Tai Chi Ch’uan: Energy and Meditative Martial Arts for Health
Tai Chi Ch’uan is known today as a soft, slow and meditative martial arts. While it is true, it’s also true that the origin is anything but those things. It can be quick as a martial arts and it has the ability to move with the energy that is coming towards it, namely the attack of an opponent. As I look around those that practice it, most don’t understand the self-defense component of Tai Chi.
The Ch’uan refers to a school of fighting or combat. I doubt you’d think that as you look at the multitudes of people that practice it. If you were to look at traditional martial and their emphasis on forms/katas, Tai Chi is a fighting form done in slow, circular motion. In Western boxing, we’d use shadow boxing to do the same thing. It’s about moving one’s body to fight an imaginary opponent. That includes all aspects of fighting, offense and defense.
While it is interesting to learn the self-defense aspect of Tai Chi, it ‘s probably even more important to learn the stress reduction and health improvement function of it. Let’s call it self-defense for our health.
A 2003 12-week, randomized study by Jen-Chen Tsai, et al. of the Taipei University Medical Hospital showed that blood pressure can be significantly lowered by those who practice Tai Chi. Systolic blood pressure decrease by an average of 15.6 points and the diastolic by 8.8. Stress and anxiety also showed a significant decrease. Tai Chi said to help improve one’s energy or Qi flow through one’s body. It also helps to keep in balance one’s Yin and Yang. Qi Gong is the breathing element of Tai Chi and is important for relaxation and stress reduction.
Tai Chi has shown in several studies, including a 2006 study by Stanford University, to help improve muscular strength, endurance and flexibility, even more than a brisk walk. In fact, one could see the kind of muscular improvement as is seen in resistance training.
When people get older, balance also becomes an issue. How many times have you heard about older people falling? It happens more times than you can imagine. Many are not reported, especially among men. Yes, even when we get older, we still have that macho attitude. Tai Chi is excellent in helping to improve balance.
I would suggest finding a good teacher of Tai Chi. Most major cities have a lot of them, simply look around and make sure they offer a free one-day session. That was you can get the feel if it’s going to work for you. You can also ask around for recommendations.
This is an amazing exercise and martial arts that I highly recommend people of all ages to participate in. It is complimentary to what you’re already doing. And just think of all the health benefits you’ll receive.
Have fun too!