Tai Chi and Health Keeping

Tai Chi, as an excellent way of keeping fit, originates from ancient Chinese arts of health preservation.

Ancient methods of maintaining health may be divided into two main categories: static and dynamic, the distinction being whether or not physical movements are involved.

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As a form of wushu, tai chi assimilates the essence of both the static and dynamic exercises. Combining the features of ancient static and dynamic exercises, the tai chi movements are slow and gentle, without exerting force to the utmost, the purpose being to activate the organism, to promote the circulation of qi and blood, and to achieve harmony between yin and yang, mental equilibrium and spiritual peace.

Health benefits

Researchers have found that intensive tai chi practice shows some favorable effects on the promotion of balance control, flexibility, cardiovascular fitness, and has shown to reduce the risk of falls in both healthy elderly patients, and those recovering from chronic stroke, heart failure, high blood pressure, heart attacks, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and fibromyalgia,. Tai chi’s gentle, low impact movements burn more calories than surfing and nearly as many as downhill skiing.

 Chinese martial arts

A study also found that tai chi (compared to regular stretching) showed the ability to greatly reduce pain and improve overall physical and mental health in people over 60 with severe osteoarthritis of the knee. In addition, in a randomized trial of 66 patients with fibromyalgia, the tai chi intervention group did significantly better in terms of pain, fatigue, sleeplessness and depression than a comparable group given stretching exercises and wellness education.

Stress and mental health

A systematic review and meta-analysis, funded in part by the U.S. government, of the studies on the effects of practicing t’ai chi found that, “Twenty-one of 33 randomized and nonrandomized trials reported that 1 hour to 1 year of regular tai chi significantly increased psychological well-being including reduction of stress, anxiety, and depression, and enhanced mood in community-dwelling healthy participants and in patients with chronic conditions. Seven observational studies with relatively large sample sizes reinforced the beneficial association between t’ai chi practice and psychological health.”

 Chinese martial arts

There have also been indications that tai chi might have some effect on noradrenaline and cortisol production with an effect on mood and heart rate. In one study, t’ai chi has also been shown to reduce the symptoms of Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in 13 adolescents. The improvement in symptoms seems to persist after the t’ai chi sessions were terminated.

As a development of ancient static and dynamic exercises, tai chi has become a unique health-oriented system in its own right. It is a valuable asset belonging not only to the Chinese people; with its value gaining wider and wider appreciation; it will benefit more and more people in the rest of the world.

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com    

About Interact China

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How to Choose A Martial Art

1. Set a budget. Some arts require a significant investment in equipment. There’s no point in getting interested in something you ultimately can’t afford to do.

2. Determine your ultimate objective. The four major categories are usually as follows. (a) Health & Fitness with martial efficacy as a subordinate benefit. (b) Martial skill as the primary concern with a nice side dish of discipline and health & fitness. (c) Being part of a heritage and cultural tradition stretching back hundreds or thousands (depending on the art) of years. (d) Winning trophies in sporting events.

Chinese Kungfu

Chinese Kungfu

Chinese Kungfu

3. Decide on a martial arts style. You might choose a hard style, such as Muay Thai (Thailand) or Western Boxing, a semi-hard style such as Tae Kwon Do or Hapkido (Korea), a soft style traditional art, such as Aikido (Japan) or one of the many Kung Fu styles (China), or a grappling/ground fighting art, such as Jiu Jitsu (Brazil/ Japan) and Western Martial Arts (Europe). Do you want to compete one-on-one in the ring with opponents who use the same style as you, or study the traditions of a particular culture’s martial art, or learn to defend yourself against real-life attackers on the street? The training methods are vastly different, and most martial arts schools focus on one aspect.

Chinese Kungfu

Chinese Kungfu

4. Recognize your physical limitations. If you are older or not very acrobatic, Wushu (China) probably isn’t for you, but Tai Chi (China) might suit you nicely. Furthermore, recognize that striking martial arts like Karate or Taekwondo may or may not be well-suited for smaller physiques.

5. Consider your cultural interests. If you have a respect for or interest in a certain culture, learning more through one of their martial arts can be a great experience. If that is part of your goal, choose a school taught by a native of that culture, or someone who trained directly under someone of that culture.

6. Consider the effectiveness of the martial art as well. For example, a modern martial art such as Krav Maga (Israeli), reconstructed Western Martial Arts such as ARMA or the AES (European) or classes led by experienced soldiers or police officers will place a greater emphasis on the “martial” aspect rather than the “art.” This is not to say that traditional Asian arts are less important; it may take longer to learn basic self defense this way as many Eastern arts are about developing more than just basic self-defense skills.

