Here are a few tips to guide you when practicing Taijiquan on your own. These tips are meant as a supplement for those who have prior grounding in Taijiquan for at least 1 month. However, we still stand by the importance of a good instructor to check your postures for reasons of health as well as to avoid injury, until the time when you have acquired a certain level of mastery yourself.
Hey Lazybones! Power Up Your Life!
Do you ever feel like you’re getting into a rut despite your good life? You have supportive parents, and your friends, and good relationships, and a great job. What’s hapenning? Well, maybe you need to put a little more action into it. One of the secrets to happiness is being active. Keeping up an exercise will pump you up with endorphins, your body’s natural opiate. When your blood gets flowing, you’ll glow from the inside out. Want more good news? You don’t even need to gear up, and book a fitness class – it isn’t just calisthenics. Simply walking to the store, cycling that rusty bike in your park, exploring the neighborhood, and doing the hula hoop can make you happier, fitter, and firmer. Getting yourself active relieves stress and helps protect you from disease. So stop being a slave to the idiot box for a week and get out there! Real life can be so much more fun.
And if you are a die-hard workaholic and relish being the busy bee, take care not to crowd out your quiet time with your bills and your daily responsibilities. A good way to stop that fatal attraction with your comfy bed waiting invitingly for you, is to add a little action to your life. And one of the best ways to do that is to get your buddy to sign up a class with you. Take a class you’ll find physically or mentally challenging. Bring your buddy to each activity, and you’ll be more likely to shed your inhibitions and less likely to give up when the going gets tough. You will start enjoying your activity together with the sharing of experience. This will probably have a positive effect on you. What better way to spend time with someone (especially a loved one) whilst getting a chance to improve yourself – healthwise?
The origins of Taijiquan are often attributed to one Zhang San Feng (a Daoist of either the Twelfth or Fifteenth century depending on the source) who created the Art after witnessing a fight between a snake and a crane (I’m sorry but I have to say this is baloney!). Although there is evidence that Zhang San Feng actually existed, there is no historical evidence to support the claim that he had anything to do with the creation or practice of Taijiquan.
Its unique traits.
There is actually no difference between one form of Taijiquan from another. In essence, the underlying principles of Sun, Wu, Yang etc., have been founded based on the same set of requirements. Read more
Many of you will have seen older folks in the gardens, parks, community centres and such, doing their slow gentle exercises in the mornings. Taijiquan nowadays is commonly practised with a very gentle and relaxed pace, such that it gives rise to the misunderstanding that this is what Taijiquan (or Tai Chi Chuan) is all about. Then again, most old folks taiji as a form of gentle activity than as a martial art, which suits them just fine. Read more
Please note that the material below is what we have learnt from our Taijiquan masters. We have tried to re-express their explanations as simply as we could. However, the opinions expressed here are entirely our own (and our masters). You should make your own observations and derive your own conclusions of Chen Style Taijiquan.
Taijiquan is about re-discovering your own body dynamics. The emphasis is on finding your own strength and balance, from a series of systematic movements and rhythmic breathing; designed to help you do just that. Furthermore, Taijiquan is not purely just a fitness regime, it is, above all, a mind-intensive workout. The mind-body focus is required so you can evaluate your postures continuously as you work through the movements.
All traditional Taijiquan styles should focus on getting you to breathe naturally (if they are the genuine sort!) as you follow through the movements. As you relax into the routine, your breathing should fall into its own natural rythm which would facilitate the flow of oxygen supply to your muscles and organs, thus increasing your energy levels. Also, as you progress into your routine, your movements should become easier to execute with each successive practice, and this should improve your ability to relax as you work through the motions. This in turn would help maintain your blood pressure within the healthy range. When you become more dexterous, you could actually practise for sustained periods of 1-2 hours without breaking in between, and without panting!
Attention to Posture
The routines are directed at improving your posture and balance. When achieving balance becomes second instinct to you, it helps to prevent you from injury. Due to the strict requirements for proper postulation, Taijiquan helps to develop your instinctive postural alignment so that you become more aware of your muscular, and flexibility limits. Hence, when practising, always ensure that you seek to maintain a continuous body line, with your head straight – relative to your body, that is.
