Deirdre Dwyer first began learning Tai Chi in 1992 on a 6-week trip to China. Hooked from the beginning, she continued to practice and study, most notably in Shanghai where she lived for 5 years, coming second place in a Shanghai competition for the Yang 24 form. She has taught Tai Chi in the US since 2011, and continues to study within the Tai Chi for Health programs established by Dr. Paul Lam.
Tai chi is a noncompetitive martial art known for both its defense techniques and its health benefits. As an exercise, it comprises gentle physical exercise and stretching with mindfulness.
It has been shown to improve balance control, fitness, and flexibility, and to reduce the risk of falls in older people. It appears to reduce pain and the symptoms of depression.
Tai chi is an ancient Chinese tradition that has evolved over centuries to become a means of alleviating stress and anxiety, a form of “meditation in motion.” Advocates claim that it promotes serenity and inner peace.
The phrase “t’ai chi ch’uan” translates to “supreme ultimate fist” or “boundless fist”. Tai Chi can be traced back to Taoist and Buddhist monasteries
History of tai chi
The true origins of tai chi remain a mystery, but the concepts are rooted in Chinese history, in Taoism and Confucianism.
The founder of tai chi is believed to be Zhang Sanfeng, a 12th-century Taoist monk. Some stories claim that Zhang Sanfeng left his monastery to become a hermit, and that he created his own form of fighting based on softness.
Sanfeng is reported 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. 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.”
The low-impact nature of tai chi means it is suitable for people of all ages.
Health benefits of tai chi
The benefits of tai chi are said to include the reduction of stress, anxiety, and depression, and the enhancement of mood, both in both healthy people and in those with chronic conditions.
Some of the benefits claimed for tai chi include:
- Better mood, with lower levels of depression, stress, and anxiety
- Greater aerobic capacity and muscle strength
- More energy and stamina
- Enhanced flexibility, balance, and agility
- Lower blood pressure and improved heart health
Types of tai chi
Tai chi appears to benefit people of all ages.
There are five different styles of tai chi, dating from different periods. Each has its own methods and principles, lineage, and date of origin.
- Chen-style, started between 1580 and 1660
- Yang-style, started between 1799 and 1872
- Wu- or Wu (Hao)-style, started between 1812 and 1880
- Wu-style, started between 1870 and 1942
- Sun-style, started between 1861 and 1932
Some focus on health, while others stress competition or self-defense.