The Chinese martial art – Tai Chi

On World Tai Chi Day, read on to know more about the fitness and health benefits of this internal martial art form

By Zoha Tapia

Sensei Sandeep Desai

What is Tai Chi?
Tai chi is a Chinese form of martial art with a history of over 5000 years. It can be divided into the hard form and the soft form. Explaining the forms SIFU George Thomas, Fu Sheng Yuan Taichi Academy, Mumbai, says, “The hard form is for combat and self-defence, while the soft form is for fitness and to balance the body and the mind. This is an internal art.”

As an internal martial art form, Tai Chi derives its principles from Chinese history and culture. Reflecting on it being a physical expression of the Tao philosophy Sensei Sandeep Desai, Tai Chi India, says, “It’s a spiritual teaching and a form of meditation; a system of health, healing and self defence.”
So what sets Tai Chi apart from the other forms of exercise? It’s the training process, the way it is taught – spontaneous, enjoyable and educational. Desai elaborates, “Tai Chi doesn't place premium on muscular strength but on the mind, energy, and intention.  Its training methods are more about developing sensitivity and a calm, relaxed mind rather than speed or an aggressive mind. Unlike many ordinary forms of exercise, Tai Chi gets more engrossing and fulfilling as time progresses.”
Movements of Tai Chi
Anyone who has seen Tai Chi or practised this art, would have noticed the uniqueness in Tai Chi movements. They aren’t static and jerky but flowing, circular movements. SIFU Thomas explains, “The movements alternate between fast and slow; rising and sinking; expanding and contracting; gentle and firm. Thus, invigorating the mind and body by balancing the circulation of chi (energy).”

SIFU George Thomas

Tai Chi – the exercise
Tai Chi can be added as adjunct to any exercise program. Desai says, “You can use Tai Chi's joint loosening movements as a set of warm up exercises or incorporate spinal stretches or silk-reeling movements to catapult your athletic performance.”

If this is incorporated into your lifestyle and practiced everyday it will raise your concentration levels and makes you more aware of your body. SIFU Thomas says, “If you are already following a certain form of exercise Tai Chi can be practiced too, as it compliments everything you do.”

He further adds, “Tai Chi is a non-stop flowing movement like a gentle river and we move from one sequence to another covering about 600 movements in 21 minutes. This is called 85 Forms or Long Form or Life package. Single whip, brush knee, wave hands like moving clouds and grasping the peacock’s tail are some of the sequences repeated many times.”
Benefits of Tai Chi
Tai Chi is abundant with benefits, for a high performing sportsperson it helps them stay calm at crucial stages of the game. For a normal person it helps to sustain the fitness level. For a person with ailments or disorders it helps them recover. Tai Chi is all about benefits to the body and mind. At the physical level, Desai tells us how Tai Chi benefits.

  • “It gets your body to do exactly those movements that it needs to build health and fitness
  • It increases chi flow and improves circulation
  • Tai Chi lowers blood pressure
  • Its boosts ones immunity and reduces the tendency to fall ill
  • Tai Chi also improves balance, coordination, and reflexes
  • Increases ones speed, power and endurance by making your central nervous system more efficient
  • Helps in strengthening your bones, muscles and organs
  • Massages the internal organs and improves breathing capacity
  • Enhances sexual and athletic performance
  • It can also be used to target specific health problems like obesity, hypertension, high blood pressure, thyroid and arthritis
  • T'ai Chi improves mental functions and is excellent for developing concentration
  • Through mind-body exercises, Tai Chi changes banishes stress.”

Can you practise Tai Chi?
Considering its a form of martial arts, many feel you need to be fit and strong to practise Tai Chi. However, busting this myth Desai says, “You can be fat, thin, young, middle-aged or old it doesn’t matter, you can practise Tai Chi. It positively affects and inspires every aspect of your life.”
Offering abundant health and fitness benefits, whether you are looking at shedding those extra kilos or striving to catapult your athletic performance or improving your concentration, this physical exercise is for all. Popular for teaching the Yang style Tai Chi Master SIFU Thomas says, “This moving meditation is even practised by pregnant women, heart patients and overweight people along with doctors, IPS officers and sports persons.”

Basically, if you can walk you can practise Tai Chi. So this World Tai Chi Day, spare some thought on this physical art, for your mind, body and soul.

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