Tai Ji Quan
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Tai Ji Quan is a style of qigong. It is graceful, relaxed, slow, and fluid, like a slow-motion dance. Unlike some qigong methods that exercise specific systems or parts of the body — nervous system, endocrine system, heart, kidneys — Tai Ji Quan is a whole body, whole mind exercise. It treats health systemically, restoring the body to its original “program”, uncorrupted by stress, pollution, and disease. Ten Gates to Heaven offers training in all aspects and levels of Tai Ji Quan.
The Baduanjin qigong is one of the most common forms of Chinese qigong used as exercise. Variously translated as Eight Pieces of Brocade, Eight-Section Brocade, Eight Silken Movements and others, the name of the form generally refers to how the eight individual movements of the form characterize and impart a silken quality (like that of a piece of brocade) to the body and its energy. The Baduanjin is primarily designated as a form of medical qigong, meant to improve health. This is in contrast to religious or martial forms of qigong. However, this categorization does not preclude the form’s use by martial artists as a supplementary exercise, and this practice is frequent. This exercise is mentioned in several encyclopedias originating from the Song Dynasty. The Pivot of the Way (Dao Shi, c. 1150) describes an archaic form of this qigong. The Ten Compilations on Cultivating Perfection (Xiuzhen shi-shu, c. 1300) features illustrations of all eight movements. The same work assigns the creation of this exercise to two of the Eight immortals, namely Zhongli Quan and Lü Dongbin.
The exercise was later expanded from eight to twelve movements over the centuries and was described in the boxing manual Illustrated Exposition of Internal Techniques (1882) by Wang Zuyuan, a famed practitioner of the Sinew Changing Classic set.
Nineteenth century sources attribute the style to semi-legendary Chinese folk hero General Quan.
The term “tai chi chuan” translates as “supreme ultimate fist”, “boundless fist”, “supreme ultimate boxing” or “great extremes boxing”. The chi in this instance is the Wade-Giles transliteration of the Pinyin jí, and is distinct from qì (chi, “life energy”). The concept of the taiji (“supreme ultimate”), in contrast with wuji (“without ultimate”), appears in both Taoist and Confucian Chinese philosophy, where it represents the fusion or mother of Yin and Yang into a single ultimate, represented by the taijitu symbol . Tai chi chuan theory and practice evolved in agreement with many Chinese philosophical principles, including those of Taoism and Confucianism.
Tai chi also incorporates the Taoist principal of “wu wei,” which translates literally as “doing nothing to disturb the spontaneous flow of things.” When tai chi is performed with grace and intention, there is a natural rhythm that mirrors the ebb and flow of the Great Universal, the perpetual movement of energy in the universe.
The concept of yin and yang, the foundation of Chinese culture, metaphysics and medicine, is more than 3,000 years old. Everything in the universe can be categorized as yin or yang. Examples of yin are female, night, cold, soft and black; the corresponding yang energies are male, day, fire, hard and white. When yin and yang energies are balanced, all things are in harmony.
Tai chi is considered one of the nei gong or internal arts, meaning its primary focus is to develop the body from the inside out. This is in contrast to wai gong training, which emphasizes external muscle development.
“In every movement the entire body should be light and agile and all of its parts connected like a string of pearls.”
“Tai Chi Chuan is an art with strength concealed in gentle movements, like an iron hand in a velvet glove, or a needle concealed in cotton.”
Tai ji quan/T’ai chi ch’uan training involves five elements:
- Taolu – solo hand and weapons routines/forms;
- Neigong (pronounced ‘nay-gong’ and starts inside the body and works outwards) & Qigong (which starts outside the body and works inwards) – breathing, movement and awareness exercises and meditation;
- Tuishou (pronounced “toy show”) – response drills; and
- Sanshou – self defense techniques.
While tai chi chuan is typified by some for its slow movements, many tai chi styles (including the three most popular – Yang, Wu, and Chen) – have secondary forms with faster pace. Some traditional schools of tai chi teach partner exercises known as tuishou (“pushing hands”), and martial applications of the taolu’s (forms’) postures
Since the first widespread promotion of t’ai chi ch’uan’s health benefits by Yang Shaohou, Yang Chengfu, Wu Chien-ch’uan, and Sun Lutang in the early 20th century, it has developed a worldwide following among people with little or no interest in martial training, for its benefit to health and health maintenance. Medical studies of t’ai chi support its effectiveness as an alternative exercise and a form of martial arts therapy.
