An introduction to Tai Chi

Physical, emotional and spiritual development

We may salute the courage, appreciate the choreographic memory and be fascinated by the mysterious grace of the person practicing Tai Chi in the park, moving as if in a concentrated kind of trance through careful slow-motion gestures and steps, pushing, turning and retreating as if connected in a dance with an invisible partner. What are they really doing?

What is Tai Chi?

Tai Chi is a martial art and a sophisticated tool for physical, emotional, mental and spiritual ‘development’ and health. Originating in China, Tai Chi is now practiced all over the world. Tai Chi appears from the outside as just a flowing succession of slow, graceful, exotic movements. However, within that movement is a whole profound system of understanding of the energies of body, mind and spirit. The form we see is a way skilfully designed to take the practitioner into a deeper and deeper experience of harmony in the energy structure of their own being. Tai Chi teaches yielding softness on the outside, strength and clarity on the inside. The Tai Chi forms and fundamentals contain discipline, healing and meditation, which can then have a powerful effect on the whole way a person lives their life.

What are the foundations of the Tai Chi forms?

Tai Chi is rooted in the ancient Chinese wisdom of Taoism, and works with the energy system of the body as understood in traditional Chinese medicine. The movements open up the flow of energies in the channels or meridians which the ancient Chinese discovered running from the tips of our fingers, deep into the inner organs, to the tips of our toes. These are the meridians on which the points used in acupuncture or shiatsu are located. The movements of Tai Chi also have an imaginative content which can connect our physical body with a growing emotional intelligence and it is said, through many years of practice, the master of Tai Chi may open up to spiritual wisdom.

Many of the names themselves of Tai Chi fundamental exercises and movements have a poetic quality, evoking particular qualities of nature and certain animals and their ways. For example: ‘cloud hands’, ‘white crane spreads its wings’, ‘embrace tiger and return to mountain’, and ‘wild horse pats its mane’. The poetic and practical wisdom of Tai Chi is to be found in Taoism, the ancient spiritual tradition of China.

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