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Chinese Culture >> Chinese Society Traditions >> Chinese Health Medicine

Tai Chi Chuan

Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese martial art practiced with as much softness in the musculature as possible. It is a slow-motion, moving meditative exercise for relaxation, health and self-defense. Originally from China, Tai Chi has gained enormous popularity in America and throughout the rest of the world for its health benefits. People play Tai Chi Chuan to improve one's well being both mentally and physically and so embrace the spirit of good living. When correctly practiced on a regular basis, Tai Chi Chuan can restore vigorous health, improve digestion and raises ones spirits. Perhaps because of its value Tai Chi grows to be a regular practice for millions of people worldwide.

If you really want to learn Tai Chi Chuan then you must really learn to become calm mentally by adjusting oneself emotionally to the task of "settling the breath with the body". In conception Tai Chi Chuan for health was created through Taoist visions of the flowing and formless harmony of nature. The Taoist appreciation of health development was in pursuit of restoring and rejuvenating body strength, mind and will. The player practices an inner exercise and deep breathing to produce Chi which is a nourishing restorative inner force which promotes health.

Central to Tai Chi Chuan is the belief in the life, or Qi which flows through invisible channels or meridians in the body. The ancient Chinese proposed that all living things are sustained by an energy force called Qi. When the flow of Qi is disrupted, illness is the result. The type of illness that develops depends on which meridian is suffering from an imbalance. And the movements of Tai Chi Chuan open and close to mirror the Chinese philosophical concept of an endless cycle of Yang to Yin while Qi circulates around the body to maintain the balance of yin and yang. Perhaps it is more accessible to regard yin and yang as the foundations of the art of Tai Chi Chuan because of the alternation of harmoniously opening and closing movements.

Yin and Yang are the complete polar opposite of each other: the softer, more pliant and yielding, more feminine and more negative aspects in anything are viewed as Yin while the more masculine, harder, more rigid and more positive aspects are seen as Yang. Both sides complement each other completely and together form a perfect whole. Things in the world, which are perfectly balanced and in harmony, will be at peaceful state. Half of certain organs and meridians are governed by Yin and the other half by Yang. The ultimate purpose of Tai Chi Chuan training is to strengthen Qi and maintain its smooth flow, thus Tai Chi Cuan can prevent as well as cure some illness.

When practicing
Tai Chi Chuan, one must be calmly energetic concentrating within to develop the swirling and turning of the torso. In so doing you will encourage the balance of muscle, sinew, blood and inner strength. These energetic and physical techniques are difficult to master in their entirety. To succeed, one must learn to become a dynamic expression of Yin and Yang in developing both sensitive acceptances (Yin) within expressive action (Yang). In performing Tai Chi Chuan if one uses hardness to resist violent force, then both sides are certain to be injured at least to some degree.

Such injury, according to Tai Chi theory, is a natural consequence of meeting brute force with brute force. Instead, practitioners are taught not to directly fight or resist an incoming force, but to meet it in softness and follow its motion while remaining in physical contact until the incoming force of attack exhausts itself or can be safely redirected, meeting yang with yin. Done correctly, this yin and yang or yang and yin balance in combat, which means the goal of Tai Chi Chuan training is achieved. 

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