Natural Way T'ai Chi School

Dr Chi Chiang Tao demonstrates brush knee push

The Chinese art of t'ai chi is well known as an exercise because it is so graceful and beautiful to watch. The t'ai chi form is a series of individual postures which link up and blend into a continuous flowing movement. Merely watching t'ai chi has a calming effect as the slow, subtle changes of body position and gesture unfold before your eyes. To practise t'ai chi the enjoyment and fascination is ever greater. The benefits of regular practice are quick to show themselves and touch almost all aspects of one's life.

T'ai chi is famous as a martial art. T'ai chi also attracts a great deal of interest because it uses the same understanding of internal energy, or ch'i, that has proven so effective when treating illness using acupuncture and Chinese medicine. This explains why t'ai chi has been shown to improve general health and well-being.

The underlying principles of t'ai chi have been drawn from taoist natural philosophy. They are rooted in a tradition, which brings meditation and observation of nature together. It is this combination that has created a pattern of movements, which express a natural understanding of ch'i.

T'ai chi has spread from its early origins in China, when only a few individuals shared their knowledge, to become one of the most popular martial arts in the West. However, it is not the fighting aspect which attracts most people to study t'ai chi. People are motivated to learn how to exercise effectively, relax and improve their general well-being.

Many beginners are eager to learn about the internal development of t'ai chi and want to become aware of energy and be able to use ch'i in their practice. The health benefits of practising t'ai chi have already been mentioned and, within Chinese medicine, spiritual well-being is acknowledged as having a central role. Practising t'ai chi and understanding the deeper meaning of its principles will bring you to a deeper connection with yourself and your experience of being alive.

Because t'ai chi has a self-defence application it is a practice that is intended to be available at any moment. For this reason, once you understand the principles, you can bring your practise of t'ai chi into daily life even if you are very busy and active. The effort to carry this habit into your normal way of being will bring you improved relaxation and leaves your mind free from disturbing reactions to stress.

T'ai chi as a system of self-defence is considered by many experts to be superior to other systems because it does not rely on using force against force. If you rely on force you cannot guarantee to be stronger than your adversary but if you rely on weakness you can always choose to be weaker than your attacker. The attacking response in t'ai chi is very powerful. The coordination of the ch'i, whole body strength, and the applied leverage from the ground creates a very strong force.

The physical structure of the body will gradually change as you practise t'ai chi. Circulating the ch'i and moving in a very balanced way will soften the connecting tissue, and joints and this will allow you to open the joints and lengthen the muscles and sinews. The result of this way of exercising is that you will be able to adjust and improve your body posture. Using the mind with your actions as you practise the form will increase your strength without giving you too much increase in muscle bulk. Any stiffness in the body will gradually loosen and you will become increasingly flexible.

The way the body exercises in t'ai chi is unique. All the muscles work together in one harmonious action applying the leverage from the earth to generate the movement. Each movement in t'ai chi originates from the ground, is given direction by the torso before it is expressed in the hands. The whole of the body is exercised. Generating strength using this method keeps the muscles from binding together in tension and enables all the circulations in the body to move freely during exercise. Research has shown that t'ai chi is able to improve the body's immune response and help the body fight off infection and disease.

If you develop a habit to relax throughout the day you will have more energy and stamina and will not end the day too tired. When the ch'i circulates the actual physical sensation of the body will become more comfortable and easy, more fluid.

Practising t'ai chi the mind can become settled, peaceful and calm. The unnecessary chatter of the thoughts will quieten down and you will be able to experience more directly without your thoughts getting in the way. When you need to think about a task in your daily life you can focus, shut out distraction and then be decisive when the time comes to act.

The mind can become more spontaneous and lively with renewed interest in life without the need for constant stimulus. The philosophy of t'ai chi can give you a strategy for attaining your goals in life without using force and help you maintain the deep relaxation you achieve when you practise the form.

T'ai chi is suitable for anyone to practise. You do not need to be fit before you start but if you have a condition that you know is restricting you in some way then you must be especially careful at the beginning. For example, if you have a weakness due to illness you may need to be aware of your attitude and the way that you study. Do not use a forceful approach, either in your physical effort to exercise, or your mental attitude to keep going. It important to know when you need to rest and then when you do practice it will increase your energy. You may be able to study t'ai chi even if other forms of exercise are too strenuous for you. The physical demands of the practice are quite gentle at the beginning.

During pregnancy t'ai chi is the ideal way to exercise and can be an excellent method to get a habit to relax, open the body and prepare for birth.

Teenage children enjoy t'ai chi but for younger children the suitability will depend upon the individual child. Most pre-teen children are at a stage in their lives when they need a more active stimulus and they do not easily slow down and settle with the more subtle discipline of t'ai chi.

In China t'ai chi is very popular with elderly people. They know of the rejuvenating effects of cultivating ch'i. It keeps the joints supple and generally tonifies and invigorates.

"How wonderful is t'ai chi ch'uan whose movements follow nature"

Li I Yu