WHAT IS TAI CHI CHUAN (TAIJI QUAN)?
Tai Chi Chuan literally means “supreme ultimate fist” and was originally developed in China as a martial art. Its slow meditative movements also make it an effective mind body exercise with numerous health benefits. The traditional vehicle in which to learn Tai Chi is through practicing the empty hand Form (a sequence of interconnected postures) and supplemental Qigong exercises to help facilitate the learning process. Tai Chi is gaining in popularity world wide as adults are beginning to recognize it as an effective exercise to keep their body fit and healthy.
WHAT IS QIGONG (CHI KUNG)?
Qigong literally means “practice of vital energy,” and is an ancient Chinese art of meditation and physical exercise. When it is practiced correctly, it promotes health, mental well-being, and spiritual development. There are many types of Qigong systems. Most Qigong systems incorporate breathing techniques, moving exercises, still postures, and mental training. Qigong is well known in China as part of their healthcare system and is now popular in the United States for its development of internal energy, promotion of healing, reduction of stress, and extension of life.
BENEFITS OF TAI CHI AND QIGONG
One of the main benefits of Tai Chi practice is its efficiency in reducing stress and strengthening the immune system. Stress has been scientifically shown to be a big factor in causing many diseases that are prevalent in our society today. Stress decreases the strength of our immune system and increases our susceptibility to sickness and disease. In our fast-paced, productivity-driven culture, taking time to de-stress and relax is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. For athletes, Tai Chi helps with fluidity of motion, reflexes, balance, coordination, speed, and whole-body power. It helps to speed the recovery and healing time from injuries. It is a great tool to help the practitioner become aware of their body in stillness and in movement. Tai Chi also helps the martial artist develop internal power and learn to express that power in the most efficient manner.
Qigong helps to cleanse, strengthen, and circulate the life energy (Qi). Regular practice of Qigong helps to reduce pain, reduce stress and anxiety, cleanse the body of toxins, restore energy and strengthen the immune system. Regular practice leads to better overall health and vitality and a tranquil state of mind
The Yang Style Tai Chi Form
Originally Tai Chi utilized stationary positions or postures, and were known as the “Thirteen Postures”. The practitioner assumed one posture and then stood still for up to an hour or two. Once the principles of Qi (chi) and stillness had been grasped, the practitioner began to link the postures into what has become known as “The Form”. However, times have changed and it is the norm today to first teach the moving form and then the student can hold selected postures if they choose to do so.
A number of different styles of Tai Chi have been developed over the years, including Chen, Yang, Wu, Hao and Sun. Each style of Tai Chi has different looking forms and feel. These different styles were typically named after the master who originated the style, as a mark of respect. The Yang Tai Chi system is named after Yang Lu Chan (1799-1872) and the Yang family who have passed it down in the male line for several centuries.
The version of Tai Chi taught at Meridian Tai Chi is the modified Yang style as taught by Grandmaster Cheng Man Ching (1901-1975). Cheng Man Ching was a scholar of note, artist and a doctor of Chinese medicine. In 1928 Cheng Man Ching was accepted as a student of Yang Cheng Fu (1883-1936) in mainland China. He studied with Yang Cheng Fu for about seven years and then began to teach in his own right. Traditionally the form practiced was the so-called “Long Form” and took approximately twenty minutes to complete. Cheng Man Ching eventually modified the form and made it shorter, hence the name “Short Form” or “Simplified Form”. This modified form, which is now called the “Simplified 37 Posture Yang Style Tai Chi Form”, includes most of the postures found in the “Long Form” but with far fewer repetitions and takes approximately ten minutes to complete. The form may be done as many times as you wish. Two to four rounds (or more) a day are best and can easily be fit into a busy schedule. The version of the form created by Cheng Man Ching is still known as a Yang style form in honor of Yang Cheng Fu.
At the end of China’s civil war, Cheng Man Ching moved from mainland China to the island of Taiwan where he practiced Chinese medicine and taught art and Tai Chi. In 1964 Cheng Man Ching moved to the United States and from 1964 - 1974 he taught Tai Chi in New York City. Cheng Man Ching died during a return visit to Taiwan in 1975. His students both in Taiwan and the United Sates have since spread the “Simplified 37 Posture Yang Style Tai Chi Form” all over the world. His modified Yang Style of Tai Chi is now one of the most widely practiced worldwide.