Tai Chi Chuan.
What is Tai Chi Chuan ?
Tai Chi Chuan was originally practised as a martial art although in more recent times it is perhaps better known as an exercise method for health and vitality. "Tai Chi Chuan" literally means "ultimate energy". It is ideal for all age groups and particularly for the middle aged and elderly as it is completely effortless, requiring deep breathing and concentration rather than vigorous physical movement.
The philosophy of Tai Chi is derived from the same source as acupuncture and a person's "chi" or vitality runs through the body and internal organs along the same paths as in acupuncture. The difference is that in Tai Chi body harmony is achieved and maintained by breathing and exercise whereas in acupuncture balance is restored to the body by the insertion of needles, thus making it a curative system.
History of Tai Chi Chuan.
The traditional practice of Tai Chi is as old as Chinese culture itself, dating from the earliest Neolithic communities that first used tools and weapons to hunt for food and to defend themselves. This curious mixture of a martial art that has become a combination of a sport and a philosophical exercise was developed originally by the working people. Later as class structures emerged within Chinese society it was adapted by the ruling classes who transformed it into a secret art to be practised only by the nobility.
Following the creation of the People's Republic of China in 1949 and Chairman Mao's order to promote physical culture and sports in order to build up the people's health the government started to actively encourage the practice of Tai Chi. It was believed that a fit and healthy population could play a much greater part in the construction of the new state. The plan greatly exceeded all expectations and today all over China at dawn and dusk outside schools , offices, hospitals , shops, government offices and farm buildings millions of Chinese practice the many forms of choreographed exercises that constitute Tai Chi. Children are taught in schools and their parents and grandparents practice singly or in neighbourhood groups in every town and village.
For centuries the Chinese have had a great understanding of mind-body relationships. To those of us in the West who are encountering this ancient knowledge for the first time Tai Chi is a very exciting discovery. It provides us with a health and fitness programme for the entire family which subtly enlarges the mind and spirit in choreographic patterns of great beauty. Long term practice of Tai Chi helps to improve the practitioner's co-ordination, balance and general sense of well being and has been doing so for many centuries.
Sensei Harte demonstrating a Tai Chi form.