Tai Chi is a type of martial art very well known for its defense techniques and health benefits.
The martial art has evolved over the years into an effective means of alleviating stress and anxiety. It has been considered to be a form of ‘meditation in motion’ which promotes serenity and inner peace.
Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese tradition, its beliefs are thought to have been created by the Taoist monk Zhang Sanfeng in the 12th century.
The phrase “t’ai chi ch’uan” translates to “supreme ultimate fist” or “boundless fist”. Tai Chi has influences that go back to Taoist and Buddhist monasteries.
There are five different styles of Tai Chi, each with their own separate methods and principles:
- Wu- or Wu (Hao)-style
Tai Chi is considered to be safe for people of all ages as it does not put too much stress on the muscles and joints.
In addition to being safe, Tai Chi is also inexpensive as it does not require much equipment. It can be practiced either in a group or alone.
Modern research has found that Tai Chi has positive effects on balance control, fitness, and flexibility. In addition, the martial art has been claimed to reduce the risk of falls among elderly individuals who have suffered from severe heart conditions.
History of Tai Chi
Tai Chi has various different styles and variations, each of which has its own lineage and date of origin. Some forms of Tai Chi focus on health while others stress competition or self-defense.
There are so many different stories that describe the origins of Tai Chi that the real one remains a mystery.
However, the concepts of Tai Chi go back to the beginning of written Chinese history from Taoism and Confucianism. The founder of Tai Chi is believed to be Zhang Sanfeng.
There are stories that claim Zhang Sanfeng left his monastery to become a Taoist hermit and created his own form of fighting based on softness.
Sanfeng is thought to have said:
“In every movement, every part of the body must be light and agile and strung together. The postures should be without breaks. The motion should be rooted in the feet, released through the legs, directed by the waist and expressed by the fingers. Substantial and insubstantial movements must be clearly differentiated.”
Below are the estimated dates of origin of the five different styles:
- Chen-style of Chen Wangting (1580-1660)
- Yang-style of Yang Lu-ch’an (1799-1872)
- Wu- or Wu (Hao)-style of Wu Yu-hsiang (1812-1880)
- Wu-style of Wu Ch’uan-yu (1834-1902) and his son Wu Chien-ch’uan (1870-1942)
- Sun-style of Sun Lu-t’ang (1861-1932)
What are the health benefits of Tai Chi?
The health benefits of Tai Chi are currently being widely studied. The art has been associated with reduced stress, anxiety, depression, and enhanced mood, in both healthy people and those with chronic conditions.
In addition, Tai Chi has been shown to improve aerobic capacity, increase energy, and build muscle strength.
There are health benefits associated with Tai Chi for people suffering from:
- Parkinson’s disease – a study published in NEJM (New England Journal of Medicine) found that patients with Parkinson’s disease who practiced Tai Chi experienced significantly improved walking ability, posture, and fewer falls.
- Chronic heart failure – researchers at Harvard Medical School and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center revealed in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine that patients with chronic heart failure experienced a better quality of life and mood if they regularly practice Tai Chi.
- Fibromyalgia – people living with fibromyalgia responded well to Tai Chi, according to a study published in the NEJM. They reported relief from joint pains as well as other symptoms.
- Diabetes – Tai Chi can improve blood glucose levels and immune system response in patients with type 2 diabetes, according to two studies published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
- Depression – a weekly tai chi exercise class with a standard depression treatment for a group of depressed elderly adults could be very effective in treating symptoms of depression, according to a study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.