TaiChi in the Modern World
Gone are the days when NeiJia TaiJiQuan (TaiChi for the shortened, westernised version) was a secretive practice, only known within the homes and villages of certain privileged families. TaiChi has become very popular in modern culture throughout both China and the West. It’s an excellent way of exercising for fitness and also a great way of treating and preventing a multitude of ailments that are hard to resolve through allopathic medicine alone. With a long history of clinically proven advantages and outcomes, TaiChi is increasingly recognized as a form of healthy exercise that uses biomechanical synchronisation of the spine and joints and also improves the health of the internal organs. Not only has TaiChi become well known for supporting the needs of the healthcare industry but also for impressive synchronised movement displays like the opening ceremony of the 2008 Chinese Olympics and in Big Budget mainstream films like Man of TaiChi, TaiChi Zero and TaiChi Hero. Many TaiChi-like movements can also be seen used to great effect in the work of Tony Jaa, the amazing martial arts actor.
TaiChi for Medicine
TaiChi was developed as one of the most effective forms of exercise to treat, prevent and boost the Endocrine, Nervous and mechanical systems of the human body. Classes are often included in hospital programs that involve arthritis problems as their main cause. It is also popular in clinics, centres for the elderly and in community centers, as well as in workplaces where stress management is required.
Stress, one of the leading causes of many ailments today is a feature of our modern world. It can manifest as everything from a mild irritation stimulating emotional outbursts to a physical problem or even as a complete physical and/or mental breakdown. It is common so see the effects of stress in a workplace where deadlines must be met every day and there is pressure to perform at ever higher levels. It has been discovered that with the help of the principles of TaiChi stress can be reduced or better yet, eliminated and prevented from manifesting ill effects. Some workplaces deliberately include TaiChi as a stress management program for their most treasured employees.
Self-defence, Aesthetic or Physical and Mental Benefits?
TaiChi is all of these things, although as a result of its popularity in the modern world, opinions are often divided between these beliefs. This can be especially true to enthusiasts who are already applying and practicing it. But whatever the opinion, it depends on which of the 4 levels you practice.
Level 1: Movement
Level 2: Breathing
Level 3: Martial Application/ XingQi
Level 4: FaJin/ DaoYinXue
If you want peace and unity of mind, body and spirit, then use the breathing level.
If you are using it for aesthetic (wushu) purposes, then use movement level.
If you want to practice TaiChi to defend yourself, then you should use martial application and FaJin levels.
If you want to enhance your Endocrine system you should use mostly level 2 and 3
If you want to improve your nervous system, you should use mostly level 4
If you want to use TaiChi for complete human health, it’s important to remember to train all levels to gain all the amazing benefits TaiChi has to offer.
Be wary of any TaiChi class that has only one level of practice for each form, it’s probably going to be about just one thing; what other people think about how it looks. Here’s a thing: ‘wushu’ is a type of martial art designed for exhibition. The forms that are practiced and taught are all geared towards scoring points in a competition. Wushu techniques are really not focused on any of the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of health or martial art. Instead, wushu is performed to impress judges at tournaments and casual observers.
Traditional stylists believe that martial arts and health are strictly necessary components in the methodology of movement that is TaiChi Yin and yang theory must be there and all 13 essences exhibited within the form.
All TaiChi schools include by necessity a martial focus to the art form whatever their students’ intentions may be. Without knowing the objective reason for doing a movement, you’ll be just waving your arms about aimlessly. If this was the purpose, the art would be called TaiJiWu – the dance of TaiChi.
TaiChi’s proper name is NeiJia TaiJiQuan – Internal Ultimate Extreme, Fist. C’mon, Quan is fist and that means martial, the last 8 essences are all martial too. Sorry, but there’s just no getting away from it.
TaiChi, like it’s indian counterpart, Yoga, is one of the fastest growing health and fitness choices in the UK.
A standardized form of TaiChi competition, wushu, has made it big as a Chinese sport. Rules for the competition mean the form must be completed within six minutes and include holding certain classical postures still for a number of seconds. The competition version was formed by the Chinese Sports Committee who created many different types of TaiChi competition to promote Chinese culture to the West. Sadly, many people believe this is a corruption of the classic text because TaiChi should ‘flow unceasingly, like the great YangTze River into the Yellow Sea’. Indeed, this is the meaning of identifying the 8 martial essences with the 8 trigrams: When in completion, they should interchange seamlessly without break or pause.
Modern versions of TaiChi, including specific pauses and breaks, have become a very integral part of the international tournament scene. TaiChi is also now a regular feature in important competitions like the Asian Games.
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