Tai Chi in Herts - White Crane Bamboo Club
Tai Chi Chuan.
There are generally considered to be five main styles of Tai Chi Chuan. The original style is reported to be the Chen style. The Chen style is very dynamic with some strong stamping movements and rapid punches. It is obviously very martial in content. From the Chen style came the Yang style and from the Yang came the Wu style. Other styles include the Sun and the Li. There are also variations which have derived from those original styles like the Wudang, the Hao and the Cheng Man-ching.
The style being taught is “Cheng Man-ching”. This is a more health orientated form of tai chi, where moves are done slowly, controlled and coordinated in a relaxed manner from beginning to end. All movements still have martial applications, these will be explained as the student learns the form. One must totally relax whilst carrying out the movements, but it is important to maintain posture. It is also essential to understand the intent of each movement. We also teach “Yang style”.
On its simplest level, the Hand Form is an exercise system. Tai Chi Chuan and more directly, Qigong promotes the smooth flow of this energy. See Qigong syllabus for details on "The Eight Peices of Brocade" or "Ba Duan Jin" and "Yi Jin Jing". By performing the postures of the Form, in co-ordination with relaxed, natural breathing and the application of Yi, which is the intent or focus of the mind, we help to keep the Qi moving smoothly through the channels. Therefore, whilst doing these external movements, we are assisting the free flow of internal energy. This also helps promote blood circulation.
Aside from promoting the flow of Qi energy Tai Chi Chuan can also help to increase flexibility, suppleness and exercise the muscles. The constant transference of weight from one leg to another in the form, slowly lifting one leg whilst standing on the other helps improve balance and also strengthen the legs without damaging any of the supporting joints.The smooth, gentle movements also aid relaxation and help to keep the mind calm and focused. These benefits are extremely useful in today's stressful society.
Each movement or Tai Chi posture carries defensive or offensive applications. To understand these applications it is important to have an awareness of the concept of Yin and Yang, which is at the root of the system of Tai Chi Chuan. Yin is considered to be the soft, feminine principle and Yang the hard masculine principle. In terms of applications a blow or strike would be considered to be Yang force. When the force is coming towards you, you greet it with Yin or softness thereby neutralising your opponent's strike. The postures in the Tai Chi Hand Form are constantly changing from the Yin to Yang aspect. By training slowly, the body becomes familiar with this constantly changing energy. Through training over a long period of time, we can develop these reactions to become instinctive in a combat situation.
If we were only to perform the Hand Form slowly it would not be sufficient training for combat situations. To develop a deeper understanding of how the concept of Yin and Yang applies to Tai Chi Chuan, we have to work with a partner. We start with “Sticking”, here one students fingers are lightly touching the other students wrist. One student leads e.g. moves slowly around, the other student adheres or follows. The student following, initially moves with their eyes open, once use to the movement, then follow with the eyes closed. Sticking is then followed by an exercise we call “Pushing Hands”, or “Tui Shou”. Here we have one partner pushing, with his/her palm against the wrist of the other. When your partner pushes against the back of your hand you would then soften your wrist, drop the elbow and turn from the waist. This allows you to absorb your partner's energy or force and neutralise it down into the ground. When their Yang force has been fully expended or neutralised, you would then turn your hands and return their energy by pushing back towards them. If, however, your partner were to push too far, or over-extend you would then pull them downwards, behind you. During partner work it is important to try to remain calm and relaxed. By doing so we will remain sensitive to our opponent's movements or intention. However, we must also maintain our own sense of presence or 'being there'. If we were simply soft or relaxed without a sense of being there, it would be easy for our opponent to overcome us. There are various types of Push Hands – Single, Double, Fixed Step and Moving Step.
Tai Chi Chuan has a variety of weapon forms. There is, traditionally, the straightsword, the broadsword and the staff. The culture of Chinese martial arts also allows for the adaptation of other common implements for the use of weapons. Some styles may also use a cane, fan, short or long stick and bamboo flute form.
There are many benefits to be gained from practising weapon forms. Aside from the obvious martial benefits training in weapons can help to stretch and relax the muscles and promote blood circulation.
Although Tai Chi may appear to some, to be an easy option, like other martial arts it requires commitment and dedication, to get the best from it. Like anything else in life, the more you put in, the more you get out. In other words, during your initial training period, it is best to attend at least once a week to progress. Do not get despondent during this period, as it does take a few months to grasp mentally and physically an understanding of Tai Chi, so be patient. The first year of learning Tai Chi is very absorbing, and to some might seem arduous, but if you stick with it, the benefits far outweigh the time and effort put in.
From: David Hackett & The Tai Chi Union for Great Britain.