Tai Chi Chuan
Tai Chi Chuan is a martial art that focuses on cultivation of chi, or inner strength rather than the use of physical force. The Chinese characters for Tai Chi Chuan can
be translated as 'Supreme Ultimate Boxing', not a claim to be made lightly in China. The notion of 'supreme ultimate'
is often associated with the Chinese concept of yin-yang, the concept that one can see a dynamic duality ( male/female,
active/passive, light/dark, forceful/yielding, etc.) in all things. Boxing (chuan is literally "fist") can be thought of here
as the means of achieving this discipline.
Tai Chi as practiced in the west today, can perhaps best be thought
of as a moving form of meditation and yoga combined. There are a number of exercise forms or sets which consist of a sequence
of slow and controlled movements. Many of these movements are originally derived from the martial arts which in turn derived
them from the natural movements of actual and mythical animals and birds, and in Tai Chi are performed slowly and gracefully
with smooth and even transitions between them.
For many practitioners the focus in doing them is not first
and foremost martial, but as a meditative exercise for the body. For others the combat aspects of Tai Chi are of considerable
interest. In Chinese philosophy and medicine there is the concept of chi, a vital
force that animates the body. One of the aims of Tai Chi is to foster the circulation of chi
within the body to enhance the health and vitality of the person. This chi circulates
in patterns that are closely connected to the nervous and vascular systems, acupuncture points, Hindu chakra points, and other
Another aim of Tai Chi is to foster a calm and tranquil mind, focused on the precise
execution of these exercises. Leaning to do them correctly provides a practical avenues for learning about such things as
balance, alignment, fine-scale motor control, rhythm of movement, the genesis of movement from the body's center, and so on.
Thus the practice of Tai Chi can in some measure contribute to being able to better stand, walk, move, run, etc. in other
spheres of life as well, Many practitioners notice benefits in terms of correcting poor postural alignment or movement patterns
which can contribute to tension or injury. Furthermore the meditative nature of the exercises is calming and relaxing in and