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What is Tai Chi?

Tai Chi Chuan, Tai Chi, or Taijiquan, is an ancient forms of Chinese Martial Arts or Wushu. Today millions practice it for its many health benefits.

Tai Chi is a traditional program for developing the internal energy of the body. Mixed Martial Arts, Karate, Kung Fu, Jujitsu, Boxing, etc., treasure the power its principles generate. In fact, Tai Chi is known as the ‘master blueprint’ for all martial arts. Traditionally it is taught in ‘forms’, a preset series of movements designed centuries ago to teach how to coordinate the internal energy every physical body has with the external body and the environment.

About Chen Tai Chi

Chen Style Tai Chi is a high-level martial art that satisfies many of the multi-faceted demands of human life. While its primary role used to be self-defense, Chen Style Tai Chi offers precious wisdom about health and artistic expression by providing an education deeply grounded in kinetics, medical science, physiology, body mechanics, psychology, philosophy, and aesthetics.

Chen Style Tai Chi originated more than 400 years ago, during the Ching Dynasty, from the Chen Village in Wen County of Henan Province, China. Chen Wang-Ting, an ancestral native of the Chen Village, developed the martial art based upon family-taught fighting techniques in combination with external resources. More than four hundred years have passed since its conception, but only recently has Chen Style Tai Chi been disclosed to the public. For most of its existence, the art was kept secret and only passed on from generation to generation by males within the Chen Village.

Over time, Chen-style Tai Chi slowly began to spread outside the village and its inhabitants, forming several different styles of Tai Chi. In fact, four of the five main styles of Tai Chi recognized by the Chinese government (Yang Style, Wu Style, Wu Hao Style, and Sun Style) have their origins directly and indirectly in Chen Style Tai Chi.

Interested in learning more about Tai Chi as a martial Art? Check out our Combat Tai Chi.

People practicing tai chi push hands
Tai Chi Energy Work With Push Hands

What are the benefits of Tai Chi?

Tai Chi is sometimes known as moving meditation; having the benefit of both exercise and meditation. Exercise improves
muscle tone, balance, reduces cholesterol, and improves blood pressure. Meditation has many psychological effects including decreasing stress, depression, and anxiety, reducing pain and insomnia, and increasing quality of life. You can get all of these benefits in one 45-minute session of this gentle yet invigorating activity.

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Reduced Stress and Improved Brain Health

Even just eight weeks can change people’s brains for the better. One study on meditation found there was thickening in several regions of the brain, including the left hippocampus (involved in learning, memory, and emotional regulation); the TPJ (involved in empathy and the ability to take multiple perspectives); and a part of the brainstem called the pons (where regulatory neurotransmitters are generated).

Plus, the brains of the new meditators saw shrinkage of the amygdala, a region of the brain associated with fear, anxiety, and aggression. This reduction in the size of the amygdala correlated to reduced stress levels in those participants.

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Improved Blood Pressure

Learning Tai Chi may be just as effective as popular methods for lowering blood pressure, such as weight loss and lowered sodium intake. According to this study, participation significantly affects blood cholesterol, related lipids, and inflammation. This means that regularly practicing may lower your chance of heart disease.

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Improved Balance

Research has found that balance may falter with age. Frontiers in Neurology reports that after age 40, the body’s vestibular system — which controls balance — starts to decline. One of the health benefits of tai chi is it may counteract this natural process. During tai chi movements, the body moves fluidly as if it is opposing energy forces to create harmony. This involves shifting your weight back and forth from leg to leg, which helps improve balance. Who says you can’t turn back the clock?

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Increased Muscle Tone

Make no mistake, “gentle” does not mean “non-toning.” You can definitely build muscle doing tai chi. Harvard Medical School compares the effects of its deliberate movements to resistance training or brisk walking. Flowing between movements, you must engage your core, back, and arm and leg muscles, making this a great low-impact exercise

Man doing the tai chi form
Tai CHi Form Practice

Our Belief System

As we develop in our personal lives, we consciously and unconsciously create inner views or mental models of the universe that become part of who we are. This is commonly called our personal belief system. As we move through life, this model or belief system is continually challenged, at times falsely and at times correctly. In order to maintain our physical, mental, and spiritual health, we must successfully adapt to these challenges and assimilate new understanding.

In most North American education, we are taught the Scientific Method as the process and means to discover the truth and thereby understand. As we move through life, we often experience things that cannot be explained entirely by this scientific method, but we still use the degree of knowledge we have on the topic.

For example, is light a particle, a wavelength, or both? What is electricity? The common answer, for electricity, is electron flow. But the electron flow idea just creates more questions and theories with more questions and more theories etc. All of which doesn’t bother most people as long as the light bulb works when you turn on the switch. As we talk about Qi or energy flows within the body, we may be challenging belief systems. But, like the light bulb, if it works, it works!

Some cultures are more concerned with why things work, while others are more interested in how things work.

Systems of energy - Qi

In Western scientific traditions, we are asked to objectively analyze data and events external to ourselves; in Eastern traditions, we are asked to subjectively investigate the inner world through contemplation, meditation, and body control. The conclusion and constructs from Eastern traditions provide models of reality that are different from that of the west, or so it may seem at first.

Tai Chi directly affects the flow of qi – the “vital energy” or “life force” of the body – which is necessary to maintain health. This energy flows through the body through a network of 20 pathways (meridians from acupuncture). When these pathways are blocked, qi does not flow properly, leading to illness. It stimulates and moves qi through the body and organs, relieving energy blockages. In essence, it is like acupuncture from the inside.

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