Many of you may be discovering Tai Chi Chuan for the first time and would like to know more about what is actually taught and practised in Tai Chi classes.
It is my hope that after reading the following article you will be able to make a more informed choice before going to your first Tai Chi class.
Tai Chi Chuan is accessible to all ages and physical abilities and can be practised on many levels, from a simple 'meditative' exercise to a realistic martial art! - Why not check out our list of recognised Tai Chi Instructors and go along to your nearest class!
With the rise in popularity of Tai Chi Chuan we also see many interpretations of the art. There are those who cover the full curriculum with form, pushing hands, applications, and weapons. However, there are also those who are predominately interested in developing the health aspects of Tai Chi Chuan. They may concentrate more on the hand form, Qigong exercises and meditation.
You, as a potential student, have the option of choosing which approach is right for you. Before committing to a class it may be worth telephoning one or two local instructors, and discussing what is taught in their particular school.
The Hand Form
The first, and most familiar, aspect of Tai Chi Chuan is the Hand Form. This is the series of slow movements you see performed in the parks, in China, early in the morning. There are many benefits to be gained from practising the Hand Form.
On its simplest level, the Hand Form is an exercise system. However it is not what we, in western culture, usually regard as exercise. How can these slow movements be exercise? In order to understand why, it is good to have a knowledge of the concept of Qi (Chi) energy.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which is believed to be over 2,000 years old, also has, at its roots, the principles of Yin and Yang. It is believed that there are meridians or pathways which travel through the body carrying Qi energy. If there is a problem, or imbalance in the flow of Qi energy, a TCM doctor would use acupuncture needles, or perhaps acupressure - the use of thumbs or hands, to stimulate acupoints, and release the blockages.
Tai Chi Chuan and more directly, Qigong promotes the smooth flow of this energy. By performing the postures of the Form, in co-ordination with relaxed, natural breathing and the application of Yi, which is the intent or focus of the mind, we help to keep the Qi moving smoothly through the channels. Therefore, whilst doing these external movements, we are assisting the free flow of internal energy.
Aside from promoting the flow of Qi energy Tai Chi Chuan can also help to increase flexibility, suppleness and exercise the muscles. The smooth, gentle movements also aid relaxation and help to keep the mind calm and focused. These benefits are extremely useful in today's stressful society