What is Tai Chi?
Tai Chi Chuan is an ancient Chinese set of exercises. It is based on the Taoist understanding that all things comprise of the harmony of two complementary forces, Yin (yielding) and Yang (brittle).
Why Practice Tai Chi?
With its distinctive grace and flowing movements, Tai Chi Chuan is a popular form of anger management and relaxation as it provides an effective antidote to the stresses of our competitive society. Many people practice Tai Chi solely for its benefits to health and as a means to relieve aggression.
However, as the name implies (Tai Chi Chuan translates as Supreme Ultimate Fist) Tai Chi is also an effective martial art and in the hands of a qualified master, it is without equal. To achieve this level of understanding takes many years of dedicated study and practice. Consequently, it is not suitable for a person whose sole concern is self-defence.
Tai Chi Explained
Through the study of Tai Chi, we learn not to rely on external strength and aggression in order to overcome opponents and obstacles but rather we learn to apply the principles such as yielding to overcome the unyielding, softness to overcome the hard. As the body gradually learns to soften and yield the mind becomes open and flexible.
The increased openness and sensitivity, combined with the understanding of yielding and the ability to calmly focus one's intention in a spontaneous manner, lead to greater connection with the environment and others. A clear perception of the 'heart of the matter' develops - this in turn increases our ability to defuse situations that might normally lead to open conflict.
Consistent and diligent practice will restore one's mind and character to its original state of integrity. Tai Chi reconnects the mind to the body, the conscious to the unconscious and the individual to his or her environment. It reveals the battle within us and teaches, over time, a more appropriate and natural way of being.
What is Chi Kung?
The literal meaning of Chi Kung is "energy exercise" or "working with energy".
The Goal of Chi Kung
The goal of Chi Kung exercise is to stimulate the flow of energy internally in the body so that it effectively rushes through and clears the entire network of Chi channels or meridians.
Extensive research has been developed over the years to create a system of exercise that would speed up the blood circulation, hence stimulate the flow of Chi without placing an intolerable strain on the body. The results drew on the accumulated wisdom of Chinese Taoist and Buddhist breathing practices and the practices and disciplines of the martial arts.
Chi Kung, as the resultant exercises are known, uses a series of breathing exercises to control the internal movement of Chi while the body remains virtually motionless.
For centuries most knowledge about Chi Kung was passed on within families or small circles of masters and students and kept relatively secret. It is only recently that it has been taught and discussed publicly. There are a growing number of applications of Chi Kung exercises, ranging from the treatment of chronic illness through to the development of extraordinary physical strength. It is also being used to help prevent illness by building up the body's immune systems and internal strength.
What Chi Kung offers is a method of training the nervous system, the mind, and the internal organs simultaneously, so that the inner strength of the whole person is raised to a new level of fitness.
Styles of Chi Kung
There are many styles and schools of Chi Kung. There is Chi Kung for health, for therapy, for martial arts and for spiritual development. In medicine, especially in China, there are two main branches of Chi Kung: one is moving Chi Kung, which involves movement exercise; the other is limited to static postures, breathing and meditation exercise.
By Michael Jacques
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