Introduction to Tai Chi
‘Tai Chi (Tai Ji) in the world all originated from Wudang’. Translated into English, tai chi roughly translates as: “supreme boxing,” “the root of all motion,” and “optimal fist fighting.’’ Tai Chi is an internal training method that was created by the great Daoist priest and immortal, Zhang San Feng at Wudang Mountain. Generally when people discuss “Tai Chi” they are referring to Tai Chi Quan, or the forms practice involved in Tai Chi. However, in Wudang, Tai Chi Quan is considered a part of the greater ‘Tai Chi System’. The Tai Chi System is composed of 3 parts: Wuji, Tai Chi, and Liangyi. Each of these three parts contains their own practices, purposes, and methods of training. Although the Tai Chi System is separated into three parts, they are all integrated and complementary to the others.
Wuji is another name for ‘nee dan’ (Daoist meditation practice). The practice of Wuji (loosely translated as ‘ultimate emptiness’) is for the cultivation of our three vitalities: Jing (Essence), Qi (Energy), and Shen (spirit). We practice Wuji in order to promote the health of these three vitalities; Wuji is also understood as the road to immortality. In order to become stronger and more robust in our health and our lives, we must strengthen and practice our Jing, Qi, and Shen.
Tai Chi is the balancing interaction of yin and yang. Under the Tai Chi System, Taijiquan is the form that we use to cultivate ourselves and learn to develop and understand feeling in our bodies and how to integrate that into movement. In Taijiquan practice we learn to conceal hardness within the softness of movement and learn to use our breathing through the dantian, and our intention and internal awareness to guide our movement. Contrary to the widespread misconception that Taijiquan is simply a callisthenic exercise for the elderly, it is actually a deep internal practice that requires great dedication and a strong determination.
Liangyi is the separation of yin and yang. Under the Tai Chi System, Liangyi quan is for the use of the energy that we have cultivated through our practice. Whereas in Taichi Quan we combine the soft and hard, in Liangyi Quan practice, we separate the soft and hard. The power of Liangyi Quan is explosive, resembling a bomb detonating; its practice is more for use in practical fighting application. While in Tai Chi quan, all movement is the same speed, with the same balance in softness and hardness at once, Liangyi quan movement is slow and soft, followed by fast explosive movement, called fali.
Health Benefits of Tai Chi
The practice of Tai Chi holds great benefits for those looking to improve their physical, mental, and emotional health. Many people in modern society suffer from chronic neck, shoulder, back, hip and knee discomfort as a result of poor posture and bad living habits. If these strains are not rectified early, over time they can become chronic problems that have a great effect on one’s personal life and overall health; painful problems that become increasingly more difficult to fix as we become older and our bodies become stiffer. Tai Chi Quan places great importance on the cultivation of correct posture. By aligning the posture, maintaining a straight spine and relaxed back and waist, over time practitioners of Tai Chi Boxing begin to feel a greater release of built up tension and stiffness in the neck, shoulders, back, waist, and hips. This happens as a result of the process of relaxing the muscles and tendons of the body, especially those that are in the neck, shoulders, and back.
The practice of Tai Chi
Tai Chi practice necessitates and promotes a relaxed and focused mind and emotional state. Those students who suffer from stress and/or emotional imbalance will find that in practicing Tai Chi over time their emotions become more balanced and their overall temperament becomes more peaceful as a result of the practice. This comes about through stronger and more balanced organs (which have great influence over the health and balance of the emotions), strengthened circulation, and focusing on regulating deep dan tian breathing and fluidity in slow movement – all changes that come about naturally through practice.