יום שלישי, 19 במרץ 2013

Taijiquan (tai chi) introduction and a Warm - up Exercise

One of the wonders of the internet is the incredible amount of sources if you wish to learn something, experience in something or just learn a little about it, it turns out it is just a moment away from discovery...

I found myself a little curious regarding Tai Chi (Taijiquan). Where does one begin ? A great point to begin the intellectual learning of Taijiquan is Wikipedia. What does the encyclopedia tell us ? 

Taijiquan is formed by the combination of three hanzi:

– t'ai / tai – supreme, grand, great
– chi / ji – ultimate, extreme
– ch'uan / quan – fist, boxing

Despite having a single Chinese spelling, 太極拳, there are two different spellings in English usage:

In the West, most are familiar with the Wade-Giles form - t'ai chi ch'uan. Furthermore, this name is often shortened by Westerners to "t'ai chi" (or "tai chi," a common misspelling). This shortened name is the same as that of t'ai chi philosophy, sometimes resulting in confusion between the two. 

The chi in the martial art's name can also be mistaken for ch'i (氣), especially as ch'i is involved in the practice of t'ai chi ch'uan. 

The 'up-to-date' Pinyin transliteration, taijiquan, is not subject to such misinterpretation, as the spelling of the hanzi 極, ji is quite distinct from that of 氣, qi. 

"T'ai chi ch'uan" (including "t'ai chi" and their misspellings) still remains the popular spelling used by the general public today. However, many professional practitioners and masters write it as taijiquan.

Popular myth attributes the creation of Taijiquan to a Daoist alchemist. 

Yet, it is probable that the creator of Tai Chi Chuan is unknown, and that the original attribution may have had more to do with invoking nationalist fervor than with historical accuracy. When humanity developes time travel, we may have a final conclusion on this academic debate. 

What is now known as taijiquan only appears to have received this appellation from around the mid 1800s. 

There was a scholar in the Imperial Court by the name of Ong Tong He who witnessed a demonstration by Yang Luchan ("Unbeatable Yang"). Afterwards Ong wrote: "Hands holding Taiji shakes the whole world, a chest containing ultimate skill defeats a gathering of heroes." This was the time when Yang Luchan made the Chen clan's martial art known to the world through his own form ("Yang family style").

Before this time the Art had no name. It was simply an unusual martial art practiced by a few. 

Many people (yours truly among them) are first introduced to the art as someone recommends it as a something that can contribute to one's health. Is it truly that healthy ?

Taijiquan and Health
A majority of health studies have displayed a tangible benefit in some areas to the practice of taijiquan. Health professionals have called for more in-depth studies to determine mitigating factors such as the most beneficial style, suggested duration of practice to show the best results, and whether taijiquan is as effective as other forms of exercise. It is widely accepted that it is a beneficial practice, and it is quite popular in hospitals, clinics, and community and senior centers. The art is reputed to have great impact as a low-stress training. 

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), the United States Federal Government’s lead agency for scientific research on the diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine, summarizes the current knowledge: 
"Scientific research on the health benefits of tai chi is ongoing. Several studies have focused on the elderly, including tai chi's potential for preventing falls and improving cardiovascular fitness and overall well-being. A 2007 NCCAM-funded study on the immune response to varicella-zoster virus (the virus that causes shingles) suggested that tai chi may enhance the immune system and improve overall well-being in older adults. 
Tai chi has also been studied for improving functional capacity in breast cancer patients and quality of life in people with HIV infection. Studies have also looked at tai chi's possible benefits for a variety of other conditions, including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and osteoarthritis. In 2008, a review of published research, also funded by NCCAM, found that tai chi reduced participants' blood pressure in 22 (of 26) studies. 
In general, studies of tai chi have been small, or they have had design limitations that may limit their conclusions. The cumulative evidence suggests that additional research is warranted and needed before tai chi can be widely recommended as an effective therapy." 
Another, less hesitant modern opinion can be read on the website of Hardvard Medical School

While the modern science jury is still out, Chinese medicine has considered Taijiquan as a practice that "can delay aging and prolong life, increase flexibility and strengthen muscles and tendons, and aid in the treatment of heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, digestive disorders, skin diseases, depression,cancer, and many other illnesses."

So, lets say I got convinced. How can I learn the art ?

To start Learning Modern taijiquan one has to make up one's mind: As a result of this popularity, there has been some divergence between those that say they practice taijiquan primarily for self-defense, aesthetic appeal, and those that are more interested in its benefits to physical and mental health. 
We'll stick to the health cause. Once you know what you wish to learn, the next stop is youtube.

Lets finish this post with a warm-up exercise:
This Warm-up is a Youtube quote: 
The secret to manage your stress 
- TAI CHI @ WORK -
 Learn 5 minutes tai chi - Dr Paul Lam

This post is a personal attempt to organize my Taijiquan materials as I am slowly being exposed to this awsome art. Feel free to use it, and share me with me your own experiences !

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