Tai Chi is both a martial art and a form of meditation. As a system of exercise it is suitable for people of all ages and requires little or no special equipment. It will help you improve your physical health, it can give you skills in self defence and will teach you how to relax.
Tai Chi is an ancient practice that has a history going back hundreds of years. You will recognise it as a form of internal martial art that focuses on slow movements linked to deep breathing, that uses the opponents force to neutralise their attack. It draws on traditions such as the external martial arts of Shaolin Kung Fu, the healing movements of Qi Gong and the philosophical meditations of Taoist philosophy. However instead of cultivating strength and speed like most martial arts, Tai Chi emphases the blending of hard and soft, fast and slow, Yin and Yang.
The basic movements of Tai Chi are performed with a soft roundness and a constant opening and closing of the body. This combined with the focused presence of the mind, stimulates the circulation Qi or internal energy. With this comes quietness, relaxation, flexibility, co-ordination and awareness.
Its philosophy can perhaps be best understood as ”the weak overcomes the strong” rather like the way in which water overcomes rocks in a river. This is the kind of fluidity that we try to cultivate in Tai Chi.
Water overcoming stones,
The weak overcomes the strong,
The soft overcomes the hard,
No one under the sky ignores it,
No one can practice it.
Dao De Jing (chap 78)
When we practice Tai Chi we seek to achieve a state of ‘Non Doing’, not a static state. On the contrary, it’s the ability of ‘Non Resisting’, we move with the force affecting us in the same way that the highest leaf of a tree is able to move with the slightest breeze. This is the virtue that Tai Chi practitioners call ‘Qing Ling’, of being light and alert.
Win war by the weird,
Get what is under the sky by non doing.
Dao De Jing (chap 57)
Non doing implies never acting on your own, never forcing anything but instead adapting to the circumstances by following your opponent’s moves. It is a state of “No Struggle”.
He who excels in vanquishing his enemies,
He who excels in using the men,
Puts himself under them.
This is the virtue of not struggling.
Dao De Jing (chap 78)
If one doesn’t resist, there can’t be any struggle. If one doesn’t use force, there is no opposition. If there is no struggle, one is able to relax, both mentally and physically. Being relaxed and quiet, one’s vision becomes clearer and you become able to adapt to circumstances and wait for them to change.
A strong wind ends before the morning,
A sudden rain ends before the day.