This is a complete beginner’s guide to Tai Chi and Qigong. If you are fairly new to the world of Tai Chi or have little experience in this discipline, this guide will serve as a valuable resource to understand the context and introduce you to the new and exciting world of Tai Chi. Being a newbie it is easier to view Tai Chi purely as a form of exercise that improves health and nothing else, but this is far from true. If you were to ask a bunch of people who have been practicing Tai Chi for years, they will tell you about the mystical experiences steeped in eastern concepts, calling it “meditation in motion”. While others also call it as an effective form of martial arts that can be used for self defense. How can a slow and gentle form of exercise be also symbolic to strength and self defense? This is one of the most intriguing aspects of this discipline.
What is Tai Chi?
Tai chi is an ancient Chinese martial art from that teaches one to embrace mind, body and spirit. It consists of slow, gentle and rhythmic movements designed to gradually enhance relaxation, inner peace and calm. It is one of the most effective exercises for health of mind and body. Tai chi can be described as a framework for dealing with different forces and interactions in life. Although it is a martial art form with great depth of knowledge and skill, it can be fairly easy to learn. For many people, it continues as a lifetime journey.
In traditional Chinese folklore, human beings are considered no different from universe, and just like the universe, they are thought to be made up of five elements (metal, water, fire, wood, and earth). These five elements are considered five phases of Qi (pronounced ‘Chi’), life energy that flows through all living beings. Qi is the vital force that permeates entire universe and all living beings. It is the basis on which Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is based– Qi flows throughout the body’s energy pathways, or meridians, to help maintain essential health. The ultimate purpose of tai chi is to cultivate the qi or life energy within us to flow smoothly and powerfully throughout the body.
Qigong (pronounced: chee gung) means ‘energy work’, from which tai chi (qi) originates, is a discipline that involves the mind, breathing, and movement to create a calm, natural balance of energy that can be used in work, recreation or self-defense. ‘Gong’ often used instead of ‘Gongfu’ (or Kung fu) means energy and time. Any study or training which requires a lot of energy, and time to learn or accomplish is called Gongfu.
“The term “Gongfu” can be applied to any special skill or study that requires time, energy and patience’. Therefore, the correct definition of Qigong is any training or study dealing with Qi which takes a long time and a lot of effort to accomplish. In the practice of Qigong, we are focusing on enhancing the Qi (inner energy, prana, vital Force) of human beings or the Micro Cosmic energy.
Known to have originated in ancient India and China more than 4000 years ago, Qigong became an integral part of the Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is the art form of using the mind to naturally develop the body’s Qi (energy) for improved health and longevity. Qigong aims at refining and balancing the energy flow in the body through integrated breathing and meditation techniques in stillness as well as gentle physical movements done in mindfulness with a focused intention to lead and guide ‘Qi’ throughout the body. Qigong flexes the body and calms the mind.
Types of Tai Chi
There are five major styles of tai chi, each from different periods. Every style is unique and has its own methods and principles, lineage, and period of origin.
- Chen Style: The Chen style is often characterized by alternating slow and fast movements. It can be difficult for beginners because of the complex movements and physical coordination required.
- Yang Style: The Yang style was originally derived from the Chen tai chi style. It is not the oldest, but it is the most popular and widely practiced style today.
- Wu Style: The Wu tai chi style is a style of third generation, derived from the Yang.
- Hao Style: This style is not as popular as other practiced styles of Tai Chi.
- Combination Style: Combination Styles are actually made up of a number of schools. Each one of them is a unique mix of tai chi movements with moves from other martial arts.
Why Should One Learn Taichi?
Tai Chi and Qi Gong, with their gentle, graceful moves, are transforming the concept of conventional workouts. It combines both meditation and exercise, thereby enhancing your physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.
Anyone at any age and state of health, from the fittest to even those recovering from surgery, can benefit from these practices. In fact the low intensity moves are well suited for older people.