It is purported that focusing the mind solely on the movements of the form helps to bring about a state of mental calm and clarity. Besides general health benefits and stress management attributed to tai chi chuan training, aspects of traditional Chinese medicine are taught to advanced tai chi chuan students in some traditional schools
Some other forms of martial arts require students to wear a uniform during practice. In general, tai chi chuan schools do not require a uniform, but both traditional and modern teachers often advocate loose, comfortable clothing and flat-soled shoes.
The physical techniques of tai chi chuan are described in the “Tai chi classics”, a set of writings by traditional masters, as being characterized by the use of leverage through the joints based on coordination and relaxation, rather than muscular tension, in order to neutralize, yield, or initiate attacks. The slow, repetitive work involved in the process of learning how that leverage is generated gently and measurably increases, opens the internal circulation (breath, body heat, blood, lymph, peristalsis, etc.).
The study of tai chi chuan primarily involves three aspects:
- Health: An unhealthy or otherwise uncomfortable person may find it difficult to meditate to a state of calmness or to use tai chi chuan as a martial art. Tai chi chuan’s health training, therefore, concentrates on relieving the physical effects of stress on the body and mind. For those focused on tai chi chuan’s martial application, good physical fitness is an important step towards effective self-defense.
- Meditation: The focus and calmness cultivated by the meditative aspect of tai chi chuan is seen as necessary in maintaining optimum health (in the sense of relieving stress and maintaining homeostasis) and in application of the form as a soft style martial art.
- Martial Art: The ability to use tai chi chuan as a form of self-defense in combat is the test of a student’s understanding of the art. Tai chi chuan is the study of appropriate change in response to outside forces, the study of yielding and “sticking” to an incoming attack rather than attempting to meet it with opposing force. The use of tai chi chuan as a martial art is quite challenging and requires a great deal of training.
Yue Fei, and describe it as being created as a form of exercise for his soldiers. The legend states he taught the exercise to his men to help keep their bodies strong and well-prepared for battle. Martial historian Prof. Meir Shahar notes Yue’s mention as a lineage master in the second preface of the Sinew Changing Classic manual (1624) is the reason why he was attributed as the creator of Baduanjin qigong.
The Baduanjin as a whole is broken down into eight separate exercises, each focusing on a different physical area and qi meridian. The Baduanjin traditionally contains both a standing and seated set of eight postures each. In the modern era, the standing version is by far the most widely practiced. The particular order in which the eight pieces are executed sometimes varies, with the following order being the most common.
We combine the Tai Ji (Tai Chi) family of Chen Style, Yang Style, Sun Style, Wu Style, and also Mulan Quan, TaiJi Yang Sheng Zhang and Silk Reeling.
Secrets from the Masters offered for your viewing pleasure…Enjoy the steps of these walking meditations:
The word Reiki (pronounced ‘ray key’) means spiritually guided life force energy and is a technique for transmitting to yourself and others through the hands. Thought to have originated in Tibet thousands of years ago, Reiki was rediscovered by a Japanese Buddhist monk in the 19 century.
Qigong (pronounced ‘chee-gung’ and also spelled Ch’i Kung) is a powerful system of healing and energy medicine from China. It is the art and science of using breathing techniques, gentle movement, and meditation to cleanse, strengthen, and circulate the life energy (qi). Qigong practice leads to better health and vitality and a tranquil state of mind. In the past, qigong was also called nei gong (inner work) and dao yin (guiding energy).
The documented history of qigong goes back approximately 2,500 years. However Chinese archaeologists and historians have found references to qigong-like techniques at least five thousand years old. Tai Ji Quan is a style of qigong. It is graceful, relaxed, slow, and fluid, like a slow-motion dance. Unlike some qigong methods that exercise specific systems or parts of the body, nervous system, endocrine system, heart, kidneys, Tai Ji Quan is a whole body, whole mind exercise. It treats health systemically, restoring the body to its original “program”, uncorrupted by stress, pollution, and disease. Ten Gates to Heaven offers training in all aspects and levels of Tai Ji Quan.