As you practice the routines, you develop flexibility in the joints. You are trained to analyze how your body moves such that you could exert force without straining yourself. Taijiquan has been found to be beneficial to those suffering from arthritis. To go into a bit of specifics here – the wide, sweeping movements and upper-lower body coordination of Chenjiagou Taijiquan helps improve circulation to your extremities. This reduces the possibility of leg cramps and prevents varicose veins since you need to shift your center of gravity during the routines.
Taijiquan is not merely an exercise that will tone your muscles, increase your flexibility, and improve your balance; it is also meant to energize and calm you. It is a great way to loosen up the tension built up during a hectic day.
It is the experience of practicing and repeating the form every day that yields benefits. The inward journey it demands translates into stress reduction, muscular strength, and peace of mind.
Exercise, for most us, mean making regular visits to the health-club and subjecting yourself to cardio workouts for a strong heart, step classes for a firm bottom, or weight training to get rid of the flab dangling around your upper arms and abdominal area. In order to ensure that you attend classes regularly, you make yourself pay a pretty bundle for a class (as you would feel the pinch if you did not attend). That cash you cough up was meant to compensate for that lack of self-discipline to do your own fitness routine at home. But will putting yourself through this entire health-club routine be a guarantee that you are on the road to health?
A walking mountain of muscles does not automatically equal health. In fact, that Ally McBeal lookalike in your office may be a lot healthier than those lean tummies who fog up the glass fronts of California Fitness every other day. So what is fitness? Fitness it seems is commonly perceived as the ability to do strenuous physical activity that will cause couch potatoes to pass out. The focus is on building up those muscles for strength and endurance. It’s a purely physical thing. Having a trim body does not mean that you are Superman and impervious to disease. Getting rid of fats here and there, and conditioning the muscles does not mean that your body is balanced internally. In fact, you may not realize it, but training in over-drive could probably result in strains, muscle tears or other sports-related injuries.
I think health goes a lot more beyond the physical. Six-pack abs does not a healthy body make. Bright eyes, alertness and a cheerful disposition are more distinct signals of health. I guess the one thing that stands out is an aura of wellness and of being at ease with oneself. Health would give you a vitality of spirit that shows up in daily life.
So what is Health?
I strongly believe that health is a state of balanced, internal flux in the body. This is a state when your blood pressure is just nice, your heart is pumping smoothly, your digestion is on target, your sleeping pattern is normal so that you sleep enough to recuperate after the day’s activities, the list goes on. Briefly, you are healthy when your insides are working at an optimum pace. To achieve this internal balance, the mind plays a pivotal role. If you have read a self-motivational or self-developmental book, you will know what I mean. A depressed person is also rarely a healthy one. If you’re feeling down in the dumps every day, how can your body be functioning well?
Getting started on the road to health
The answer to me is unmistakably clear. It is a very, very determined will to change your daily lifestyle – that’s the Golden Secret for you! In your battle to get healthly, your mind is either your greatest ally or worst enemy. Decide for yourself that you are going to break out of your current mindset and get ready to implement some lifestyle changes. If you cannot motivate yourself to do something about your health right now, then nobody will be able to help you. It’s a simple equation. How can another person even hope to help you if don’t even want to help yourself?
That’s right. You need to have self-discipline. Need help? Try this – nine tips to get yourself motivated. No pain, no gain. There are no miracle diets or creams and lotions to do the work for you. Sweat it out yourself. Self-discipline is the one, essential, primary ingredient to start it all off. Without this, your first burst of enthusiasm will likely peter out because there is not enough persistence to sustain your goal.
Next, find yourself an activity that will engage both your mind and body for a holistic workout. Could there be something that actually works your brain and works your body at the same time? Can you work up a sweat like that? Where’s the soul in getting your T-shirt wet and smelly?
But there really is an answer (for me at least).
Yes, I found it and it’s Taijiquan for me! Taijiquan is the best health insurance you could ever have. Let me lay the cards straight. It’s going to be a long and tough but enjoyable (if you’re willing) road to health. Now read on only if you are determined to make a change for the better, and if you stick with it!!