Introduction - What is Tai Chi Chuan

by Cheng Tin-Hung and Dan Docherty

Tai Chi Chuan is a Chinese form of exercise derived from Taoism, one of China's oldest belief systems. The practice of Tai Chi Chuan is beneficial to health and it is also a subtle, sophisticated and scientific method of self-defence.

Since this system of exercise is suitable for people of all ages and requires little or no special equipment, it has gained an enthusiastic reception all over the world. Tai Chi Chuan evolved to help people improve their physical health, equip them to defend themselves against wild beasts and bandits, and also improve their powers of meditation. In other words, Tai Chi Chuan enables people to survive through fitness and self-defence.

Advantages of practising Tai Chi Chuan is good exercise which enables us to develop a healthy body as well as an alert mind. It is a system of exercise suitable for people of all ages. This exercise requires little or no special equipment. It can be practised in a relatively small area either indoors or outdoors. When performed in a slow and relaxed manner, the Tai Chi Chuan Hand Form offers a balanced drill for the body's muscles and joints through the execution of complex manoeuvres in conjunction with deep regulated breathing and the contraction and expansion of the diaphragm. The deep breathing promoted by the slow practice of the Hand Form causes the diaphragm to expand outwards and downwards and contract inwards and upwards. This movement of the diaphragm gently 'massages' the liver and intestines. Deep breathing also promotes a greater intake of air into the lungs than usual. Thus a greater amount of oxygen is available for consumption which increases blood circulation. In so doing it also expands the blood vessels which serve the heart and intestines. Therefore Tai Chi Chuan helps prevent thrombosis and many other ailments of the heart and intestines. The performance of the Hand Form creates a tranquil state of mind through concentration on the movements. In the long term, Hand Form stimulates the central nervous system, which increases the well-being of all the organs of the body. As our muscles move when practising Tai Chi Chuan, they exert pressure on our veins, forcing our blood to flow towards the heart, improving our circulation. The exercise that the stomach muscles receive will improve the digestion, leading to an increased appetite and the prevention of constipation. The graceful movements of Tai Chi Chuan can lead to changes in our disposition, making us more even-tempered and slow to anger.