Newest Review: ... a way to get some flexibility into my joints. The gym just did not appeal but Tai Chi looked easy! Ha, what a piece of miss-representati... more
Zebra Carries Tiger to Mountain
Member Name: zebra
Date: 13/11/01, updated on 13/11/01 (3404 review reads)
Advantages: It is a holistic discipline sitable for everyone which helps to develop ultimate potential.
Disadvantages: Takes a long time to learn
I was vaguely aware that Tai Chi was the slow exercise thing that Chinese people seem to do quite a lot in parks and open spaces and it didn’t appeal to me at all. Last year I got involved with an organisation on the internet which I suspected had a rather sinister ulteria motive. Having always fancied myself as a latter day Mata Hari I was rather tempted to do some undercover research. I was talking to my son about it and he said that if I wanted to go and play at spies I should learn Tai Chi. He is quite into martial arts and does some strange Kung Fu thing himself and I think he suggested Tai Chi on the basis that anyone can do it – with the obvious meaning – even old grannies like me. I was vaguely interested and looked at a couple of books about it but it looked just as slow and boring as the dance in the park thing– so I didn’t bother to pursue it.
However, several weeks ago I noticed that there was a Tai Chi class at the village hall so because it was on my doorstep I decided to check it out. The class is run by the Taoist Tai Chi Society which is an international charitable organisation. The only information that I was given when I started was that they practised a set of 108 moves and that the object was mainly to promote good health in body and mind. In contrast to other forms of Tai Chi (such as Tai Chi Chuan) Taoist Tai Chi is not taught as a martial art (so much for my spy career – I thought).
In the first lesson I watched as a group of about five people of very mixed ages performed the complete set. The set took about 20 minutes to complete and I was rather enchanted at the gracefulness. Some moves were repeated but the overall effect is one of slow meditative yet highly complex routine. I still wondered whether in the long term I would f
ind it rather boring. However, after doing some simple warm up exercises the next hour was spent learning a few opening moves. The instructor was very patient and had a wonderfully relaxed attitude that he transmitted to the rest of the class. Although it did not seem very physical the movements were quite difficult to remember. At the end of the first lesson I was still not sure but I had found it very relaxing but also quite challenging at the same time. Having spent a whole hour and only learnt about 3 moves of 108 it seemed a rather daunting task but other class members assured me that I would be able to do the whole set within three months. I was given a list of the moves many of which have rather poetic names such as ‘White Stork Spreads Wings’, ‘Grasp Bird’s Tail’, Push Needle to Sea Bottom’ or ‘Step up to Seven Stars’, and a leaflet explaining the possible health benefits of Taoist Tai Chi.
Over the next couple of weeks I learned a few more moves and decided that it was not quite so slow and boring after all and came away from the classes feeling incredibly relaxed and energised. I decided to check out the society and found their web site which is http://www.taoist.org/
From the site I discovered that it is run by volunteers and was a non profit making charitable organisation. I rather liked the Taoist philosophy too – the following is from the ‘background’ page of the web site.
“The Taoist principles taught by the Society to participants of Taoist Tai Chi promote a healthy lifestyle and mental attitude. Emphasis is put on being kind, generous and helpful to others and releasing one's own stress and worries. The goal of Taoist Tai Chi is to return the body and mind to its original pure and healthy state. Taoist Tai Chi has been described as a form of "meditation in motion" where the continuity of its movements, combined with the devotion of one
39;s undivided attention, heal and revitalize both the body and mind. It is a holistic, noninvasive therapeutic treatment involving the dual cultivation of mind and body.
The physical component of Taoist Tai Chi consists of the basic principles known as the "Foundations", and 108 movements, which constitute the "Set". Some of the principles reflected in the movements are summarized by the following key words: relaxation, balance, lining up the body, correcting angles, "squaring" the hips, controlling the step and the transfer of weight, turning constantly in spirals, "opening" and "closing", centering the trunk, and stretching and relaxing the spine. The movements are gentle, continuous and circular. Practice of the Set is to be done with a relaxed state of mind.
The prime spiritual aspect of Taoist Tai Chi is the adoption of a spirit of self-sacrifice, generosity and the elimination of self-centeredness. Taoist Tai Chi is meant to be taught and practiced in a spirit of compassion and service to others.”
The web site also has some very basic Tai Chi FAQS, contacts for local societies and further information on the Taoist background and founder.
OK I thought maybe it isn’t taught as a martial art and I may never get to be a spy but perhaps I really am too old for that anyway but at least I may eventually get to play with swords and sabres, another ambition of mine, – so I decided to join up. You pay a one off membership fee which is very reasonable and scaled dependent on status. This membership allows you to go to any class or workshop anywhere and you get a T shirt. You then pay a monthly fee to cover cost of hall hire etc. In my area there are several classes a week and the fee covers going to as many as you like.
I am now several weeks into Tai Chi and have covered about half the Set. My last session was particularly good and I actually felt like the
movements were flowing - perhaps the chi is working. I find the class incredibly relaxing and will certainly attend a few of the other classes and workshops when I have more time to do so. I really feel that it has already made some difference to my posture and the way I move in general.
It seems to me that Tai Chi is rather deceptive because on the surface it merely looks like a rather slow graceful set of movements but its very name and in fact symbol holds the key to its secret. Most people are familiar with the black and white, yin yang ‘tai chi’ symbol. There are many translations of Tai Chi but one of the most popular is the grand or supreme ultimate. Tai Chi Chuan, the martial form, is translated the grand ultimate ‘force’ or ‘fist’.
Chi or Qi, sometimes translated air, power, motion, energy or life, is the name for the original, eternal and ultimate energy which, according to Chinese philosophy, moves the universe. Everyone who reflects upon the cycles of nature, the phases of the moon, ebb and flow of tides and seasons may well be aware of chi, the energy of changes in all aspects of life but without having a special name for it. The same energy powers humans and the goal of Tai Chi is to seek and develop the ‘ultimate’ in human potential. The chi energy is the same as that used in Acupuncture and in Tai Chi the different postures combined with breathing are used to manipulate the energy in the body.
There are several styles of Tai Chi taught but all of them have been developed from centuries old systems grounded in the Taoist tradition and connected with the principles of yin and yang, the two opposing yet complementary powers as found in the I Ching, the ancient Chinese book of divination.
Tai Chi can be practised for many reasons: for health and relaxation as a moving meditation or dance, for self defence and martial art or as a spiritual discipline. But whichever
way it is taught and for whatever reason if practised properly I am convinced that all the benefits will come eventually. So even if you learn it purely for health reasons the chances are that you will develop some other skills naturally without even realising it. As a martial art Tai Chi is described as an internal style because it relies on internal power or chi rather than the more obvious strength required by external styles. That is why Tai Chi is suitable for everyone. First an awareness of chi within oneself is developed through the subtle yet very precise exercises and breathing. Then one learns to convert the internal energy, chi, into internal power, jing, which can be projected. Later the student works with a partner in exercises called ‘push hands’ to develop sensitivity and after this the student may progress further to work with weapons such as swords, sabre and staff.
As with most other disciplines I think you will get out only as much as you are prepared to put in. There is a saying of Lao-tzu in the Tao Te Ching that “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” I have taken that first step and perhaps one day I might even be able to carry mountain to tiger.