Taijiquan is a Chinese form of "meditation" within movement, a series of movements performed in a slow, harmonised and relaxed way. Taijiquan is an Internal Cultural Art and is the Chinese path to mental, physical and spiritual fitness.
Most Westerners will have seen Taijiquan in documentaries; large groups of Chinese people performing slow and graceful movements in the parks. Taijiquan is also known as Shadow Boxing.
There are five classical theories as to how Taijiquan began. The most popular theory is that a Taoist monk called Chang San Fang developed Taijiquan in the 12th Century, but there is no evidence to support this theory. Documented evidence states that Taijiquan, as we would recognise it today, evolved from the Chen Village in Hebei Province some time in the 16th Century.
The five main schools of Taijiquan that are recognised in China today are:
- - this is the oldest known form of Taijiquan. Closer to martial arts, Chen Style Taijiquan is now becoming more popular in the Western world.
- - this is the most popular style of Taijiquan, promoted by the Communist government in China in the 1950s as a health exercise. The Chinese National 24 Form was developed in 1956. In 1998, the top Masters in China developed the new international Taijiquan Training Syllabus, which is taught by Peter Warr at the Wu Kung Federation.
- - these are other styles of Taijiquan, but are not as popular outside China.
All forms of Taijiquan evolved from Chinese Martial Arts. Taijiquan arrived in the Western world in the early 1900s and has enjoyed increasing popularity throughout the decades. The practise of Taijiquan is not to meet force with force, but to recognise that softness is stronger than hardness, and flexibility overcomes strength
The Health Benefits
Taijiquan is beneficial health-wise if practised on a regular basis. Taijiquan regulates blood circulation, and refreshes and stimulates the body without causing exhaustion. It also helps to relieve the symptoms of stress, tension, bad circulation, high blood pressure, migraine, stiffness of the joints and back pain. Regular practise of Taijiquan also helps build the immune system.
In China, Taijiquan is well known for its healing powers and is prescribed by Doctors in addition to other treatments. Taijiquan is beneficial to the mind, body and spirit. Twenty minutes practise a day will ensure the student feels its benefits.
During a Beginners class, the student will cover three elements:
- - which include gentle stretching to warm up the body, remove toxins from joints and ligaments and open acupressure points associated with the five elements: heart, lungs, liver, kidney and spleen.
- - learning correct diaphragm breathing and posture alignment can enhance the body's performance, assisting the internal organs to function properly. Chi Kung exercises can aid focus, concentration and the channelling of energy. The Chinese call this energy Qi.
- - the new international Taijiquan training syllabus has been set to help students achieve a steady progression through the basic levels of Yang Style Taijiquan. Beginners are introduced to Taijiquan with the 8 Form (8 postures), and then progress through a syllabus that ensures students obtain a holistic and balanced training regime.
Is Taijiquan Suitable For Me?
Taijiquan is suitable for people of all ages and abilities. It is good for anyone who would like to improve their health, fitness and well-being and is also suitable for stress management.
If you have any skeletal or medical problems, it is advisable to consult your Doctor or a recognised Taijiquan teacher who is registered with the Governing Body (British Council for Chinese Martial Arts), prior to attending classes.
The Wu Kung Federation adopted this training programme for a step by step guide for learning Taijiquan and Taijijian.
This programme was developed by the top eight Professors of the Beijing Research Institute of China and is recognised by the International Wushu Federation which is a full member of the International Olympic Committee. This syllabus was passed by
the International Wushu Federation Technical Committee of which Peter Warr is Vice Chairman.
Peter introduced this Taijiquan Step by Step syllabus into the UK in 2000.
- 8 Posture Yang Style
- 16 Posture Yang Style
- 24 Posture Yang Style
- 32 Combined Routine
- 42 Combined Routine
- (Tai Chi Sword)
- 16 Yang Style
- 32 Yang Style
- 34 Combined Routine
- 42 Combined Routine
Taijiquan is an integral part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which is based on an ancient profound philosophy. The book "The Yellow Emporer's Classic of Internal Medicine", dates back to the third century BC but also contains much older material. Therefore it can be seen that TCM diagnosis and healthcare have evolved over 3000 years.
