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Episode 2 – Overview
(1 week later and 5 pounds lighter.)
Hello and welcome to TaiChiCentral.com
This is Tai Chi With Ian Sinclair, where I will endeavor to teach you everything I know about tai chi, while getting into the best shape of my life and working toward a UFC title.
In today’s episode:
Tai chi: Where does it come from? What is it? Where is it going?
From whence cometh Tai chi?
Like my Uncle said when I asked him where babies come from, “China, mostly.”
What is Tai Chi?
Well, first of all, it is not tai chi.
“Tai Chi” is a philosophical conceptualization of the dualistic Universe. It refers to the nature of yin and yang and the relationship between them.
What we are really talking about here is actually called Taijiquan. That is the martial art and exercise system based on the philosophy of yin and yang.
But we call it “tai chi” or “taiji” for short to avoid confusion.
The complete name of the art is Taijiquan, or “Supreme Duality Boxing” But it is usually abbreviated at “Taiji”
The name means “Martial art based on the concept of Yin and Yang”
That implies that in order to master the martial art, you must understand yin and yang, their essential nature, and their relationships. Really, this means that enlightenment is a prerequisite for mastery… but no pressure.
The practice of the slow and gentle routine called “the form” is an essential part of the art. But if it is seen simply as a gentle calisthenic exercise, you will be missing the entire point.
It is too easy for tai chi to be seen as nothing more than a slow exercise, largely because that is how most people teach it. Too many teachers simply lead the class through slow choreography without teaching the core principles or offering any context for the art itself.
Tai Chi is a martial art, and while it is not necessary for students to be interested in learning self defence, it is important that the teacher have an understanding of the martial principles in order to pass on the greater health benefits. The physical and mental health benefits of tai chi are direct results of the centuries of its development as a martial art.
Tai Chi is a martial art resulting from centuries of development and evolution. It is based on deep understanding of the nature of the mind, body, and spirit. It’s training methods include subtle and refined technique s for achieving relaxed body and a calm mind, increasing power, conserving momentum, improving physical health, preventing and withstanding injury, improving balance and flexibility, and developing extraordinary mental and physical abilities.
In modern times, tai chi has become famous as a very gentle and peaceful exercise suitable for people of all ages and fitness level.
However, it can also be an extremely vigorous and challenging exercise capable of taxing the most elite professional athletes.
The art is a philosophy made manifest in posture, movement, thought, and deed. As such, it can be a way of understanding yourself and your place in the world.
It is also combat system capable of turning the small and weak into fierce and formidable warriors. It can be tool for defending yourself and your loved ones.
All the while, it remains a moving meditation and an exercise adaptable for all ages and fitness levels. Tai chi is a means of cultivating humility and eliminating the tyranny of the ego.
The complete tai chi curriculum includes several basic exercises which seem like a mix of kung fu and yoga.
There are sitting exercises, standing exercises, and basic movement patterns.
There are also several different styles of empty-hand routines, the most recognizable aspect of tai chi training. These routines can be from as short as 8 movements to nearly 200 movements. Most traditional routines are between 83 and 108 movements. These often take 15 to 30 minutes to perform. There are also many shorter routines which can be learned far more easily and take only a few minutes to complete.
In addition to the empty handed forms, advanced students may also learn routines which use weapons such as sabre, sword, spear, staff, and cane.
From a martial point of view, we learn to conserve momentum. Use as little force as possible so we can change quickly and use the opponents mind against them.
Solo training teaches us to improve and regulate the breath, Posture and alignment.
We increase our Flexibility as well as Physical and mental awareness.
We achieve Deep relaxation and a calm mind.
We loosening the waist, and all the joints, while developing Core strength and empowering stabilizing muscles and connective tissue
We learn to relax activating muscles so they don’t interfere with stability and power
With deeper practice comes an understanding the subtle and profound relationships between though, emotion, posture and movement.
Clearing the mind allows us to eliminate counter-productive tension
The key principles of tai chi include coordination of the substantial and insubstantial, harmonizing the inner and the outer, and using the mind instead of force.
On a more subtle level, tai chi teaches the refining and cultivating “qi” aka “breath” or “vital energy”
Their are several recognized styles of tai chi.
Chen style and Zhaobao Styles are the oldest styles, and were created in neighbouring villages. The routines are practised with a mix of slow and fast movements, and emphasizes spiral power.
