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Characteristics of Tai Chi
origins, meanings, lineage, analyses and exploration

What is Tai Chi


poem translation

Tai Chi, if being looked at from a Western point of view, can be best described as a moving form of yoga and meditation combined. Originally derived from martial arts, the slow, graceful movements also in places reflect the natural movements of animals and birds, as symbols or 'pictures', designed to focus the mind and breathing through a complex series of executions. In Tai Chi, where the form is practised in slow continual fluidic movement, muscles and joints are in motion, and breathing is regulated as an integral part of this. The effect is a sedative upon the central nervous system which helps to stimulate improvements upon the body's other systems. It is calming and de-stressing, the movements themselves becoming physical poetry to a meditative process. When practised properly, Chi energy is increased, and one often feels a 'tingling' of fingers and toes, and a warming up of the body. The mind becomes clear, and relaxed. The movements give practically a means for motor control, balance etc. and can help posture and loosen tight muscles.

There are various schools or 'styles' of Tai Chi: Chen, Yang, Wu and Sun styles. The Peking Style is a modern shorter 24-element style commissioned by the Chinese Government who recognised the benefits of Tai Chi, and is made up of elements of the other styles, so that its workers could practice every morning without taking up too much time. The Yang style, the most practised school, is made of two sub-styles- the long form and the short form, and was first developed in the 1800's by Yang Lu Chan. His grandson, Yang Chen Fu, standardised this style and made it popular in China the early 1900's.

  calligraphy

A Tai Chi form is made up of separate 'moves', each joined by a transition called a 'link'. Each movement may be very short, or made up of a complex sequence of sub-moves. Although each is an individual definitive element to the form, they flow continually into each other and are not practised as separates.

The epithet 'Yang' in the title: "The Yang style, long form" refers to the Family Yang who developed this style of Tai Chi. The epithet 'long' refers to the fact that … guess what? It' long! So, if it is quick or urgent results that you are looking for - this style is not for you. Not only does it take time, it can only be ruined if hurried. It's like a soft boiled egg that takes a certain amount of time to become soft boiled; or a biscuit that requires a specific length of time submerged in a particular liquid at an exact temperature before being 'perfect'.

There are 128 or so separate postures in the long form and it generally takes about three years to properly learn these postures. Many of them are repeated several times and therefore do not require actually learning again. However at that stage of study, learning how to 'get from one to the other' (i.e. the bits between, the directions and the footwork) does. I think that an hour or two of instruction per week in The Yang style long form is plenty. The rest of the week could be spent in an hour of practice per day, practising this 'new' lesson and refining the rest. It is not the instruction that takes so much time; it is or should be - the practising. The longer the study goes on, the more practice there is. Eventually perhaps, 'life' becomes the practice. or the practice is life. At this stage of study 'practice' is never a chore, continued through choice, dunked or boiled to perfection.

 
In Tai Chi, where the form is practised in slow continual fluidic movement, muscles and joints are in motion, and breathing is regulated as an integral part of this. The effect is a sedative upon the central nervous system which helps to stimulate improvements upon the body's other systems. It is calming and de-stressing, the movements themselves becoming physical poetry to a meditative process.
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