Breathe in, breathe out. Concentrate on your moves. Detach yourself from the stress of everyday life. There is only you, your balance, and your next movement in the routine. The rest of the world fades away.
Tai Chi (or, as some say, Taiji) and Qigong were born in Ancient China, but are by no means limited to that geographical boundary. Today, Tai Chi is one of the most popular martial arts, one with a deep philosophical approach towards energy, life force, and inner peace. The circulation of Chi (or life force) in the body can help mind and body’s health. It can also create balance in thoughts and movements. Some of the known benefits of Tai Chi include higher quality of life, improvement in muscle strength, and flexibility. Daily practice of Tai Chi will boost cognitive function, and night sleep. It will lead to lower blood pressure, improvement in symptoms of fibromyalgia, reduced risk of falls, reduced level of anxiety and depression, and improvement in cardiovascular fitness.
Many of Tai Chi’s fundamental movements and stances originated in the twelfth century by a Taoist monk, Zhang Sanfeng, inspired by the nature, five elements, traditional Chinese medicine, and Taoist doctrine. Legend says that Zhang Sanfeng was inspired by the battle between a snake and a crane, and the rest is history. Tai Chi is known for its perfect inclusion of dualities in Yin and Yang and their flux through the body. In recent years, the scientific benefits of Tai Chi and Qigong have been the subject of internationally acclaimed researches from institutes such as Harvard Medical School.
Historically, Tai Chi has been a mix of martial scenarios (routines), meditation, wrestling, and physical exercises. Most of these routines have martial applications too. Tai Chi’s traditional styles include Yang, Chen, Hai, Wu, and Sun. As time passed, modern styles and performances were added to the body of Tai Chi and world championship competitions are held, under the supervision of International Wushu Federation. Nowadays, the last Saturday of April each year is called World Tai Chi and Qigong Day and is celebrated around the world. Practitioners of all ages and walks of life can find solace in Tai Chi’s health benefits, mental tranquility, mindfulness, and philosophy. Tai Chi can be performed individually or in-group; the latter increases the sense of unity and importance of harmony in practitioners.
Tai Chi training involves five elements: taolu (solo hand and weapons routines and forms), neigong and qigong (breathing, movement, and awareness exercises and meditation), tuishou (response drills), and sanshou (self defence techniques). While Tai Chi is typified by some for its slower movements, Yang, Chen, and Wu styles have secondary forms with faster pace and more difficult movements.
If you live in the Danforth area and are interested in giving Tai Chi a go, check these locations:
- For practicing Tai Chi you basically do not need any special gears. Wear something comfortable and you are good to go.
- You do not need a fancy place, either. Go practice in a park or a gym. People may come and ask what you are doing, which can be fun: you are spreading the joy.
- World record for largest crowd of practitioners: 50,000 Chinese performing the routines in 2015.
- The roots of Tai Chi goes all the way back to the second century BC.