Taiji (T’ai Chi)

The roots of Taiji (T’ai Chi) go deep into Chinese
history. Taiji was originally a martial arts practice called
Taijiquan (T’ai Chi Chuan). Quan (Chuan) means fist or
boxing. The art has a legendary beginning in the philosophy
of Daoism (Taoism). Its origin comes as a part of the
history of Zhang, Zhan-feng (Chang San-feng) who was highly
enlightened, which allowed him the title of Immortal. Some
argue that Zhang was mythic, others that he was
historic.

He discovered the Taijiquan in a dream and proved its
value by killing a hundred bandits in the Wu Dan Mountains
in Hubei Province. Taijiquan combines the martial skill of
Immortal Zhang and his devotion to the deepest principles of
Daoism (Taoism). Taiji has evolved in three directions. Due
to its rich heritage in Daoist spirituality, it is a method
for spiritual growth. Due to its profound utility as a
fighting art it has become the martial art of choice for
many serious fighters. In the middle and common to both is
Taiji’s powerful application as a self-healing tool.

In Chinese tradition there are thousands of methods and practices for self healing generally called Qigong (Ch’i Kung). Taiji (T’ai Chi) is one category of Qigong forms. Taiji consists generally of 108 separate movements that are connected together into a specific order. There are several kinds of Taiji including: Yang Style, Chen Style, Wu Style and others. Most of these forms of Taiji have created a short form, between 20 and 40 movements, that allows for beginners to learn more quickly, elders to have an abbreviated practice and patients who are ill to practice without too much to learn. Recently, both in China and in America and Europe, even briefer and much easier forms such as as Tai Chi Easy or Tai Chi for beginners have been introduced. These act as an inviting entry point for those who will find traditional and even short form Taiji too complex.

The practice triggers health and healing benefits from
both the Asian paradigm of energy and the Western paradigm
of physiology. The balance and flow of one’s internal self
healing energies is enhanced by the slow, intentful,
meditative movements of Taiji. At the very same time the
delivery of oxygen and nutrition from the blood to the
tissues is improved. The lymph system’s ability to eliminate
metabolic by-products and transport immune cells is
increased. The biochemical profile of the brain and nervous
system is shifted toward recovery and healing.

During the Cultural Revolution in the 1960’s, a very
dark time in Chinese history, all forms of Qigong that were
intellectually or spiritually based became crimes against
the “people”. Most forms of Taiji were outlawed as well.
After this era certain aspects of China’s ancient tradition
were recovered. For a short period of time Taiji was the
only “party certified” system of health enhancement, usually
Yang Style Taiji.

As it became clear that many forms of Qigong were
beneficial to people’s health, the various forms of Taiji
re-emerged. Now in China literally millions of citizens
practice Taiji every day; some singularly, some in groups
numbering into the hundreds, some with swords, some with
large red fans.

Because of the widespread popularity of the Taiji
concept outside of China, it is typical for people to think
of Taiji when thinking of self healing practices from China.
However, it is important to remember that there are many
self-healing practices from the Chinese tradition.

There is a lengthy learning process associated with most forms of Taiji . It may be advisable for some people to explore a number of the more simple Qigong forms or Tai Chi Easy, particularly those who are extremely busy, older or dealing with illness.

You may wish to explore the
words
that are used to describe Qigong (Ch’i Kung) and Taiji (T’ai
Chi)
, it will help to clarify a few important
points.

Avatar Written by Roger Jahnke OMD

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