Tai chi is a Chinese exercise system that uses slow, smooth body movements to achieve a state of relaxation of both body and mind.
A system of physical exercise used to improve and maintain health and physical and mental relaxation. Also strengths the cardiovascular and immune systems.
Tai Chi—the “supreme ultimate fist” was developed in China as a self-defence strategy, or martial art. It’s practiced in modern times primarily as a gentle exercise technique. Tai Chi consists of a standing person performing a series of postures or bodily movements. Performed in a slow and graceful manner, each movement flowing without pause. Often described as “meditation in motion.”
My Tai Chi Master performing the Short Form
According to Chinese legend, the technique was created by a Taoist monk who was inspired as he watched a crane and a snake do battle. Impressed by the ‘snake’s ability to subtly avoid the bird’s thrusts, he devised a series of defense moves. Moves involved to cause the opponent’s own momentum to work against him.
Tai chi is an ancient form of exercise, about 2,000 years old, that at one point had over 100 separate movements or postures. In current practice, there are two popular versions, of 18 and 37 movements respectively.
In China, Tai Chi is almost always practiced outdoors at dawn, and ideally near trees. Unlike other martial arts, Tai Chi is not competitive. Classes usually begin with a few minutes of standing meditation to calm the mind and gather energy in the dantian.
Following warm-up exercises, students are taught the basics of a particular form or posture. Learning forms is not easy, and it takes sometime to master what looks like a simple position. Postures are done in a relaxed, artful, and linked way, with the circular and rhythmic movements. Each move position flowing seamlessly into the next.
Strict attention is paid to body position and proper breathing is considered to be equally important. Just as movements are slow and continuous and without strain, breathing should be effortless yet deep. Both mental and physical balance is considered essential to Tai Chi.
The experienced practitioner of Tai Chi maintains perfect body balance throughout the exercise series. Altogether, the five essential qualities of Tai Chi are:
- Slowness. To develop awareness.
- Lightness. To make movements flow.
- Balance. To prevent body strain.
- Calmness. To maintain continuity.
- Clarity. To focus the mind.