Those are, of course, a few of the ways that Tai Chi translates into English from the Chinese.
If we are honest about it, when we Westerners think of Tai Chi movements, we immediately think of the slow movements done by slow elderly people. In the early morning. In the park.
It’s certainly true that the health benefits of Tai Chi movements have mostly been studied among elderly populations. But there are more than health benefits. It was developed, in fact, for actual combat. Now T’ai Chi Ch’uan can be practised more aggressively for self-defense and the practice of it can improve any athletic or psychological pursuit. Check out the online course, Improve Your Mental and Physical Success, to specifically learn the technique in order to kick butt in any pursuit. Although we would recommend going Straight to the Master .
“Boundless Fist” as a Self-Defense Technique
A serious and honest Tai Chi teacher or practitioner, like Master Tsou, will tell you that there are styles of martial arts that you can learn quicker than it takes to learn Tai Chi. For most healthy people, even 2 yrs. of studying with a master in Aikido, Karate, etc. can make you a competitor.
These – Aikido and Karate – are considered “external forms” while Tai Chi is an internal form. The benefit of an internal form, although it is admittedly slower to master, is that it doesn’t damage the body in training. In fact, it strengthens and readies the body for combat instead of breaking it down.
Why is Tai Chi Practice Done So Slowly?
A slow practice develops speed and success. Slow movements done with focus and attention help to identify and to release tension points which would block the full expression of the move.
The slow movements also help to unify the body, intention, and energy. Fast movements can cause jerky, uncoordinated actions. Slow movements force the body to move in a unified, smooth way. Add intention to the slow movements, and the mind can help to direct the flow of energy for the desired fighting application. A practitioner can’t do this with fast movements unless they’ve already mastered this unification of body, energy and mind in the slow movements. Think of the classic karate guy about to break through the brick with his bare-hand chop. He does one or two or even three slow practice chops before the real thing in order to get this unity and succeed in breaking it.
Why Does It Look Like You Spend a Lot of Time Yielding to Attack in Tai Chi?
Because you do! Tai chi isn’t about resisting attacks but about first yielding to the attack. The strategy of tai chi is to flow around obstacles, and to redirect the energy of an incoming attack back outward. This is a trademark of tai chi, and a teaching that differentiates it from many other types of martial arts. The better yielder you become, the better fighter.
Why Do Practitioners Look So Pensive?
Attacks can be physical, and the appropriate response may first involve dodging and then responding to incoming blows. Attacks can also be nonphysical, taking the form of taunts and psychological threats.
Tai chi gives practitioners a way of dodging or defusing these by remaining grounded, balanced, and calm. This is the best position for decision-making, such as whether to engage in a fight or to simply disengage and to move on.
By remaining calm, tai chi practitioners can avoid anger, fear, and the impaired judgment that accompanies these emotions. This is a self-defense benefit of tai chi that can be applied not only in fights but throughout one’s life.
Wrap Up of Self-Defense Benefits
So as a self-defense system, Tai Chi has many superior aspects over systems you can learn more quickly: release of tension that blocks quick movements, body/intention/energy unification, learning to yield to attacks and use them to your advantage, and it puts you in the best possible psychological state in order to make combat decisions. How awesome does that sound?
The Movements (also called “Forms”) of “Great Extremes Boxing”
There are hand tai chi movement forms and weapon tai chi movement forms. There are hundreds of each forms in different styles. If you are looking to start a practice, it is recommended that you start with a short, open hand form in one of the following five main styles:
The Yang Tai Chi Style
The Yang style is the most popular and widely practiced tai chi style. In England and America at least 20 main variations of the Yang tai chi style exist and in China there are even more. The various schools originated from the approach of a speciﬁc tai chi master or from a particular geographic region within China. Each variation has a distinct ﬂavor, looks different from the others to a greater or lesser degree and may emphasize different technical points. All, however, will be called Yang style tai chi.
