Dallas area: 1201 International Parkway, Suite 200, Richardson, TX 75081
Houston area: 3080 Northpark Drive, Kingwood, TX 77339
wuzhongj@hebeiwushu.com · tel. (469) 774-1618
Hebei Chinese Martial Arts Institute
Sifu Wuzhong Jia

· Wu Shu - Kung Fu (Gong Fu) · Shaolin (long fist) · Tai Chi (Taiji: Chen, Yang, Wu, Wu/Hao, Sun, taolu) ·
· Chi Kung (Qigong: medical, longevity, Taoist, Shaolin Yijinjing, Ba Duan Jin, Wild Goose) ·
· Ba Gua (Pa Kua: Cheng, Liang, Yin) · Xing Yi (Hsing-I: 5 elements, 12 animals) · Push-Hands ·
· Sanshou (Sanda) · Weapons (straight sword, broad sword, staff, spear, sabre, whip, fan, Guan Dao) ·




What is Tai Chi

The Benefits of T’ai Chi Ch’aun

By J. Gregory Thompson, LPC

 

 

My Experience with T’ai Chi Ch’aun

 

As a practicing psychotherapist with over 15 years of training in martial arts and yoga, my journey with T’ai Chi started several years before I met Master Wuzhong Jia.         Unsatisfied with the violent aspects of hard style martial arts, I wanted something that would combine both physical exercise and self-defense with meditation and spiritual development in a holistic package. So I began seeking out qualified teachers of the internal martial arts, and was very drawn to T’ai Chi in particular.

 

Sadly, finding an authentic and effective teacher proved to be an almost impossible task, and after several years of training that seemed to bear little fruit, I finally resolved to continue my yoga studies instead. Imagine my surprise and delight when, calling upon a yoga teacher for an interview (who happened to be sick that afternoon) I found Mr. Jia in the room instead, teaching a private lesson! Heaven apparently intended for me to continue my studies after all!

 

As a busy professional working in the mental health field, T’ai Chi has allowed me to integrate into my daily life a unique and complimentary mind-body discipline very different from traditional western practices. It provides me a powerful means of reducing stress and improving focus, without unrealistic investments of time and energy. For the “price” of about 45-60 minutes a day, I have been able to reduce resting blood pressure and muscle tension, improve lung capacity and endurance, and enhance memory and learning potentials. Over the course of time, the research promises slower aging, improved balance and flexibility, and greater resistance to disease, accidents, and falls. It is exercise, breathing and meditation all in one. What a bargain!

 

Like many Americans I have struggled with the spiritual forms offered by our mainstream religious organizations. Chi Kung and T’ai Chi have enabled me to find my own path in a manner that does not violate my background and principles. Far from it! On the contrary it has served to strengthen and deepen those bonds. The practice of this art over time has come to represent not only a refuge from the demands of daily life, but a vehicle that moves me “towards the Spirit” and towards a more relaxed day to day approach to life. Although the spiritual dimension is not essential for everyone to cultivate, for me, T’ai Chi practice is in essence a catalyst that helps move me a little closer each day to an appreciation of the sacredness of life.

 

But the journey is not one taken by one self. An authentic teacher is essential, and finding one is a great opportunity. Tapes, books and other learning methods can provide a basic introduction but cannot substitute for the feedback of the instructor. I can honestly report that I learned more in 6 months with Master Jia than in all my prior years training with other T’ai Chi teachers. And at a fraction of the cost! I thank him for that and for this opportunity to share my understanding and experience of T’ai Chi Ch’uan.

 

 

What is Tai Chi?

 

T’ai Chi Ch’aun (or Taiji Ch’aun-“the grand ultimate fist”) is both a system of self-defense and a psycho-physiological discipline for health, longevity and peace of mind. When one observes the graceful, flowing movements of T’ai Chi, one may think it is more a dance than a martial art, but don’t be deceived! In the hierarchy of Chinese martial arts, a true master commands the highest respect.

