We normally associate Taiji with gentle, smooth flowing movements as seen in many of the parks based throughout the Far East and China.
Taiji and Qigong exercise can be an excellent way to promote good health and vitality through safe low impact, effective movement.
One translation of Taiji Quan is “supreme, ultimate fist”! The Quan (fist) implies that it is a martial art. Taiji and Qigong is an internal martial art which relies heavily on the mind to develop it really efficiently. It is also known as mind boxing. So Taiji and Qigong if practised correctly is a complete mind, body and breath system. Indeed when practised at a high level the practitioner simply flows from one move to the next without signs of any visible pause.
The power is generated through the mind, not reliant on muscle to generate it like a lot of external martial arts, such as Karate. Which relies heavily on speed and muscle to generate power effectively.
The style that we teach is the Traditional Yang style, as handed down through the Yang family in China. Our Sifu is Sifu Herman Chan-Pensley who was a senior student of Master Chu for many years, the European representative of the Yang family.
What is Qigong?
Qigong is a series of many hundreds of exercises either standing or moving that promote energy flow throughout the entire body system. The movements are generally soft and gentle and can be learned reasonably quickly. They are usually divided into sets of exercises such as Eight pieces of Brocade or Daoyin. Each exercise works on certain meridian pathways within the body. Qigong should not be separated from TaijiQuan but should be practised alongside, helping us to become more healthy, relaxed and stronger. It is a good supplement to enhance our Taiji movement.
What is meditation?
There are many different schools of meditation, but we practice Chan Buddhism Meditation (Chinese Zen Meditation), which originated from China and later moved to Japan to be known as Zen. Meditation helps to still the mind, to help bring peace to mind, body and spirit. Meditation can help to control our breathing rate, which can enable the body to oxygenate better.
Taiji and Qigong for Health and Vitality
Regular Taiji and Qigong practice encourages Chi or Qi flow throughout the whole body. It can improve the function of all the body systems: digestive, nervous, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine etc. The movements are taught and practised in a slow gentle way which promotes flexible strong muscles and joints. The Qi helps to nourish the sinews, tendons, ligaments and joints.
The waist is developed extensively in Taiji and Qigong which massages the internal organs, helping them to work more effectively. Saliva production is increased which is essential for the bones and internal organs. Many conditions such as Diabetes, Hypertension and Osteoporosis can be controlled with regular Tai Chi and Qigong.
The slow calming effects of the movements can help the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS); this helps to promote the central nervous system, which help to repair and heal our whole body.
Excellent biomechanical alignments are the cornerstone of good Taiji and Qigong, which can help to repair, realign and ease musculo-skeletal problems. This can extensively help if you suffer from back pain and have developed poor body use.
Psychological Effects of Taiji and Qigong
Taiji and Qigong at a high level is a complete mind and body system which can help to calm the “monkey mind”. It promotes calmness when under pressure, helping to centre the body very effectively. Taiji and Qigong does help to slowly reprogram the mind to enable us not to overact, showing us how to live a better way and keep in harmony with others and nature. It is all down to how much we put in as to what we can get out of our Taiji work.
The modern world is very busy; we often do not find time just to be still, quiet and centred. Taiji can help to increase our energy reserves, helping us to gain in gradual confidence. Taiji and Qigong can help to teach us humility and to have respect for others, never to be boastful or arrogant.
Taiji can help to teach us to look deep inside ourselves to enable us to gradually grow and develop in confidence.
At a high level Taiji is a highly proficient effective martial art for self defense. Many night club doorman say it is one of the best self defenses to use in their dangerous work. There are numerous tales of masters performing outstanding feats. Overcoming and defeating many highly proficient adversaries using Taiji movements with internal energy (Qi). But this is not the primary aim of Taiji.
To become proficient in self defense it takes many years of diligent practise, as this is not the primary aim of the Taiji and Qigong. On a simple basis Taiji can train us to avoid confrontation and to diffuse confrontational situations.
Our body acts in self defense daily to fight of viruses and infections, controlling our emotions, helping to calm our mind and body.
Regular practise can help to strengthen the immune system, develop greater control and awareness when we are dealing with others. This can help to enhance our senses, to give us an aura of calm, strength and confidence; but not arrogance.
Philosophy and Medicine behind Taiji and Qigong
The philosophy behind Taiji is thousands of years old. The Taoists have set their roots in the concept of the Yin and Yang theory, maintaining that life and the cosmos are intimately entwined; constantly moving interaction of energy between polarities. Yin can be represented by feminine qualities, earth, cool, dark, soft, form, stillness, and winter. Yang would represent the opposite of Yin: formlessness, masculine, warmer, light, day, summer and activity. There are many more examples of each. The theory is that if we work with both Yin and Yang we can achieve fantastic health and vitality into very old age. The polarities of yin and yang are constantly interchanging but must be in harmony with each other.
The energetic movement between these polarities is known as Chi or Qi (pronounced Chee). The essence of Taiji and Qigong is to encourage the free flow of this vital energy throughout the whole body. Indeed without Chi there would be no life force. If Chi becomes blocked or stagnant this can lead to poor health, injuries, sickness and emotional problems.
This philosophy underpins Oriental Medicine and even the way the world is viewed. Treatments include acupuncture, Qigong, shiatsu, herbs, acupressure etc.