I know I’ve spoken about it a couple of times, but I think it’s a thing a lot of people don’t know about me: I’ve been practicing Tai Chi for more than ten years. As the art goes, that’s not really a long time, I’m certainly no master. But it’s still kind of a long time to be doing something. I’m very much in one of those situations where the more I know, the more I don’t know. And it’s great.
To a lot of people, Tai Chi is a wishy washy handwaving new age fad, and certainly there are a lot of instructors out there who treat it as such. But there are plenty of serious instructors too and I strongly recommend finding one and getting into it. One of the great things about it is that the barrier to entry is very low, you don’t have to be particularly fit, or have good balance or be in any way flexible. Tai Chi can be learned at any age though kids tend to be less interested in it as it’s more of a long term commitment to get results and generally harder martial arts suits them such as karate but I did know a kid at 16 who was brilliant. I also know people who are 80 and have only taken it up recently and are making great strides!
So what is Tai Chi anyway? Put simply it’s a set of principals used to create a set of movements with the purpose of self defence. Unlike many of the more well known martial arts, and don’t get me wrong, Tai Chi is very much a martial art, such as Karate or Kung Fu, Tai Chi is an internal art. What that means is that the practitioner will react to the opponent’s moves in a way that uses their own energy against them.
Some of the these principals are pretty straight forward. One of the biggest is being well rooted. This just means having a strong base to work from. So foot work and balance are very important, but it also means that the bottom part of your body, needs to always be connected to the top part of your body in how it works. So posture is also very important, and practicing Tai Chi regularly will improve both your balance and your posture. And building on that another principal is maintaining a coherent structure within yourself, which is all about posture and how you should hold your body, creating a structure which won’t break when your opponent attacks.
There are 3 main styles of Tai Chi, Wu, Chen and Yang, named for the families that practice and teach them. The Wu style is very soft and tends to be a lot more spiritual and the Chen style is very hard and martial and contains some moves that are quite hard and external. I practice Yang style and it’s somewhere in-between, very much a best of both worlds situation I think.
There are two main forms in the Yang style. Appropriately named the short form and the long form. The short for is around 18 moves long and the long form is around 104 moves long and split into 3 parts.
Learning that is just the beginning, just the choreography of the moves. Then there’s spiraling, rooting, structure, sensitivity, elasticity and more. One of the grand masters once said that to learn all of Tai Chi would take three life times, and I believe him. Then there’s two sword forms and a spear form.
I didn’t want to get too much into it today, just give a bit of a taster for the span of Tai Chi, if you’ve any questions, shoot!