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
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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

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Qigong

Qigong or chi kung is a practice of aligning breath, movement, and awareness for exercise, healing, and meditation. With roots in Chinese medicine, martial arts, and philosophy, qigong is traditionally viewed as a practice to balance qi (chi) or intrinsic life energy.

 

Etymology

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Qi (or chi) is usually translated as life energy, life force, or energy flow. It is the central underlying principle in traditional Chinese medicine and martial arts. In Chinese philosophy, a person is believed to become ill or die when qi becomes diminished or unbalanced. Health is believed to be returned by rebuilding qi, eliminating qi blockages, and correcting qi imbalances.

Gong (or kung) is often translated as work or practice. The two words are combined to describe systems to cultivate and balance life energy, especially for health.

 

Training

 

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Qigong is not just a set of breathing exercises, but rather comprises a large variety of physical and mental training methods based on Chinese philosophy.

Typically a qigong practice involves rhythmic breathing, coordinated with slow stylized repetition of fluid movement, and a calm mindful state.

 

Application

 

With roots in ancient Chinese culture dating back more than 5,000 years, a wide variety of qigong forms have developed within different segments of Chinese society: in traditional Chinese medicine for preventive and curative functions, in Confucianism to promote longevity and improve moral character, in Taoism and Buddhism as part of meditative practice, and in Chinese martial arts to enhance fighting abilities.

Chinese Kungfu

Qigong is now practiced throughout China and worldwide. People practice qigong for many different reasons, including for exercise and recreation, prevention and self-healing, meditation and self-cultivation, and training for martial arts.

 

Health Benefits

 

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As a form of gentle exercise, qigong is composed of movements that are typically repeated, strengthening and stretching the body, increasing fluid movement (blood, synovial, and lymph), enhancing balance and proprioception, and building awareness of how the body moves through space. In recent years a large number of books and videos have been published that focus primarily on qigong as exercise and associated health benefits.

As a healing art, qigong practitioners focus on prevention and self-healing traditionally viewed as balancing the body’s energy meridians and enhancing the intrinsic capacity of the body to heal. Qigong has been used extensively in China as part of traditional Chinese medicine, and is included in the curriculum of Chinese Universities. Throughout the world qigong is now recognized as a form of complementary and alternative medicine, with positive effects on diverse ailments.

Chinese Kungfu

Qigong is practiced for meditation and self-cultivation as part of various philosophical and spiritual traditions. As meditation, qigong is a means to still the mind and enter a state of consciousness that brings serenity, clarity, and bliss. Many practitioners find qigong, with its gentle focused movement, to be more accessible than seated meditation.

 

Martial arts training

 

The practice of qigong is an important component in Chinese martial arts. Focus on qi is considered to be a source of power as well as the foundation of the internal style of martial arts. Tai chi chuan, Xing yi, and Baguazhang are representative of the types of Chinese martial arts that rely on the concept of qi as the foundation. Extraordinary feats of martial arts prowess, such as the ability to withstand heavy strikes (Iron Shirt) and the ability to break hard objects (Iron Palm) are abilities attributed to qigong training.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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