 

T’ai Chi works from the “inside-out”, as it were, relying on the development in internal power rather than on external muscular power. While “hard style” martial arts, such as Karate and Kung Fu, develop striking power that comes mainly from the mechanical forces of the body, this internal art focuses on mental and spiritual development as the source of power. Internal power comes from that life energy called “chi”, a concept with associations to our words air, breath, and spirit.

 

While not a religion, T’ai Chi has therefore deep spiritual roots that can lead one to a sense of wisdom, self-realization and unity with all things. From the Chinese point of view, by practicing T’ai Chi men and women come to their true nature and find harmony with Heaven and Earth.

 

Do You Have to be a Martial Artist?

 

Not at all! Many people involved with T’ai Chi care little about the martial or enlightenment aspects of the art. They just do it because it feels great! And they attain their goals: whether to slim down, tone up, or just stay in shape.

 

There is something for everyone. For the physically fit there are intensive workouts that build muscular strength and endurance. For those with more interest in flexibility, the art has a ready made set of exercises traditionally known as “tao-yin”, similar in form to the Indian asana postures. For the relatively aged or out of shape seeking a gentler exercise, there exist a variety of customized styles. Breathing and meditation exercises (collectively known as chi-kung or qigong) complement the physical techniques and provide a virtually limitless horizon for emotional, psychological and spiritual growth.

 

How Does It Work?

 

The idea behind T’ai Chi is surprisingly simple: keep the energy flow moving to all parts of the body. In the Chinese understanding of health, pain and disease are the result of blocked and stagnant energy, uneven and excessive chi flow to one part of the body, and/ or deficient distribution to other parts. Long life results from the harmonious balance of yin and yang. Gentle exercise, breathing and peace of mind greatly assist the system in maintaining or regaining harmony.

 

In martial application, one learns to focus and direct that energy in case of attack in a way that protects oneself, while at the same time, causing minimal damage to one’s attacker. The philosophy is one of yielding to the opponent, allowing him to use precious energy and betray weakness; the defender is “still” in “yin”-- but conserves hidden “yang” power, coiled in reserve like a spring. This passive quality of T’ai Chi Ch’aun, derived from its Taoist origins, can be deceptive, for the competent master of the grand ultimate fist can prove a devastating opponent.

 

Is It Well Researched?

 

Yes, indeed! One has only to type in “tai chi research” on the web to gain access to copious articles now available on this science (e.g-www.wellnessthroughtaichi.com). The overall conclusion: T’ai Chi is a moderate exercise safe for all ages, which can be used to increase longevity and can actually help cure diseases!

 

T’ai Chi has been found to improve cardiovascular efficiency and to reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure when compared to aerobic exercise (which only reduces systolic blood pressure). Other health effects described in the literature include improved muscle relaxation, lower anxiety, greater resistance to disease, increased noradrenaline-excretion in urine and decreased salivary cortisol concentration (both indicators of the “fight-flight” stress response), reduced fatigue, depression and mood disturbance.

 

A good summary of recent research on T’ai Chi and the elderly can be found in Sandlund and Norlander (2000). In controlled studies on the elderly, the T’ai Chi group was found to have twice the lung capacity of their more sedentary counterparts, and to have greater spinal flexibility and less body fat. The American Arthritis Foundation has recommended T’ai Chi practice for people with arthritis, and has found it to increase range of motion while decreasing stiffness.

 

These are merely some of the surface, physical phenomena that science can measure. In reality, we have only begun to conceptualize how to measure the deeper aspects of the internal arts. Doubtless, the methods represented by this and other energy-based systems will play a vital role in balancing western medicine and various healing disciplines in the West, because of their holistic nature. What we lack—a systematic way of addressing the needs of the whole person, they excel at. No wonder that acupuncture, qigong, t’ai chi and similar paths of wellness and discovery are becoming so popular!

 

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