Tai Chi Chuan was derived from Taoism. The most important practice of Taoism was concerned with tranquility of mind and improvement of temperament. Therefore, the Taoists developed techniques of Martial Art in order to gain good health and to protect themselves and lead a healthy and powerful life.
This martial art of Tai Chi is based on the concepts of the Yin Yang Relationship. According to Tai Chi principles, the genesis of the universe is based on two different forces, Yin and Yang, collectively called Lian Yee. These two react to produce variation and give rise to four factors called See Jarn, which are responsible for the formation of the Universe. See Jarn can be classified as Old Yang, Young Yang, Old Yin and Young Yin. The Old Yang and Old Yin represent inorganic matter while the Young Yang and Young Yin represent organic matter. Since the Old Yang and Old Yin are not able to change, they cannot develop. On the other hand, the Young Yang and Young Yin are able to change, so they can develop. The reaction of Yin and Yang also induces the formation of eight more entities that affect the growth of plants, birth of animals and even the evolution of the human race. The eight entities are known as Ba Kua. They are Heaven, Earth, Light, Air, Water, Fire, Mountains, Seas and Rivers.
The principles of Tai Chi
The series of Movements of Tai Chi Chuan comprises the 'open and close' of the arms and legs, the 'void and substantiality' of steps, the 'continuity' of actions, and the 'softness' of postures. All these obey the definition of the theory of Tai Chi -- 'The unbending breaks while the yielding. This also has two meanings: the promotion of our health belongs to Yin while our self-protection belongs to Yang. Slow practice and avoiding the use of great strength is necessary for the improvement of our health, since this will make the actions more soft and the muscles of the whole body will relax more easily, it also makes the nervous system relax, so that our emotions will be more stable.
As for the self-defense aspect, the principle of Tai Chi Chuan concerning this is divided into two parts -- the yielding force and the unbending force. The yielding force belongs to Yin and the unbending force belongs to Yang. When fighting, we use the yielding force to counteract our opponent\'s attack and the unbending force to counter attack our opponent. The change of forces from unbending to yielding or vice versa is achieved in the form of a circle. Therefore the main pattern of Tai Chi Chuan is like many circles spiraling continually without ending. There are three advantages of the style of Tai Chi Chuan for use in self-defense:
We can use a lesser force to counteract a strong attack, then concentrate our attention on counterattacking our opponent in order to finish him.
As we reduce the force used and energy consumed, we maintain our body in good shape and fight longer so as to defeat our opponent.
Slightly built persons can make use of these principles to protect themselves against stronger opponents.
The Advantages of Practicing Tai Chi Chuan
Those who live in the cities, due to the pressures of their work do not have proper exercise. This may lead to mental strain, nervous breakdown or inefficiency in their daily work. Tai Chi Chuan is one of the best exercises for all ages. Those who practice it gain a healthy body as well as an alert mind. With the improvement to their health, they are able to concentrate better on their routine tasks and to make decisions more effectively.
The form of Tai Chi Chuan, in performance, looks like a classical dance with graceful movements and alert actions. It also offers a balanced drill to the muscles and joints of the various parts of the body in the way of complicated actions, which in turn, are regulated by the timing of deep breathing and the movement of the diaphragm. Furthermore, a tranquil state of mind and complete dedication to or spiritual concentration on all the movements is required during the exercise. This will ensure that the central nervous system including its cardinal components is given sufficient training and is consequently toned up with time as the exercise continues. It is quite logical to say that the efficiency of the various organs of our body depends largely on the soundness of the central nervous system. In other words, a strong central nervous system is the basic condition of a healthy body. Its analogous to the Central Processing Unit of our oh so important computer.
To the viscera, arterial and respiratory systems, the Tai Chi Chuan will bring forth the same beneficial effects. Besides exercising the muscles and the joints as aforesaid, it gives rise to harmonized and uniform breathing, especially in the movement of the diaphragm. Therefore, it can improve the circulation of the blood and the lymphatic gland. The movement of the muscles exerts pressure on the veins, forcing the blood to flow towards the heart. During the deep breathing, the muscles of the diaphragm act to massage the liver and the viscera bringing a marked improvement to the functioning of these organs. One of the characteristics of Tai Chi Chuan is that breathing is brought into harmony with the actions. Since the breathing is so deep that the intake of air to the lungs is greater in quantity than usual, a greater amount of oxygen is available for consumption and thus, blood circulation is accelerated. What is more important is that the blood vessels catering for the nourishment of the heart and the viscera respectively are expanded. In this respect, Tai Chi Chuan serves effectively as a tool to prevent all kinds of diseases of the heart and the viscera and inflexibility of the cardiac muscle.
Tai Chi Chuan offers a good opportunity to exercise the stomach muscles. As a result, the function of the digestive system including the stomach is improved as evidenced by a better appetite and the prevention of constipation. This is advantageous to the aged in particular.
The form of Tai Chi Chuan, an artistic style of exercise, has a lot of other characteristics. They are very helpful to those who practice it. For example, one of them is the tranquility of mind, which can be achieved throughout the movement. The moves are as fluid as the running water of streams and rivers, while the mind is so peaceful, and the actions so graceful that it is much the same tranquil state as that found in Taoism. The movements of Tai Chi Chuan keep the heart and the lungs in a proper and comfortable condition, giving the body and the mind a lot of benefit. For the above reasons, it does not only improve one's health, but also changes one\'s disposition. It is not surprising that after practicing over a period of time, a hot-tempered man will change into a gentle man. So Tai Chi Chuan is also helpful in improving one's temperament. Another characteristic of Tai Chi Chuan is 'Concentrating on thought rather than strength'. After a period of time, a man will consider thoroughly daily problems with which he is confronted, and will be able to take immediate and appropriate action.