When most guys hear the term “tai chi” they probably picture a bunch of old people in the park moving in super slow motion. But don’t be fooled, this ancient practice can provide great benefits to just about anyone at any age.
You may not associate tai chi with fighting styles such as kung fu, karate or tae kwon do, but the fact is that it’s a form of martial art, one where power is developed internally, rather than externally.
A Brief History
Tai chi has been around for quite some time, maybe as long as 2,500 years. It’s considered an off-shoot of Qigong, which is a practice that teaches the harnessing, balancing and utilization of life energy, or chi, through the correct use of mind, breath and movement. Chi is the energy that flows through the body’s meridians, or pressure points, which is the basis for how acupuncture works.
When applied correctly, tai chi’s use of this energy for self defense can be put into action. Some expert practitioners can demonstrate an amazing ability to throw off attackers using only subtle movements with seemingly little physical force.
Over the centuries, five distinct forms of tai chi have been developed: Yang and Wu styles being by far the most popular today, followed by the lesser practiced Chen, Sun and Hao styles. Each of these styles has it’s own unique character and is composed of a series of movements, usually consisting of an abbreviated “short form” and a complete “long form”.
Benefits of Practicing Tai Chi
To the casual observer, the slow and graceful movements employed when practicing tai chi may seem unlikely to provide any real benefit, other than perhaps relaxation. This perception could not be farther from the truth, however. While doing tai chi is an excellent stress buster, it is certainly not the only positive effect that it produces.
Regular practice of tai chi may help prevent and treat a number of diseases and illnesses, including: heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, digestive disorders, skin conditions, cancer, depression, and many others. Clinical studies have also shown it to increase balance, strength, endurance and aerobic capacity.
How to Get Started
The number of people learning the art of tai chi has never been greater, and only continues to increase. This makes finding competent guidance easier than ever before. Most of your larger cities will probably have some type of tai chi classes available for personal instruction and group participation.
There is also a huge amount of information online, from blogs and info sites to videos. The sheer volume of this knowledge can leave you dizzy, though. A great place to start is the Patience T’ai Chi Association. There you’ll find a wealth of useful information to help get you started and they also carry excellent and highly instructive DVD’s and video downloads.
Or, if you’re really wanting the full immersion experience, try signing up for a seven-day retreat at Tai Chi Retreats. Held in the town of Kalives on the beautiful Mediterranian Isle of Crete, you’ll learn the art of tai chi surrounded by wonderful scenery, delicious food and outstanding local hospitality.
No matter what your age or physical condition, tai chi is an excellent way to improve your overall physical and mental health, focus and concentration. It makes a perfect addition to any fitness program or can be enjoyed by itself. You don’t need any special equipment and it can be done pretty much anywhere, either with others or by yourself.
The benefits you will experience from just practicing two or three times a week will soon become evident, but it’s really something you have to experience to fully appreciate. After all, it hasn’t been around for two and a half thousand years because it doesn’t do anything!
So if you haven’t already, I encourage you to give tai chi a try. You just might be surprised at the results.