What is Tai Chi Chuan and What Are Its Benefits?
Martial Arts, Meditation, and Calisthenics
Tai Chi Chuan is a popular form of exercise. These exercises combines martial arts, meditation and calisthenics. There are many known health benefits.
Tai Chi Chuan is an excellent health exercise which has its origins in China. Tai Chi Chuan is considered the physical manifestation of the Tao or Way (i.e., the way of what is natural). Tai Chi Chuan can be performed by all ages and is not expensive to perform, all one needs is the knowledge of the form and a place to do it. The wealth of health benefits are well documented.
The Origins of Tai Chi Chuan
Tai Chi Chuan is a technique that is practiced in China and has spread throughout the world. Literally it means Grand Ultimate Boxing. This technique is martial arts, meditation, and calisthenics all wrapped into one. This technique was practiced by the Shaolin monks in ancient China. There are many schools of Tai Chi Chuan, which include the Yang Short Form, and Yang Long Form, as well as the Chen forms from which the Yang forms are derived.
Taoism is represented by Philosophical Taoism, Religious Taoism, and finally Taoist Yoga, which is where Tai Chi Chuan fits in. Tai Chi Chuan is considered to be a form of Kung Fu, which means excellence, like the excellence of all of the martial arts.
What is Tai Chi Chuan?
Those who have seen people in the park moving very slowly doing exercise have most likely witnessed the practice of Tai Chi Chuan. Tai Chi Chuan, which originated in China, is practiced commonly in the parks and squares around the world.
Tai Chi Chuan is thought to be the physical manifestation in the human form of the Tao. The use of animal postures fall in line with the idea of Taoism as being naturalistic. One begins with a beginning posture then transitions into the next, completes it and then on to the next.
For instance in the Yang Style Short Form, there are 54 postures. In the Yang Style Short Form there is a lot of animal imagery. The postures include White Crane Spreads Wings, Carry the Tiger, Ride the Tiger, Golden Rooster, as well as Snake Creeps Down. In these postures a movement is initiated in which the animal is somehow represented in a natural manner, which can be useful for martial arts. There are many other non-animal postures as well.
How is Tai Chi Chuan Performed?
All types of Tai Chi Chuan are considered martial arts, as well as being Chi Gung, a form of meditation, and calisthenics all of which improves one’s health, strength and vitality when done correctly. Before doing Tai Chi Chuan, one does warm-up exercises so that one doesn’t injure themselves doing the form. The exercises or postures of the form when done correctly are very anaerobic as well as aerobic. This may not be apparent by looking at Tai Chi Chuan in motion, which is very slow and deliberate.
Central to Tai Chi Chuan is the Chi or breath. This is not specifically respiration, but respiration is a component. Chi refers to the life force. When doing Tai Chi Chuan regularly one increases one’s life force. Some call Chi spirit. When doing the form, which refers to the series of postures one does transitioning from one to another, one controls the breath. Going into and out of a posture into the next one requires breathing in, then breathing out at key points in the postures.
What are the Health Benefits of Tai Chi Chuan?
Tai Chi Chuan has been useful in maintaining health and longevity in China. The health benefits include controlling diabetes, relaxation, deep breathing, strength training, managing arthritis pain, feelings of well-being, lowering blood pressure, helping to battle heroin addiction, increased oxygen in the tissues, increase in blood T-Cell‘s and H-Cells as well as many other benefits.
One of the masters of the Yang form of Tai Chi Chuan, Cheng Man-Ching, claimed to have cured himself of tuberculosis using Tai Chi Chuan. A YouTube video of master Cheng Man-Ching, who originated the Yang Short Form, doing the Yang Short Form can be found here.
Tai Chi Chuan is not expensive. Only a small space is needed to do the form. Once the form is learned it can be practiced in groups or by oneself. Tai Chi Chuan has been shown to be an effective health exercise. It requires no special equipment and can be done by people of all ages. The health benefits are considerable.
Helm, Bill. Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan Short Form., Taoist Sanctuary of San Diego: San Diego 1996
Klein, Bob. Movements of Magic: The Spirit of Tai Chi Chuan. Newcastle Publishing Company: California 1984
Wile, Douglas Compiled and Translated., Cheng Man-Ch’ing’s Advanced Tai-Chi Form Instructions With Selected Writings on Meditation, The I Ching, Medicine and the Arts. Sweet Ch’i Press: New York 1985