Yang Style is the most popular style of tai chi. It is named after the Yang Family. The movements of the Yang Style routines are large and performed at a slow and constant pace.
Wu Style is another popular style, with many similarities to Yang Style, but with some differences in footwork, body angles, and pedagogy.
Sun Style tai chi, created by Sun Lutan, includes elements of two other internal martial arts called Xingyiquan and Baguazhang. Sun style is characterized by unique stepping patterns, changes in direction, and a unique opening and closing method that punctuates each change in direction.
Fu Style tai chi also includes elements of Baguazhang. Fu style includes advanced routines which move through a wider range of motion than other styles.
Two Person Practice
After developing a foundation with solo practice, students can learn two-person routines, martial applications of the routines, and an exercise called “tuishou” or “pushing hands”. Tuishou is a way for students to learn to neutralize and opponent’s force without using force. The main weapons are awareness and relaxation. As you progress, you learn to find superior positions and to exploit the opponent’s own tension. You don’t so much push the opponent as find the part of their mind that wants to be pushed over.
Later, tuishou can evolve into a friendly kind of sparring, and then to more realistic self defence training.
Two person practice develops:
sticking / adhering
and much more…
Sport aspect of Tai Chi:
Tai chi is also trained by some as a sport.
Forms competitions are held all over the world, with categories for different styles; weapon routines such as sword, sabre, and spear; and two person routines.
Tuishou competitions take different forms. From highly restrictive technical exercises such as restricted step or fixed step tuishou to much less restrictive free-step tuishou that can look a bit like sumo wrestling or judo.
Tai Chi competitors are also known to enter combat sports such as sanshou (which is like kickboxing with throws allowed), shuaijiao (Chinese wrestling), and mixed martial arts competitions.
Also, there are many athletes from other sports who practice tai chi to improve their ability to golf, run, swim, tackle, etc.
There may be some who will say that the philosophy of tai chi is not only non-violent, but non competitive. This is true, to a large degree. However, it is also a way of dealing with conflict. So, testing it in competition can be educational and enlightening.
Also, remember the ancient daoist proverb. Ye ge Amishenren ye da beng qiu. “Even the Amish play baseball.”
Tai Chi for Healing
There is a long list of studies into the health benefits of tai chi. And these benefits can be achieved without any understanding of the martial application or philosophy of the art.
Of course, there are a lot of clinical studies which produce insufficient reliable data to make any conclusions. And we should be skeptical of purely anecdotal evidence and isolate claims like, “My head grew back!”
However, there is a fair amount of reliable scientific evidence that tai chi can be helpful to people suffering from: arthritis, low bone density, cancer, heart disease, hypertension, heart failure, parkinson’s disease, sleep problems, stroke, and more..
Massage therapists, acupuncturists, energy workers, and others often find that the awareness, strength, energy, and concentration, which is refined through tai chi can be of great help to them in their practices. For now, that is all I am willing to say.
Tai Chi as a Martial Art
First let me say that there is a lot more to martial arts than loud noises and bad movies. There is also quiet noises and good movies. There is also more to martial arts that what is often presented in popular media. The martial artist seeks tranquility through the master of the self. The martial artist learns that ones own needs and interests are not separate from the needs and interests of others. Through the practice of traditional martial arts, one strives to make the world a better place, and to be a better person.
Tai Chi for Self Defence.
Like most martial arts, the movements of the form can have several different combat applications, including joint control, pressure point manipulation, throws, takedowns, kicks, and strikes with all parts of the body.
But application of these techniques depends on the proper method of application. Therefore, tai chi has a variety of training methods, such as tuishou, that treat the method as fundamental to the technique. It is not what you do, but how you do it.
But even more important than the method, is the vehicle with which you manifest the method. This means training the mind and body so well the one is literally transformed at a cellular level. Natural instinct is cultivated, the structure of the body is altered, and the mind is transformed. The result is a vehicle that could not lose the race even if the driver is next to incompetent.
It is not how you do it, but how you are.
Where is tai chi going?
Where are we going and why are we in this hand-basket?
There are so many reasons for doing tai chi that one might say that tai chi is going all over hell’s half acre. Trying to treat the art and all its aspects as if they should all have a common destination is like chasing a swarm of bees through a snow storm with a bull whip. Like the catholic church, it will continue to splinter and evolve. Some will claim to have the original truth, and others will claim to be more advanced. What it comes down to, however is whether the student is getting what he or she needs from it. In that regard, where tai chi is going is up to you.