Historical Overview of Taichi
A famous and popular Chinese martial arts writer named Jing Yong invented this half fictional character, Zhang Sanfeng. Zhang Sanfeng, according to legends, was a Taoist monk who lived in theWu-Dang Mountains. One day he saw a snake and crane fighting. It was in this fight that, according to Jing Yong’s story, brought about the Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan). The truth is that Tai Chi has its origins trace back to a small village in Henan, China were the Chen Family Taijiquan lives. The martial arts, as we know it today, came about from Chen Wangting, a warrior and scholar who lived in the 1600’s under the Ming Dynasty.
After he retired from his warrior post and life as a public servant, he created a martial arts system that was a combination of various martial arts styles and boxing techniques mixed with his war experiences. Taijiquan also combines the study of Yi Jing (Scriptures of Change), Chinese medicine, Yin-Yang energy forces, five elements of nature (earth, water, fire etc.), Acupressure points, Daoyin (channelling internal energy) and Tuna (deep breathing exercises). During his time, Chen Wang Ting invented several sets of fighting techniques, hand movements, body postures, and training methods for the use of such weapons used for fighting such as spears, saber, sword, long pole and many more.
It was not until 1700 when Chen Chang Xing taught Chen Taijiquan to an outsider named Yang Luchan. Yang Luchan was asked to make a vow not to teach Taijiquan to the public. Later Yang Luchan had formulated his interpretation of this family martial arts principle and named it Yang Tajiquan. One theory said that the Yang family was called to serve as warriors for under the Manchu rulers of the Qing dynasty. The Yang family members taught the soft as a cotton movement so that Taiji can never be used to kill or attack the Han people. Only the direct Yang family and loyal followers were taught the hard and soft aspects of Taijiquan.
Taichi is said to be deeply rooted from the practice of Taoism, particularly from Lao Tzu which was clearly explained through a Chinese saying:
“Yield and Overcome; Bend and Be Straight.”
“He who stands on tip toe is not steady.
He who strides can not maintain the pace.”
Tai Chi means Supreme Ultimate Fist; the Supreme Being that astronomers were referring to are simply the cosmic forces that govern our universe. The hand movements’ use in Tai Chi is an artistic representation of the harmonious balance between these cosmic forces. Tai Chi was said to belong to the internal system of Chinese Martial Arts which includes Sheng-I and Pa-Qua styles. Internal style of Chinese Martial Arts focuses on emphasizing the stability of the body, which is the reason why there are limitations in terms of jumping and kicking through the use of this technique. The most common styles of present day Tai Chi is Yang, Chen, Wu, Sun and Woo which were all founded from the Chen Family style.
At first, Tai Chi’s hard aspects concentrate on strength, balance, flexibility and speed. Now, Tai Chi’s softer aspects are emphasized with the use of soft and gentle movements which are used for exercises to improve the health of the individuals who train in these ancient Martial Arts. Even if most forms of Tai Chi were slow moving, others were executed with a quicker pace. The basic precept use in Tai Chi is to use the attacker’s aggression against them rather than meeting them with the same intensity of aggression. Tai Chi is connected to Chinese medicine since it deals with health and meditation.
Tai Chi focuses on how to achieve a calm mind even in the midst of stress. Some of the movies that show Tai Chi as a form of Martial Arts are: Pushing Hands by Ang Lee, Tai Chi Master with Jet Li, Crouching Tiger – Hidden Dragon with Chow Yun Fat and Masters of Heaven and Earth-Tai Chi the movie to name a few. These movies have helped to catch the attention of people around the world. Even if entertainment was the prime reason for showing these Tai Chi movies, there are other uses for Tai Chi that not all people know of.
Being given the nickname “Meditation in Motion”, Tai Chi is more than just a graceful way to exercise. The slow and gentle flowing movements of Tai Chi can effectively reduce your stress levels. The deep breathing that accompanies each slow focused movement helps to calm the mind of the one who practices it as a form of exercise. There are variations of Tai Chi styles that specifically focused on health maintenance while others want are more concerned with using Tai Chi as a form of self defence in a none aggressive manner of course.
Since Tai Chi is a low impact form of exercise, that does not cause stress on the muscles and joints, it is often viewed as safe even for older people. The younger generation are now catching up in learning this relaxed form of Martial Arts. One of the reasons why Tai Chi appeals to a broader group of people is because it is not expensive to practice is generally does not require any form of equipment. It can be done alone or in a group. Ideally, it would be better to practice Tai Chi outdoors, but in some cases if the weather is not conducive you can practice it indoors.
Even if Tai Chi is generally safe, medical practitioners advise anyone who is pregnant, suffering from joint or arthritic pains, fractures and osteoporosis to consult their doctor first before practicing Tai Chi. For those who want to improve their body shape or lose some weight, Tai Chi maybe a good way to achieve your personal goal. Some people laughingly refer to Tai Chi as a “Medication in Motion”, without taking literal medicines of course. These are the numerous reasons which make Tai Chi a popular form of exercise and Martial Arts that is here to stay for a longer time.
In our next article we will be discussing Ginseng and how it applies to Chinese Medicine.