The communist government of China tried to eliminate TCM on the grounds that it was unscientific and metaphysical, but in the 1950's decided to revive it, as it was "A medical legacy of the motherland". So Taiji was allowed to be practised again openly. The Chinese government invited doctors already trained in western medicine to study TCM. It should be understood that western medicine is best for acute problems eg heart attacks and broken bones, and that TCM has an holistic approach to chronic problems and the treatments have far fewer side effects.
Western medicine targets disease and diseased organs whereas TCM targets patients, physiological functions, which are believed to have been put off balance. Once a diagnosis has been made the set of practices designed to cure illness and to maintain health and well being included acupuncture, herbal remedies, diet, meditation and both static and moving exercises.
The moving exercises are Qigong and Taijiquan also known as Chinese "soft exercises", their postures mirror animal behaviour, which is in keeping with the Chinese emphasis on the balancing and governing forces of nature.
Many Qigong forms are specific to the organs of the body and would be used as part of TCM treatments. Many Chinese start their day with these exercises in order to improve their qi or vital life energy. The exercises improve the movement of qi through the meridians of the body do improving physical stamina and flexibility as well as promoting a calm state of mind.
Western people may be more familiar with Taijiquan forms, which are graceful flowing movements as opposed to the more static Qigong. Both forms can be used to maintain health & well being. Taijiquan is a dynamic form of qigong and also a powerful martial art. It conforms to the Daoist principles of harmony between the yin and yang energies of the body and maintains the flow of qi through the body to ensure health.
Practitioners and teachers of Taijiquan have long been aware of the changes achieved in health, stamina and balance. The basic principles of Taijiquan include correct breathing, continuous movement and precise body positions, also it is important that the body is warmed up and cooled down correctly before and after performing the forms.
- People suffering from asthma have enjoyed an improvement in their condition due to learning correct breathing techniques, many have found that they rely less on inhalers as a result. A study by Thomas (British Medical Journal) involving 300 of his patients showed that many of them showed symptoms of dysfunctional breathing. This can exacerbate the symptoms of asthma. Taijiquan teaches correct breathing techniques and also can have a calming effect which an help in asthma attacks.
- Bad circulation and some heart problems can be improved due to the continuous movements and flexing of the muscles improving the blood flow to the extremities.
- The regular exercise done is practising the Taijiquan forms is understood to improve the immune system as well as strengthen muscles, tendons and thereby the joints, it also improves flexibility. People with arthritis and rheumatism have noticed an improvement as a result.
- The importance of balance and coordination has prevented falls in the elderly and may have some effect on patients with multiple sclerosis.
- Taijiquan has been called moving meditation and as such has a calming effect which can combat the stresses of modern living, also it increases awareness and increases the confidence of practitioners.
Western science and medicine have begun to take TCM and Taijiquan more seriously and there is much more research being carried out as a result. The British Journal of Sports Medicine recently published a paper. "Tai chi: physiological and beneficial effects on health" Li JX; Hong Y; Chan KM. The conclusions were that Taichichuan is a moderate intensity exercise that is beneficial to cardio respiratory function, immune capacity, mental control, flexibility and balance control; it improves muscle strength and reduces the risk of falls in the elderly. A similar conclusion was reached by a team of American scientists from the Tufts New England Medical Centre in Boston who reviewed 47 studies looking at the effects of Tai Chi on healthy people and patients with chronic conditions, published in Archives of Internal Medicine.
Whether the research has been done in China or in Western institutions the proof is there in terms of symptomatic relief and improved health and well being. A balanced view of life is often the result of practising Taijiquan.
Taijiquan classes are available at the following times: