional Chinese medicine Qi is a vital component of our well being and so is its circulation. The aim of the Tai Chi set is to promote that circulation and help dissolve any blockages that may be in the way. It is not something you have to believe in. As you practice Tai Chi, you become more and more aware of the flow of Qi inside your body. You will probably experience it as warmth or tiggling sensations.
I hope this answers some of the questions that you may have when considering to start learning Tai Chi. The only way to answer all the questions is to start your practice. Approach your practice lightheartedly and openly, and most of all I hope you will enjoy it.