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com

About Interact China

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“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide”

We co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 2000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Tailor Shop, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.
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Yip Man, the master of Wing Chun

Yip Man, also known as Ip Man (1893-1972), was a master of the Wing Chun and the first to teach this style openly. He had several students who later became martial arts teachers in their own right, including Bruce Lee. Most major branches of Wing Chun that exist today were developed and promoted by his students.

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Yip Man and Bruce Lee

Biography

Yip Man was born in Foshan, Guangdong province in south China. He started learning Wing Chun here When he was thirteen years old. Because of his master’s old age, Yip Man had to learn much of his skills and techniques from his master’s second eldest disciple.

 
 Chinese Kungfu

At the age of 15 Yip man moved to Hong Kong with help from a relative. At age sixteen, Yip Man attended school at St. Stephen’s College in Hong Kong. It was a secondary school for wealthy families and foreigners who lived in Hong Kong. According to Yip Man’s two sons, while at St. Stephen’s, Yip Man intervened after seeing a foreign police officer beating a woman. The story goes that the Police officer tried to strike Yip Man who used his martial arts to strike the officer down, at which point Yip Man and his classmate ran to school. The classmate is said to have told an old man who lived in his apartment block. Yip Man was invited to see this man and it turned out that the old man was his master’s elder fellow-disciple (and so, by Chinese tradition Yip Man’s martial uncle). After that encounter, Yip Man continued his training lessons from this man.

By the age of 24, Yip Man had returned to Foshan, and his Wing Chun skills tremendously improved. In Foshan, Yip Man became a policeman. He did not formally run a Wing Chun school, but taught several of his subordinates, his friends and relatives.

During the Japanese Occupation(1931-1945), Yip Man went to one of his students’ village house. He only returned to Foshan after the war, to once again take up the job of a police officer. At the end of 1949, he went to Hong Kong again.

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Yip Man

In Hong Kong, he opened a martial arts school. Initially, business was poor because his students typically stayed for only a couple of months. Later, some of his students were skilled enough that they were able to start their own schools. Some of his students and descendants compared their skills with other martial artists in combat. Their victories over other martial artists helped to bolster Yip Man’s reputation as a teacher.

In 1967, Yip Man and some of his students established the Hong Kong Wing Chun Athletic Association. In 1972, Yip Man suffered throat cancer and subsequently died on the 2nd of December that same year.

Within the three decades of his career in Hong Kong, he established a training system for Wing Chun that eventually spread across the world.

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com

About Interact China

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We co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 2000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Tailor Shop, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.
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Tai Chi

Tai Chi Chuan (literally “Supreme Ultimate Fist”), often shortened to Taichi or Tai Chi in the West, is a type of internal Chinese martial art practiced for both its defense training and its health benefits. It is also believed that focusing the mind solely on the movements of the form helps to bring about a state of mental calm and clarity.

 
 Chinese Kungfu

Style

There are five major styles of tai chi chuan, each named after the Chinese family from which it originated. Most modern styles of Tai chi chuan trace their development to at least one of the five traditional schools: Chen, Yang, Wu/Hao, Wu, and Sun. Later dozens of new styles, hybrid styles, and offshoots of the main styles appear, but the five family schools are the groups recognized by the international community as being the orthodox styles.

Chen-style tai chi
 Chinese Kungfu
Yang-style tai chi
 Chinese Kungfu

Training and Techniques

The core training involves two primary features: the first being the solo form, a slow sequence of movements which emphasize a straight spine, abdominal breathing and a natural range of motion; the second being different styles of pushing hands with a partner and in a more practical manner.

 
 Chinese Kungfu

Study of Tai Chi Chuan

The study of tai chi chuan primarily involves three aspects:

Health: Tai chi’s health training concentrates on relieving the physical effects of stress on the body and mind. For those focused on tai chi’s martial application, good physical fitness is an important step towards effective self-defense.

Meditation: The focus and calmness cultivated by the meditative aspect of tai chi is seen as necessary in relieving stress and maintaining homeostasis.

Martial art: The ability to use tai chi as a form of self-defense in combat is the test of a student’s understanding of the art. Tai chi chuan is the study of appropriate change in response to outside forces, the study of yielding and “sticking” to an incoming attack rather than attempting to meet it with opposing force. The use of tai chi as a martial art is quite challenging and requires a great deal of training.

