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Tai Chi

What is Tai Chi?
an art embracing the mind, body and spirit

By Dr Paul Lam

Originating in ancient China, tai chi is one of the most effective exercises for health of mind and body. Although an art with great depth of knowledge and skill, it can be easy to learn and soon delivers its health benefits. For many, it continues as a lifetime journey.

Almost anyone can learn the Tai Chi for Health programs by Dr Lam. It's inexpensive and can be practiced almost anywhere. The movements are slow and gentle, and the degree of exertion can be easily adjusted, making it suitable for people of all levels of ability.

There are many styles and forms of tai chi, the major being Chen, Yang, Wu, Wu (different words in Chinese) and Sun. Each style has its own features, although most styles share the same essential principles.

The essential principles include mind integrated with the body; fluidity of the movements; control of breathing; and, mental concentration. The central focus is to enable the qi or life force to flow smoothly and powerfully throughout the body. Total harmony of the inner and outer self comes from the integration of mind and body, achieved through the ongoing practice of tai chi.

Just What is Tai Chi?
There is much more to Tai Chi than one can see, and virtually no one can describe such a complex art in one simple sentence. Yes, it's aesthetically pleasing, and most people practicing Tai Chi enjoy themselves. Certainly it's a most effective martial art. It can also take credit as a meditation for tranquility, of fostering the Taoist spirit of living in harmony with nature (not in the religious sense of spirit), of contributing to the preservation of a youthful mind and body.

But as you look over the list of Tai Chi's attributes, you'll realize they fall under one heading, even under one word: Health. The practice of Tai Chi offers immense health benefits, strengthening body and mind.

How does an ancient martial art attribute to health? Effective martial artist will need good concentration, clarity of mind, balanced mental state (you make better judgment); fitness, agility, good control of body balance. All these are the same requirements for better health. The unique feature of Tai Chi is that it is internal. Internal means building the inner strength from inside of the body. Placing emphasis on cultivating Qi, the life force; mental strength and tranquility of the mind. Combining both internal and external training, Tai Chi becomes a powerfully holistic approach to better health.

Tai Chi is designed to use the mind to drive the Qi, using the Qi to deliver power for martial art purpose. This training improves mental strength and health through the mind, body and Qi connection.

Scientific studies have shown Tai Chi works to improve muscular strength, flexibility and fitness. Muscle strength is important for supporting and protecting joints and is essential for normal physical function. Flexibility exercises enable people to move easier, and facilitate circulation of body fluid and blood, which enhance healing. Fitness is important for overall functioning of the heart, lungs, and muscles. In addition to these components, Tai Chi movements emphasize the importance of weight transference, which helps balance and prevents falls.

Aside from the health benefits, Tai Chi runs deep and strong because of its own depth and strength. It's easy to learn and becomes a way of life for many practitioners. Yet, because of its depth, no one ever knows it all, and thereby lies the fascination and the never-ending challenge of the art.

There will be times, no matter how brief, when a practitioner will enter a mental stage of tranquility, moving to a different world, time, and space, a world where there is no schedule, no hustle and bustle. Yet the person still feels very much a part of the world. In a non-religious sense, it's a spiritual experience. Such an experience is so satisfying that it is beyond words. Being part of the world, being in harmony with the world and nature, thus is the paradox of Tai Chi, health and beyond.

© Copyright Tai Chi Productions 2007. All rights reserved, except for non-profit educational purpose. For example: you can photocopy this article for a friend, paying student, or conference participant as long as this article is not included as part of your charge.