Most of us have probably seen Tai Chi and maybe been struck by its flowing movements. Often described as meditation within movement Tai Chi is perhaps the most poetic of martial arts and for many has become a source of great inner peace and centred-ness in an ever changing and challenging world.
The name “Tai Chi” (sometimes spelt Tai Ji) originated as a concept found in early Taoist thought. It refers to a supreme archetypal principle which governs everything: Yin and Yang.
Yin and Yang can be likened to soft and hard, full and empty, night and day – and form the basis of an essential balance to everything, something that one can find and adhere to, bringing harmony, order and happiness once it has been embodied.
In Tai Chi, this idea of ever-changing flux and change, which follows the principles of Yin and Yang, is used to enhance ones understanding of oneself, ones physical body, energy (Qi), environment and understanding of martial skill.
Many early Tai Chi masters refined such understanding and where able to defend themselves and maintain their health whilst improving their qualities such as courage, compassion and self mastery. This is something that still carries on today, with some Western practitioners now attaining similar levels of mastery.
From our perspective we often need to practice something that will occupy our attention whilst bringing noticeable benefit to our mental and physical state, freeing us from stress and providing us with an activity that we can let go with. Tai Chi is such a thing and more.
To begin with, learning Tai Chi can take the form of learning set moves in sequence. Moves that help us improve posture for example or help us to enhance flexibility and relaxation. At first it may feel like we are in an alien environment, i.e. in our bodies and not in our heads; learning to move in a more conscious way.
Learning Tai Chi can be so rewarding because it helps us relax, in fact it makes it necessary to relax, it almost forces us to relax! Because as soon as we tighten up we lose the flow and the thread. Conversely if we let go too much and go all floppy, we forget about keeping aware – so we don’t quite get it that way either. Luckily though it isn’t that hard, we just need the right kind of gentle effort to make it all work well, so we can really enjoy it and benefit from this incredible treasure house of wellness and health.
Try the simple exercise on the video here, with Luke Shepherd – a practitioner with over 30 years experience. If you like it you may also want to try a complete online Tai Chi course, called i-Chi.