Modern Tai chi

Outdoor practice in Beijing
 Chinese Kungfu

With purely a health emphasis, tai chi classes have become popular in hospitals, clinics, and community and senior centers in the last twenty years and the art’s reputation as a low-stress training for seniors became better known.

Tai chi chuan in popular culture

 
 Chinese Culture

Tai chi chuan plays an important role in many martial arts and fighting action films and series, novels, as well as video games, trading cards games, etc. For example, Tai chi chuan have been featured in popular movies starring or choreographed by well-known martial arts competitors, such as Jet Li and Donnie Yen. Fictional portrayals often refer to Zhang San Feng, who is believed by these schools that Tai chi’s theories and practice was formulated by the Taoist monk in the 12th century.

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com

About Interact China

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“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide”

We co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 2000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Tailor Shop, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.
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Shaolin Influence In and Outside China

Shaolin Monastery or Shaolin Temple is a Chán Buddhist temple at Mount Songshan in Henan Province, China. Founded in the 5th century, the monastery is long famous for its association with Chinese martial arts, particularly with Shaolin Kung Fu, and it is the Mahayana Buddhist monastery perhaps best known to the Western world.

Chinese Kungfu

Shaolin in China

The oldest evidence of Shaolin participation in combat is a stele from 728 that attests to two occasions: a defense of the monastery from bandits around 610 and their role in a defeat in 621. In this defeat, Kungfu monks saved and allied with Li Shimin, who later became the second Emperor of Tang Dynasty (618-907). Thereafter Shaolin enjoyed the royal patronage of the Tang.

Chinese Kungfu

From the 8th to the 15th centuries, no extant source documents Shaolin participation in combat; then the 16th and 17th centuries see at least forty extant sources attest that, not only did monks of Shaolin practice martial arts, but martial practice had become such an integral element of Shaolin monastic life that the monks felt the need to justify it by creating new Buddhist lore. References to Shaolin martial arts appear in various literary genres of the late Ming (1368-1644): the epitaphs of Shaolin warrior monks, martial-arts manuals, military encyclopedias, historical writings, travelogues, fiction, and even poetry.

In addition, in the long-history development of Shaolin Kung Fu, masters at Shaolin Temple also taught Kungfu to non-Buddhist followers to allow commoners the chance to practice Shaolin Kungfu. This allowed Shaolin Temple to develop several branches in other regions.

Influence outside China

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Some lineages of Karate have oral traditions that claim Shaolin origins. Martial arts traditions in Japan and Korea, and Southeast Asia cite Chinese influence as transmitted by Buddhist monks.

Recent developments in the 20th century such as Shorinji Kempo still maintain close ties with China’s Songshan mountain Shaolin Temple due to historic links.

In popular culture

Shaolin, in popular culture, has taken on a second life. Since the 1970s, it has been featured in many films, TV shows, video games, cartoons, and other media.

Chinese Kungfu

While some of these are clear commercial exploitation of the Shaolin Temple and its legends, they have helped make Shaolin a household name around the world, and kept the temple alive in the minds of many young generations, and from vanishing into obscurity like many other ancient traditions. To date, no other temple in the world has achieved such wide spread recognition.

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Martial Morality

People who do not do kung fu might think of martial arts as somehow encouraging violence, but the exact opposite is true. Practitioners of Chinese Martial arts attach great importance to wude (武德), or martial morality, which is a set of ethical standards strictly followed by Martial arts practitioners as a creed. Chinese Kungfu

Martial arts are the way to train in developing good habits of mind and body and morality is an integral part of this training. In kung fu, the level of a person’s achievement in martial arts is in direct relationship to their morality. Morality is not as simple as “thou shalt not lie, cheat or steal”. It is a total way of acting and thinking.

Martial morality deals with two aspects; “morality of deed” and “morality of mind”. Morality of deed concerns social relations; morality of mind is meant to cultivate the inner harmony between the emotional mind and the wisdom mind. The ultimate goal is reaching “no extremity” (closely related to the Taoist concept), where both wisdom and emotions are in harmony with each other.

MORALITY OF DEED

Morality of deed includes Humility, Respect, Righteousness, Trust, and Loyalty.

Humility or being humble, admits in a sense that there is something above or beyond your reach. It is the foundation for all learning. Imagine if you felt there was nothing more for you to learn, you would then stop improving. However, by being humble, you will realize that there is always a gap to fill by constant practice and learning and you will always be looking for ways to better yourself.

Respect is the foundation of your relationship with your parents, teachers, your fellow students, other martial artists, and all other people in society. Respect makes a harmonious relationship possible. However, the most important type of respect is self-respect. Respect must be earned; you cannot request or demand it.

