Chinese martial arts are classified as "external" or "internal" styles. External martial arts develop health of exernal aspects of the body e.g muscle strength, flexibility, cardiovascular fitness, endurance etc. Internal martial arts develop internal health such as cultivation of qi, regulating the smooth flow of qi etc. External stylese include Kung Fu and Wushu, internal styles include Tai Chi, Bagua Zhang, Qi Gong, Xing Yi Quan etc.
To have a greater understanding of Tai Chi's benefits to general health and wellbeing, it is best to explain in the context of both Western Biomechanics and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
In the context of Western Biomechanics:
Correct body posture aligns the spine
- Releases tension & pressure caused by bad posture
- Reduces stress on back
- Improves digestion
Whole body movements are diverse and varied, involving gentle weight bearing and use of all joints at one time or another
- Increases joint mobility, aiding arthritis, chronic pain & similar conditions
- Muscles and ligament strength is increased &/or maintained
- Improves co-ordination
- Bone density is increased &/or maintained
- ‘Massages' internal organs (by increasing the flow of bodily fluids and circulation), improving functions
- Aids recovery from accidents and surgery
Movements are controlled, and deliberately slow
- Looks deceivingly easy, but is highly effective in building and maintaining muscle and tendon strength with proper practice.
- Builds balance
- Aerobic effect maintains and can improve cardiovascular health and stamina
In the context of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM):
Qi or Bio-energy in our body
Tai Chi & Qi Gong are both used to promote "Qi" (personal bio-energy) for self healing and wellbeing. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is based on the knowledge that the body consists of a network of energy channels called meridians. The Qi or bio-energy travels along these meridians to bring vital energy throughout the body and organs. Illness is associated with weak, interrupted or blocked flow of Qi. Therefore it is essential to maintain a healthy level and smooth flow of Qi throughout the body. It is understood that Qi originates from the Dan Tian position of our body. The Dan Tian is located about 3 finger-widths below the navel, inside the middle of the body.
Tai Chi & Qi Gong promote Qi / Bio-energy
Tai Chi & Qi Gong involves whole body muscle movements incorporating deep and controlled breathing. The synergistic effect of the specially designed movements and breathing, cultivates and stimulates the flow of Qi/bio-energy throughout the body. The cultivation and healthy flow of Qi is essential for a longer, healthier life which is also capable of recovering faster from illness and injury.
Tai Chi & Qi Gong are a complete exercise system (addressing Mind, Body & Soul)
TCM recognises and treats each individual as a whole system (or universe), taking into consideration all aspects of Mind, Body & Soul. Tai Chi & Qi Gong addresses all these aspects by:
- Improving physical health through its specially designed whole body movements and breathing methods
- Cultivate and stimulate energy flow (Qi/bio-energy)
- Promote spirit / emotional and mental health through its gentle, meditative exercises which help to relax, clear and clarify the mind.
- Tai Chi & Qi Gong philosophies are closely linked with the universal principals of "Yin & Yang" or "Positive/Negative, Action/Reaction etc." in Western equivalents. The philosophies are applicable in everyday life.
The health benefits of Tai Chi are well documented by studies from universities and health organisations around the world.
Kung Fu (Wushu)
There are many styles of Kung Fu, and all of them promote the traditional values of respect, discipline, balance, health of mind and body. Kung Fu is more dynamic and physically vigorous than Tai Chi. Much of the Kung Fu we teach is based on Wushu style, which is exceptional for developing:
- Cardiovascular fitness, speed and endurance
- Muscle strength, muscle tone and flexibility
- Whole body co-ordination
- Self confidence and discipline