What is Tai Chi?
Tai Chi is often described as ultimate energy. The ideogram for Tai is “one man centered.” Chi is “energy.” It is the study of ourselves and is not just the study of shapes, forms, and techniques. We want to experience the source from which these things arise.
Modern scholars are hard pressed to connect the legendary life, dates, and history of the 12th century traditional founder of Tai Chi, Chinese Taoist monk Chang Zhangfang (Chang San-Feng) to historical fact.
Tai Chi, Tai Chi Chuan, and Taiji Quan are just a few of the various spellings you might encounter. It has been described in the most flowery of terms such as “Supreme ultimate” or “Great breath” and “Grand ultimate” or “Ultimate energy”.
There are many different types and styles competing with one another. The observation and mimicking of such animals as white crane, tiger, praying mantis, snake, monkey, bear, etc. are emphasized. Northern Chinese styles can be influenced by Buddhist traditions, and Southern Chinese styles by Taoist traditions. Some styles are hard and some are soft. The names of these styles include: Chen, Yang, Wu, Sun, Shaolin, and Wu Dang, to name a few.
There are short forms, long forms, and integrated forms. It can be taught as an effective Martial Art, or it can be taught as a system of perfecting physical, mental, and/or spiritual awareness, so it is not surprising that many people are confounded by its Oriental mystique and uncertain of its benefit.
My perspective, and what sustains my interest, is that Tai Chi is the study of oneself, and not just the repetitious study of shapes, forms, and techniques. Tai Chi is timeless and simple. Anyone can do it.
How Does Tai Chi Work?
It stretches the muscles so they put less tension on the body so it can move freely and it strengthens the tendons/ligaments so the body can compress (drop) and expand (rise) more rapidly and with less effort or strain. It enhances circulation, promotes healthy organs, increases quality of movement, reduces injury (as in acceleration of muscle tears or strains) and is great for stress reduction and relaxation.
Is It a Martial Art?
Yes, but many people take Tai Chi for its health benefits and do not train in the martial applications. That aspect is up to the individual student or instructor.
Are There Different Types of Tai Chi?
Yes, there are many different types and styles: Yang, Chen, Wu, Sun Shaolin, and Wudang, to name a few. Our Integrative Arts Tai Chi program incorporates essentials and concepts from a number of these styles.
Who Can Participate in Tai Chi Conditioning?
People of all ages and all levels of fitness can participate. For the injured or out of shape it is a low impact exercise that allows for working and isolating specific areas of concern and slowly increasing circulation, flexibility, and strength to the targeted area. For the elderly this slow steady course of training will improve their ability to move – thus improving their overall health and quality of life.
What Will Tai Chi Do For Me?
It will give you a unique method of mind/body coordination that uses standing postures, breath control, and relaxation to change your views about fitness, and it’s fun too!
When people ask, “What will Tai Chi do for me?”, I believe that they are really asking, “How can a series of strange, slow-moving exercises make me feel better and improve my health?” I can answer that in studies too numerous to mention, people practicing Tai Chi (movement with harmony) for a minimum of four months, have experienced a wide array of health benefits that include but are not limited to the following:
- A greater range of motion in the effected joints of those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
- A greater ability to deal with the pain related to chronic fatigue and those suffering from the condition called fibromyalgia.
- A reduction of blood pressure and cholesterol and an increase in HDL — good cholesterol.
- An enhanced protection for seniors against the virus that causes shingles, a painful skin condition related to the chicken pox virus.
- An increase in circulation, mental concentration, and aerobic fitness.
- An improvement in balance control and reduced risk of injury due to muscle strain.
- A greater ability to relax, reduce stress, and improve sleep quality and duration.
“A Tufts Medical Center study found that adults with knee osteoarthritis — the most common joint disease in midlife — saw up to 3 times greater improvement in both pain and joint function from biweekly hour-long Tai Chi sessions, compared with those who attended stretching and wellness classes. Experts say the flowing, meditative movements tone the muscles surrounding joints, enhance body awareness to reduce risk of injury, and improve alignment.”
—Prevention Magazine, June 2009
Perhaps the next question asked is, “Who can participate in Tai Chi conditioning?” People of all ages and all levels of fitness can participate. For the injured or out of shape, it is a low-impact exercise that allows for working and isolating specific areas of concern and slowly increasing circulation, flexibility, and strength to the targeted area. For the elderly, this slow, steady course of training will improve their ability to move — thus improving their overall health and quality of life.
Finally, it will give you a unique method of mind/body coordination that uses standing postures, breath control, and relaxation to change your views about fitness. And it’s fun too! Wear loose-fitting clothing, come on by, and try a class for yourself.
When Are the Classes?
- Saturday mornings from 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM.
- Other hours by appointment.
Where Are the Classes?
At the Aikido Academy, 16134 N. Oracle Road; Catalina, AZ 85739 (15 minutes north of Ina Road). Telephone number: (520) 825-8500.