Righteousness and Trust, if the kung fu student has these traits he or she will stand up and fight for what he or she believes is right and just, wherever they can.

Loyalty involves faithfulness to ideals of family, teachers, friends, culture, nation and martial style. Without this loyalty, the style would undergo many changes and proper techniques will eventually be lost through time.

MORALITY OF MIND

Morality of mind consists of Will, Endurance, Perseverance, Patience, and Courage.

Will. The study of martial arts is a lifelong commitment. It is not a hobby that a person drops after a few months or years of practice. It requires a lifetime of devotion and a guiding force through times of personal trouble, laziness and self doubt. Only the will can provide such force.

Endurance, Perseverance, and Patience is the manifestations of a strong will. People who are successful are not always the smartest ones, but they are always the ones who are patient and who persevere. Through cultivating these three elements you will gradually build up a profound mind, which is the key to the deepest essence of learning.

Courage In facing the truth the martial artist must stand up to any situation and deal with it in a courageous way. Courage is different from bravery. For example, if you have the courage to accept a challenge, that means your mind has understood the situation and made a decision. Next, you must be brave enough to face the challenge. Without courage, the bravery cannot last long and be blind and stupid.

Any Chinese martial arts practitioner must understand, demonstrate, and promote these concepts, and work to reestablish martial morality as an integral aspect of all martial arts training.

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Styles of Chinese Martial Arts

China has a long history of martial traditions that include hundreds of different styles. Over the past two thousand years many distinctive styles have been developed, each with its own set of techniques and ideas. There are also common themes to the different styles, which are often classified by “families”, “sects” or “schools”. There are styles that mimic movements from animals and others that gather inspiration from various Chinese philosophies, myths and legends. Some styles put most of their focus into the harnessing of qi, while others concentrate on competition.

Geographical classifications— Northern Styles and Southern Styles

The traditional dividing line between the northern and southern Chinese martial arts is the Yangtze River. A well known adage concerning Chinese martial arts is the term “Southern fists and Northern kicks”. This saying emphasizes the difference between the two groups of Chinese martial arts. However, such differences are not absolute and there are many Northern styles that excel in hand techniques and conversely, there are many different type of kicks in some Southern styles. A style can also be more clearly classified according to regional landmarks, province, city and even to a specific village.

Chinese Kungfu Chinese Kungfu

The main perceived difference between northern and southern styles is that the northern styles tend to emphasize fast and powerful kicks, high jumps and generally fluid and rapid movement, while the southern styles focus more on strong arm and hand techniques, and feature low stable stances and short powerful movements that combine both attack and defense.

External Styles and Internal Styles

Chinese Kungfu

External styles are often characterized by fast and explosive movements and a focus on physical strength and agility. External styles include both the traditional styles focusing on application and fighting, as well as the modern styles adapted for competition and exercise. Examples of external styles are Shaolin Kung fu, with its direct explosive attacks and many Wushu forms that have spectacular aerial techniques. External styles begin with a training focus on muscular power, speed and application, and generally integrate their qigong aspects in advanced training, after their desired “hard” physical level has been reached. Most Chinese martial art styles are classified as external styles.

Chinese Kungfu Chinese Kungfu

Internal styles focus on the practice of such elements as awareness of the spirit, mind, qi (breath, or energy flow) and the use of relaxed leverage rather than unrefined muscular tension, tension that soft stylists call “brute force”. There are only three Chinese styles that are universally recognized as internal: Taijiquan, Baguazhang, and Xingyiquan.

Chinese Kungfu Chinese Kungfu

Components of internal training includes stance training, stretching and strengthening of muscles, as well as on empty hand and weapon forms which can contain quite demanding coordination from posture to posture. Many internal styles have basic two-person training, such as pushing hands. A prominent characteristic of internal styles is that the forms are generally performed at a slow pace. The goal is to learn to involve the entire body in every motion, to stay relaxed, with deep, controlled breathing, and to coordinate the motions of the body and the breathing accurately according to the dictates of the forms while maintaining perfect balance. But at an advanced level, and in actual fighting, internal styles are performed quickly.

Chinese martial arts can also be divided according to religion, imitative-styles, and family styles. There are distinctive differences in the training between different groups of the Chinese martial arts regardless of the type of classification. However, few experienced martial artists make a clear distinction between internal and external styles, or subscribe to the idea of northern systems being predominantly kick-based and southern systems relying more heavily on upper-body techniques.

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