Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tai Chi


Tai chi chuan (traditional Chinese: 太極拳; simplified Chinese: 太极拳; pinyin: tàijíquán; Wade-Giles: t'ai4 chi2 ch'üan2) is an internal Chinese martial art often practiced for health reasons. Tai chi is typically practiced for a variety of reasons: its soft martial techniques, demonstration competitions, health and longevity.


Today, tai chi has spread worldwide. Most modern styles of tai chi trace their development to at least one of the five traditional schools: Chen, Yang, Wu/Hao, Wu and Sun. The origins and creation of tai chi are a subject of much argument and speculation.
The study of tai chi chuan primarily involves three aspects[citation needed]:

* Health: An unhealthy or otherwise uncomfortable person may find it difficult to meditate to a state of calmness or to use tai chi as a martial art. Tai chi's health training therefore concentrates on relieving the physical effects of stress on the body and mind. For those focused on tai chi's martial application, good physical fitness is an important step towards effective self-defense.
* Meditation: The focus and calmness cultivated by the meditative aspect of tai chi is seen as necessary in maintaining optimum health (in the sense of relieving stress and maintaining homeostasis) and in application of the form as a soft style martial art.
* Martial art: The ability to use tai chi as a form of self-defense in combat is the test of a student's understanding of the art. Tai chi chuan martially is the study of appropriate change in response to outside forces; the study of yielding and "sticking" to an incoming attack rather than attempting to meet it with opposing force.
There are five major styles of tai chi chuan, each named after the Chinese family from which it originated:

* Chen style (陳氏)
The Chen family style (陳家、陳氏 or 陳式 太極拳) is the oldest and parent form of the five main tai chi chuan styles. It is third in terms of world-wide popularity compared to the other main taijiquan styles. Chen style is characterized by its lower stances, more explicit Silk reeling (chan si jin) and bursts of power (fa jin).

* Yang style (楊氏)
Yang family style (simplified Chinese: 楊氏; pinyin: yángshì) tai chi chuan in its many variations is the most popular and widely practised style in the world today and the second in terms of seniority among the primary five family styles of tai chi chuan

* Wu or Wu/Hao style of Wu Yu-hsiang (Wu Yuxiang) (武氏)
Wu Yu-hsiang's t'ai chi ch'uan is a distinctive style with small, subtle movements; highly focused on balance, sensitivity and internal ch'i development. It is a rare style today, especially compared with the other major styles

* Wu style of Wu Ch'uan-yü (Wu Quanyuo) and Wu Chien-ch'uan (Wu Jianquan) (吳氏)
The Wu family style (simplified Chinese: 吳氏 or 吳家; pinyin: wúshì or wújiā) t'ai chi ch'uan (taijiquan) of Wu Ch'uan-yü (Wu Quanyuo) and Wu Chien-ch'üan (Wu Jianquan) is the second most popular form of t'ai chi ch'uan in the world today, after the Yang style,[1] and fourth in terms of family seniority.[2] This style is different from the Wu style of t'ai chi ch'uan (武氏) founded by Wu Yu-hsiang. While the names are distinct in pronunciation and the Chinese characters used to write them are different, they are often romanized the same way.

* Sun style (孫氏)
Sun style tai chi chuan is well known for its smooth, flowing movements which omit the more physically vigorous crouching, leaping and fa jin of some other styles. The footwork of Sun style is unique, when one foot advances or retreats the other follows. It also uses an open palm throughout the entirety of its main form, and exhibits small circular movements with the hand. Its gentle postures and high stances make it very suitable for geriatric exercise and martial arts therapy.

It's been said that t'ai chi is a combination of moving yoga and meditation. A person performs t'ai chi by practicing breathing exercises and a series of slow, graceful, flowing postures (also called poses) simultaneously. The postures consist of movements that are said to improve body awareness and enhance strength and coordination. Many people who practice t'ai chi say that they feel more peaceful and relaxed after a workout.

T'ai chi was developed in ancient China as early as 225 AD. The ancient Chinese believed that the body was filled with energy, or chi, but chi could become blocked, causing illness and disease. They believed that a person could help improve the flow of chi throughout the body and improve health by practicing t'ai chi exercises.
Before you start your first t'ai chi workout, you should dress comfortably so you can move and stretch easily. Shorts or tights and a T-shirt or tank top are great choices. Because t'ai chi is a martial art, some people who practice it wear a martial arts training uniform. T'ai chi is usually practiced barefoot or in comfortable socks and sneakers.
Is your schedule jam-packed with school, work, and social activities? Here are a few tips for fitting in fitness and staying motivated:

* Try a little at a time. If you don't have time to go through an entire form in your regular t'ai chi routine, try breaking up your workout into 10- or 15-minute chunks. During a long study session, reward yourself every hour with a few minutes of t'ai chi.
* Go slow. Keep your expectations reasonable. Don't expect to be able to do all the moves perfectly right away. Masters of t'ai chi work on the forms continuously for years to perfect them. As you become more proficient, remember: The postures of t'ai chi are meant to be done slowly for best results.
* Do what works for you. Some people have more success working out in the morning before the day's activities sidetrack them; others find that a nighttime workout helps them unwind before hitting the sack. Experiment with working out at different times of the day and find the time that fits your schedule and energy level best.
* Get in a group. If you find that you aren't motivated to work out by yourself, attend a few t'ai chi classes and get social. An added benefit of taking the class: The teacher can help you with your form and give you tips to make your workout more effective and enjoyable.
* Keep boredom at bay. Many people who work out regularly say that preventing boredom is the key to consistent workouts. If you've been doing t'ai chi every day and are feeling a little blah, mix it up with walking or a yoga video.

There's one caution about starting a t'ai chi routine, though: Once you start, you might not be able to stop.

So be aware...hihihihi:)

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