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Tai Chi Chuan History & Benifits

WHAT IS TAI CHI CHUAN?

Tai Chi Chuan is an ancient internal soft Chinese
martial art, exercise and health maintenance system.  The practice of Tai Chi Chuan consists of applying precise Chinese principles to a sequence of postures, thus producing a series of graceful soft movements linked together in a slow, smooth, continuous rhythm. In advanced practice, Tai Chi Chuan can also be developed as a form of martial art.

THE HISTORY

The creation of Tai Chi Chuan is attributed to the legendary Taoist master Chang San-Feng of Wu Tang Monastery during the Sung Dynasty (960-1279 C.E.).  There are many accounts as to the creation of Tai Chi Chuan in its history.

The most common of these accounts is that Master Chang once spied a snake and crane fighting and copied the soft, coiling motion of the snake, observing how if struck at a certain point on it body the snake would yield at that point while at the same time it would strike back with another part of its body. The original form he developed consisted of only thirteen postures, corresponding with the eight trigrams of the I Ching (Book of Changes) and the five elements.

The lineage after Master Chang is not precisely clear, but it does lead to a man named Chiang Fah. Chiang taught his form to a man named Chen Wang-Ting, who is recorded as practicing Tai Chi prior to 1644. The Chen family's Tai Chi remained a secret for five generations, not to be taught to anyone outside of the family. Later on, during the 1800's, Chen Chang-Hsin (1771-1853) broke this tradition and taught his family's style and secrets to an earnest student named Yang Lu-Chan (1799-1872).

The Yang style, as we know it today, was standardized by Yang Lu-Chan's grandson, Yang Cheng-Fu (1883-1936). It consists of 108 postures and is characterized by large leaning movements, "peng" or "ward-off" energy, and the slow, even pace most people associate with Tai Chi.

The Yang family masters had a famous lineage of students who created the other major styles of Tai Chi Chuan, which include the styles of Wu, Hao, and Sun. Although each style has its own particular "flavor" and they appear different in their external performance, they all keep to the principles laid out centuries ago by Chang San-Feng.

Cheng Man-Ch'ing (1901-1975) was a student of Yang Cheng-Fu, Cheng Man-Ch’ing was an accomplished painter, calligrapher, poet and traditional doctor when he came to study with Yang Cheng-Fu.  Cheng Man-Ch’ing became excellent at Tai Chi Chuan and soon was know for his great ability and understanding of the principles that govern it.  (Cheng Man-Ch’ing bioraphy)

After twenty years of constant practice, Professor Cheng condensed the form into 37 postures, thereby making it both easier to teach, to learn, and to practice but keeping strict adherence to the principles that govern its internal development. Prof. Cheng had many famous students among those are Dr. Wang (founder of our school), Ben Lo, Abraham Lu, William CC Chen. Through his teachings and his students wiliness to go out in the world and teach all that wanted to learn Tai Chi Chuan, the 37 posture Yang style is among the most popular and recognized in the world today.



THE BENEFITS

Among Chinese, the benefits of Tai Chi practice are traditionally expressed as follows:

It restores youth-like agility and flexibility to people of all ages.


A practitioner's internal energy (chi) develops to a level where one does not tire easily and where one perpetuates excellent health.

Cardiovascular - Tai Chi increases the circulation of blood and oxygen to all parts of the body. The slow rhythmic movements allow people of all ages to improve physical conditioning, decrease fatigue, and develop endurance. The heart rate increases without over-exertion; the movements promote deep relaxed breathing and Tai Chi has been found to reduce high blood pressure.

 

Skeletal System - One main goal of Tai Chi is to achieve proper alignment of the spine with the shoulders and pelvic girdle. Posture is naturally corrected. The slow sustained stretching improves flexibility in all joints. Both of these effects can reduce the natural degeneration of the spine.

 

Muscular System - All the major skeletal muscle groups are used in Tai Chi. Slow stretching alternation with full contraction of the muscles relieves unnecessary muscle tension and improves muscle tone. Strengthening the muscles of the lower back and abdomen is especially good for people with low back pain.

 

Nervous System - Tai Chi develops balance, coordination, and fine motor control. The reflex wiring in the spinal cord is used in the movement patterns and the reflexes are therefore improved. Practicing Tai Chi initially requires focused attention and therefore improves concentration. When the set has been learned well, it is done with relaxed awareness and can have the same effects on the mind as meditation.


All these effects combine to make Tai Chi a means of reducing stress, preventing stress-related diseases and promoting a relaxed sense of well being.


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