Tai Chi Chuan (or Taijiquan) is an exercise that improves balance, flexibility, cardiovascular health and the immune system. It is also known as “Moving Meditation” since we practice slow, fluid, circular and centered Martial Arts and Qigong movements with a relaxed body and mind.
Harvard Medical School says Tai Chi is one of the best exercises you dan do for your health. Tai Chi improves balance, flexibility, cardiovascular fitness and the immune system. It helps the recovery from chronic stroke, heart failure, high blood pressure, heart attacks, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and fibromyalgia. Tai Chi reduces the risk of falls, stress and the symptoms of Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder in adolescents.
Tai Chi is based on the balance and change of yin (passive) and yang (active) elements and therefore reflects the balance of forward-backward, up-down, expansion-contraction, attack-defence etc. In Tai Chi you never meet brute force with resistance but follow the motion while remaining in contact until it exhausts itself or you can redirect it. This is based on the ancient Taoist principle that soft (yin) overcomes the hard (yang) and any movement transforms into its opposite when it reaches the extreme.
Since the movements in the Tai Chi practice are initiated and lead by internal energy (qi or chi) rather than hard muscle movements, we also learn a little Qigong in our Tai Chi classes. We focus more on the health benefits and strengthening of internal energy, rather than martial applications.
Tai Chi Basics
I recommend beginners to start with Tai Chi Basics training which I regularly teach in Cyprus and Turkey. Tai Chi Basics training is made of 2 modules:
8 Steps Yang Style Tai Chi
Yang Style is the most popular Tai Chi style, developed by Yang Lu-chan during mid 1800’s. International Wushu Federation (IWUF) has developed the 8 steps form by bringing together the relatively easier movements of Yang Style. It can easily be learned at any age and takes only a few minutes to do the 8 movements. Therefore it’s an ideal exercise for beginners and for those with busy schedules.
16 Steps Yang Style Tai Chi
Again developed by IWUF for beginners, 16 Steps is the next step for students to develop their knowledge and skills. Most of the movements can be learned and applied with ease. You can feel the wide, expansive and circular movements of the Yang Style better in 16 Steps Tai Chi
24 Steps Yang Style Tai Chi
In 1956, Chinese Sports Committee created a simplified form of Taijiquan based on the traditional Yang style Tai Chi with the aim to promote an effective health exercise that can be practiced by the majority of the general public. The resulting 24 Steps Yang Style Tai Chi movements take about 6 minutes to perform and train the students on most of the essential elements of Taijiquan. It is also known as Beijing Form or Simplified Form and is the most popular Tai Chi form all over the world. It takes more time and dedication to learn compared to the 8 & 16 Step forms but still can be learned and practised by beginners.
42 Steps Combined Styles Tai Chi
42 Steps Combined Tai Chi Form (or Competition Form) is the standard Wushu competition form which combines movements from the 4 traditional Taijiquan styles: Yang, Chen, Wu, and Sun. It was created in 1989 by Professors Men Hui Feng from The Beijing Sport Institute and Li De Yin from the People’s University for the Chinese Sports Committee who were asked by the Chinese Sports Committee to form a standard competition form.
At the 11th Asian Games of 1990, Wushu (Martial Arts) was included as an item for competition for the first time with the 42 Form being chosen to represent T’ai chi.
It is a very effective health exercise because it improves felxibility, power and coordination. 42 Steps is more dynamic and powerful compared to 8, 16 and 24 Steps and therefore not recommended for absolute beginners.
Pushing hands (Tui Shou) is a two-person training that improves reflex, sensitivity, timing, coordination, balance, positioning and physical condition. It undos the natural instinct to resist force with force, teaching the body to yield to force and redirect it. By pushing hands students learn how to respond to external stimuli using techniques from the Tai Chi forms and develop “listening power”, the sensitivity to feel the direction and strength of a partner’s intention.
Check the EVENTS to see Tai Chi classes in Cyprus and Turkey.
Research on the health benefits of Tai Chi
- Tai Chi has beneficial effects on cardiorespiratory and musculoskeletal function, posture control capacity, and the reduction of falls experienced by the elderly. .
- Tai Chi can help maintain strength, flexibility, and balance.
- Tai Chi shows potential to enhance cognitive function in older adults.
- Tai chi beats back depression in the elderly
- Tai Chi improves T cell helper function of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus with an increase in T-bet transcription factor and IL-12 production
- Tai chi may be a useful treatment for fibromyalgia.
- Tai Chi may enhance quality of life, exercise capacity, and sleep stability in patients with chronic heart failure.
- Tai Chi training appears to reduce balance impairments in patients with mild-to-moderate Parkinson’s disease, with additional benefits of improved functional capacity and reduced falls.
- Tai Chi has benefits in health promotion and has potential role as an alternative therapy in neurological, rheumatological, orthopedic, and cardiopulmonary diseases. Tai Chi is effective in enhancing aerobic capacity, muscular strength, and balance and in improving cardiovascular risk factors.
- Tai Chi may reduce anxiety and depression and increase bone mineral density after menopause.
- Stroke patients who practice tai chi may improve their balance
- Tai Chi significantly raises immunity to shingles virus
- Five of the best exercises you can ever do- Harvard Medical School list
The meaning of Tai Chi
Taoist (Daoist) philosophy says there was emptiness before the creation of the universe. This is called “Wu Chi (Wuji)” which means no-thing or no-limit and is represented by an empty circle. Then, a differentiation took place in this no-thing and a form is created. This is shown by a dot in the centre of the circle. This creation brings differentiation, which forms the polarities, the duality. These two poles are called yin and yang. Yin and yang change in relation to each other and create each other all the time. Tai Chi (Taiji) is the symbol that shows these two polarities.
The Chinese characters that make the word Tai Chi 太極 (Taiji 太极), convey the meanings “boundless, ultimate, supreme ultimate”. We can think of it as the highest principle that creates all form. This principle includes yin and yang. Movement represents yang. When the movement reaches its extreme, it gives birth to stillness (yin). The extreme of stillness (yin) in turn creates movement (yang) once again.
As can be seen from the symbol above, when the two polarities (yin and yang) reach their maximum, they create the seed of their opposite. The word Chuan (quan) is martial arts. Therefore, Tai Chi Chuan (Taijiquan) is an internal martial arts where this highest principle is applied.
Tai Chi Instructors
Sevim Savaşçı (firstname.lastname@example.org) completed her Tai Chi instructor training with Tarık Tekman in 2016 and is a Tai Chi instructor in Turkey.
How to become a Tai Chi instructor?
If you want to become a Tai Chi instructor, first learn Tai Chi basics (8 Steps) , 16 and 24 Steps in group or private classes, and then if you really love it, we can talk about instructor training.
You will need additional private tuition and the necessary time to become a Tai Chi instructor varies because everyone has different skills, tendencies and dedication. Enjoying the practice is more rewarding than hurrying to get the certificate.