(9 pages total)
Page 7 - Taijiquan (T'ai Chi) Basics
Although Taijiquan is not an official part of the traditional medical system of China as taught in modern Chinese universities, it is often recommended and sometimes prescribed for certain ailments. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) consists of techniques that promote homeostatis or "balance" of the body's energies. Taijiquan definitely fits this description and is used as a method of maintaining homeostatis and/or helping the body return to homeostatis after a specific disease or illness. Although Chinese surveys and studies show significant benefits from the practice of Taijiquan, most Western physicians dismiss the results as placebo effect. In recent years however, Western scientists have began to look closer because of overwhelming anecdotal evidence and positive results from other studies on the benefit of low-impact and low-intensity exercise.
Large-scale scientific studies in the West have proven the benefits of Taijiquan as it relates to the prevention of falls in the elderly population, and many other studies have been proposed.
Experience In Class
Taking a Taijiquan class is unlike taking any Western exercise class. Loose, casual clothing and flat, soft bottomed shoes are typically worn. Most classes begin with a basic warmup routine that consists of mild stretches and deep breathing. Working up a heavy "sweat" is discouraged, as the emphasis is turned towards "body awareness" and visualizations of energy crisscrossing the meridians and pathways of the body.
The main part of the class is learning a "routine", which is a carefully choreographed set of fluid movements. In most classes, every part of the body is carefully scrutinized and each muscle and joint must follow a set pattern as prescribed by the instructor, who was guided by their instructor, who was guided by their instructor, etc., etc.
Depending on the style being taught and the instructor's methods, these movements (and the slowness in which they are performed) can be quite physically demanding despite their simple appearance. Each student can control the level of difficulty by varying the depth of their stance if the style allows such variation. Students not familiar with learning choreography may find that remembering the sequence of movements quite challenging, and should be prepared to practice between classes (also known as "homework").
Emphasis is placed at first on the balance and correctness of each movement. More advanced classes place more emphasis on the visualization and actual movement of "Qi" or "energy" within the body during the routines. This "Qi" manifests itself in various ways...sometimes with a tingling sensation, a wave-like sensation, warming of various body parts, an electric shock sensation, light pressure on the skin, spontaneous shaking, etc. An experienced instructor will help the student recognize and control such manifestations. Martial applications are sometimes introduced and practiced to help the students visualize the "purpose" and direction of the energy that is being directed.
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