Considered for centuries to be the cultural treasure of China, Tai Chi has now become a gift to the entire world.
Tai Chi is based upon a profound body of principles, theories and techniques. Chen style Tai Chi was created by Chen Wangting, a 17th century royal guard. Shrouded in secrecy until the early 20th century, Tai Chi is now practised widely throughout the western world.
Before the invention of firearms, the purpose and attitude of martial arts was serious, as the security of an individual, family, or community depended on it. Survival was its foremost purpose, not the health, meditative or aesthetic qualities, although practitioners did derive considerable health benefits as a by-product of the art.
Central to Chen Wangting’s boxing method was the concept of Yin and Yang, the all-encompassing notion of complementary opposites that underpins Chinese culture and philosophy to the present day. Yin and Yang represent the perpetual process of change and flux, such as night and day, female and male, decay and growth.
Within the parameters of Tai Chi, the yin and yang theory is applied in a practical way. The aim is to harmonise opposing elements until they reach a state of balance.
Perhaps the greatest innovation of Chen Wangting was the assimilation into his martial arts system of the ancient health method of daoyin (leading and guiding energy ) and tu-na (expelling and drawing energy ), in addition to Daoist theories on consciousness guiding energy.
By incorporating the practise of daoyin and tu-na into the martial exercise, Tai Chi became a holistic training system in which practitioners’ mental concentration, breathing and movements are intimately co-ordinated. This paved the way for Tai Chi’s future use as an exercise system suitable for all, regardless of age and health status.
Research has documented numerous health benefits of Tai Chi, including: reduced blood pressure; better sleep, digestion and blood circulation; improved function of the immune system; release of tension; pain reduction; arthritis and osteoporosis care; promotion of self discipline and enjoyment of exercise; and many more. Practising Tai Chi encourages regulated, natural breathing and a calm mind.
Changed little through the passing generations, this art draws increasing numbers of practitioners by the aesthetic nature of its movements. It combines power, grace and agility, and is a means of self expression for many.
Keith Ryan, teacher at Athlone and Tullamore Tai Chi schools, will do a free talk and demo on Wednesday, January 24, at 7.30pm in St Peter’s National School hall, Excise Street, Athlone. Beginners classes start on Wednesday, January 31, 11.30am at 4 Bastion Street, and at 7.10pm in St Peter’s National School hall.