Tai chi is an ancient Chinese tradition that, today, is practiced as a graceful form of exercise. It involves a series of movements performed in a slow, focused manner and accompanied by deep breathing. Tai chi also called tai chi chuan, or Taiji Quan is a noncompetitive, self-paced system of gentle physical exercise and stretching. Each posture flows into the next without pause, ensuring that your body is in constant motion. The ancient Chinese practice of tai chi has become widely recognized as one of the most powerful ways to improve both physical and mental health.
In an increasing number of recent studies, tai chi has been found to heal–almost everything, from lowering blood pressure … to managing stress … to building strength and balance. And, better yet, everyone can benefit–no matter your age or fitness level. No wonder it’s the tried-and-true practice of top-tier professional athletes, weekend warriors, and the elderly!
7 Major benefits:
- Better Balance–Of all tai-chi’s big benefits, it’s the best-documented in medical literature! Studies show that older adults who do hour-long tai chi sessions one to three times a week are 43% less likely to fall, and they cut their risk of injury in half!
- No More Pain–A growing number of clinical trials show that tai chi offers significant relief from back, neck, arthritis, and fibromyalgia pain.
- A Sharper Mind–Tai chi can help reduce age-related cognitive decline … and even slow dementia!
- A Boost in Mood–In 82% of studies, tai chi greatly improved mood and lowered anxiety. Plus, it was shown to be an effective treatment for depression.
- Less Stress–Learn to step back and take a deep, calming breath.
- More Confidence–While gaining muscle and mind control.
- A Healthier Heart–Tai chi may offer advantages over other types of aerobic exercise, especially for people who are sedentary or very out of shape. And that’s not all. It also lowers blood pressure and total cholesterol, reduces chronic inflammation, and tones the sympathetic nervous system.
(Harvard Medical School. (n.d.). Let the Healing Power of Tai Chi Help Your Health)
There are five primary forms or “styles” of Tai Chi: Chen, Yang, Hao, Wu, Chen, and Sun. Each follows the same premise, which is to combine meditation and martial arts, but there are some slight variations.
CHEN TAI CHI
In Chenjiagou, tai chi is everything. The city is the birthplace of Chen style tai chi, the oldest of tai chi’s five traditional family styles, one known for adhering to its origins as a combat art well into the modern day. It is, in no uncertain terms, the most historically significant site for China’s (and perhaps the world’s) most practiced martial art. It’s also totally empty.
Chen-style is characterized by Silk reeling alternating fast/slow motion and bursts of power (Fa Ging)
Contemporary t'ai chi ch'uan is typically practiced for a number of widely varying reasons: health, external/internal martial art skills, aesthetics, meditation, or as an athletic/competition sport (sometimes called "wushu tai chi"). Therefore, a teacher's system, practice, and choice of training routines usually emphasize one of these characteristics during training. The five traditional schools, precisely because they are traditional, attempt to retain the martial applicability of their teaching methods. Some argue that the Chen tradition emphasizes this martial efficacy to a greater extent.
The origin and nature of what is now known as tai chi are not historically verifiable until around the 17th century. Documents of this period indicate the Chen clan settled in Chenjiagou (Chen Village, 陳家溝), Henan province, in the 13th century and reveal the defining contribution of Chen Wangting (陈王庭; 1580–1660)
It is therefore not clear how the Chen family actually came to practice their unique martial style and contradictory "histories" abound. What is known is that the other four contemporary traditional tai chi styles (Yang, Sun, Wu, and Woo) trace their teachings back to Chen Village in the early 1800s.
Yang Style history starts with Yang, Lu-chan (楊露禪) (a.d. 1799-1872), also known as Fu-kuai (福魁) or Lu-chan (祿纏). He was born at Yong Nian Xian, Guang Ping County, Hebei Province (河北，廣平府永年縣). When he was young he went to Chen Jia Gou in Henan province to learn taijiquan from Chen, Chang-xing. When Chen, Chang-xing stood he was centered and upright with no leaning or tilting, like a wooden signpost, and so people called him Mr. Tablet. At that time, there were very few students outside of the Chen family who learned from Chen, Chang-xing. Because Yang was an outside student, he was treated unfairly, but still, he stayed and persevered in his practice. One night, he was awakened by the sounds of "Hen" (哼) and "Ha" (哈) in the distance. He got up and traced the sound to an old building. Peeking through the broken wall, he saw his master Chen, Chang-xing teaching the techniques of grasp, control, and emitting jin in coordination with the sounds “Hen” and “Ha.” He was amazed by the techniques and from that time on, unknown to master Chen, he continued to watch this secret practice session every night. He would then return to his room to ponder and study. Because of this, his martial ability advanced rapidly. One day, Chen ordered him to spar with the other disciples. To his surprise, none of the other students could defeat him. Chen realized that Yang had great potential and after that taught him the secrets sincerely. After Yang, Lu-chan finished his study, he returned to his hometown and taught taijiquan for a while. People called his style Yang Style (Yang Quan, 楊拳), Soft Style (Mian Quan, 綿拳), or Neutralizing Style, (Hua Quan,化拳) because his motions were soft and able to neutralize the opponent's power. He later went to Beijing and taught a number of Qing officers. He used to carry a spear and a small bag and travel around the country, challenging well-known martial artists. Although he had many fights, he never hurt anybody. Because his art was so high, nobody could defeat him. Therefore, he was called "Yang Wu Di" (楊無敵) which means "Unbeatable Yang." He had three sons, Yang Qi (楊琦), Yang Yu (楊鈺) also called Ban-hou (班侯), and Yang Jian (楊鑒) also called Jian-hou (健侯). Yang Qi died when he was young. Therefore, only the last two sons succeeded their father in the art.