The Wu Tai Chi Style
The Wu tai chi style is the second most popular tai chi style. It has three main variations with strong stylistic differences that derived from the founder, Chuan You, his son, Wu Jien Chuan and his grandchildren.
The Wu tai chi style was created directly from the Yang tai chi style and as such is the largest variant of the Yang style. However, unlike most traditions in the Yang tai chi style, most Wu tai chi schools emphasize small, compact movements over large and medium-sized ones. The Yang and Wu tai chi styles, with all their variations, encompass the vast majority (80 percent or more) of all tai chi practitioners.
The Chen Tai Chi Style
A great choice for those with athletic backgrounds, the Chen tai chi style (villiage) is the original style of tai chi from which the Yang tai chi style was created. It is relatively hard to ﬁnd Chen tai chi style teachers and adherents account for about one percent of all tai chi practitioners.
Unlike most tai chi not all the movements of the Chen tai chi style’s ﬁrst level of training are done in slow motion. The Chen tai chi style alternates slow-motion movements with short, fast, explosive ones. It demands more physical coordination and may strain the lower back and knees more than other styles; consequently Chen style tai chi is difﬁcult for the elderly or injured to learn. The complexity of the Chen style tai chi movements, which include fast releases combined with jumping kicks and stamping actions, makes the Chen tai chi style more athletic and physically difﬁcult than most other tai chi styles and, as such, is often more appealing to young people.
The Hao Tai Chi Style
The Hao tai chi style is exceedingly rare in China and almost non-existent in the West. The Hao tai chi style is characterized by small frame movements that are extremely small. Hao tai chi style’s primary focus is on tai chi’s more internal chi movements with physical motions being much less important. As such it is considered an advanced tai chi style that is hard to appreciate for practitioners without signiﬁcant background knowledge of tai chi.
Combination Tai Chi Styles
Combination tai chi styles are the third most popular styles after the Yang and Wu tai chi styles. These tai chi styles freely mix and match movements from the four other tai chi styles as well as movements from other internal martial arts styles, such as bagua and hsing-i.
Health Benefits of “Supreme Ultimate Boxing”
OK, but there are serious health benefits, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t also discuss them, even at the risk of reinforcing the Tai Chi stereotypes.
- Flexibility: The “Forms” and specific movements sequenced in the Forms are designed to open and lengthen muscles, making you pliable and therefore improving your striking range.
- Balance: Although this sounds simple, learning where you are in space is a big part of Tai Chi. Shifting and moving your weight around efficiently is really at the core of the exercises, so practitioners see improved balance as a result. Obviously for older populations, this can reduce falls.
- Muscle Strength: As you yield, shift your weight, and then strike, you improve muscle strength by body-weight lifting, one of the most efficient and safe forms of resistance training. Because of the unity of movement, upper-body and lower-body strength both improve.
- Cardio: Depending on how fast the movements are done, there are some light cardiovascular benefits compared with other forms of external martial arts and more typical cardio activities such as running.
As well as the following:
- Low bone density
- Breast cancer
- Heart disease
- Heart failure
- Parkinson’s disease
- Sleep problems
Specific Medical Conditions Tai Chi Can Help With
When combined with standard treatment, tai chi appears to be helpful for several medical conditions. For example:
- Back issues Here’s a great Tai Chi resource for curing lower back pain: Relieve and End Your Lower Back Pain with Tai Chi and QiGong
- Post-partum: Tai Chi is an amazing and often over-looked tool for reconstructing the pelvic floor after delivery. Because all movements start from the core, your body quickly re-makes the connections to abdominal muscles to strengthen the pelvic floor.
Meditation in Motion in “Supreme Ultimate Fist”
Because of the unity of body, intention, and energy alluded to toward the top of this post, Tai Chi is considered a meditation in motion. The benefits of meditation have been widely studied. For a very approachable start to meditation, try Mindfulness Meditation for Everyone or The 1-Minute Meditation.