Taiji (Tai Chi)
© Roger Jahnke O.M.D.
The roots of Taiji (T'ai Chi) go deep into Chinese history. Taiji was originally a martial arts practice called Taijiquan (T'ai Chi Chuan). Quan (Chuan) means fist or boxing. The art has a legendary beginning in the philosophy of Daoism (Taoism). Its origin comes as a part of the history of Zhang, Zhan-feng (Chang San-feng) who was highly enlightened, which allowed him the title of Immortal. Some argue that Zhang was mythic, others that he was historic.
He discovered the Taijiquan in a dream and proved its value by killing a hundred bandits in the Wu Dan Mountains in Hubei Province. Taijiquan combines the martial skill of Immortal Zhang and his devotion to the deepest principles of Daoism (Taoism).
Taiji has evolved in three directions. Due to its rich heritage in Daoist spirituality, it is a method for spiritual growth. Due to its profound utility as a fighting art it has become the martial art of choice for many serious fighters. In the middle and common to both is Taiji's powerful application as a self-healing tool.
In Chinese tradition there are thousands of methods and practices for self healing generally called Qigong (Ch'i Kung). Taiji is one category of Qigong forms. Taiji consists generally of 108 separate movements that are connected together into a specific order. There are several kinds of Taiji including: Yang Style, Chen Style, Wu Style and others. Most of these forms of Taiji have created a short form, between 20 and 40 movements, that allows for beginners to learn more quickly, elders to have an abbreviated practice and patients who are ill to practice without too much to learn.
The practice triggers health and healing benefits from both the Asian paradigm of energy and the Western paradigm of physiology. The balance and flow of one's internal self healing energies is enhanced by the slow, intentful, meditative movements of Taiji. At the very same time the delivery of oxygen and nutrition from the blood to the tissues is improved. The lymph system's ability to eliminate metabolic by-products and transport immune cells is increased. The biochemical profile of the brain and nervous system is shifted toward recovery and healing.
During the Cultural Revolution in the 1960's, a very dark time in Chinese history, all forms of Qigong that were intellectually or spiritually based became crimes against the "people". Most forms of Taiji were outlawed as well. After this era certain aspects of China's ancient tradition were recovered. For a short period of time Taiji was the only "party certified" system of health enhancement, usually Yang Style Taiji.
As it became clear that many forms of Qigong were beneficial to people's health, the various forms of Taiji re-emerged. Now in China literally millions of citizens practice Taiji every day; some singularly, some in groups numbering into the hundreds, some with swords, some with large red fans.
Because of the widespread popularity of the Taiji concept outside of China, it is typical for people to think of Taiji when thinking of self healing practices from China. However, it is important to remember that there are many self-healing practices from the Chinese tradition.
There is a lengthy learning process associated with most forms of Taiji . It may be advisable for some people to explore a number of the more simple Qigong forms, particularly those who are extremely busy, older or dealing with illness.
You may wish to explore the words that are used to describe Qigong (Ch'i Kung) and Taiji (T'ai Chi), it will help to clarify a few important points.