Tai chi chuan sometimes referred to as taiji or tai chi, is practiced throughout the world as a health exercise that, when practiced regularly, is an effective and powerful martial art, a health exercise, has meditative benefits, and can make your daily living activities easier to manage. The Yang style was brought to the United States by Chen Man-ch’ing and subsequently fertilized through the teachings of William C.C Chen in the Chelsea area in Manhattan, NYC.
Master Chen brought tai chi to a more wide spread audience and to date has over 150 students who teach throughout the world, spreading the teachings of tai chi chuan. The body mechanics learned by practicing the form is how everyone starts to understand the power and beauty of tai chi chuan. It usually takes three to six months to get the basic form correct. However, you actually never stop learning and refining the form. It’s hard to explain how astonishing it is to feel the power behind this martial art.
On a more practical level, since it is rare (hopefully) that we need to worry about fighting in the streets, there are every day needs to be able to be secure and balanced: when going up and down stairs, when it’s slippery and wet outside, when you feel the need to use extra force as when lifting a heavy object like a suit case, or when you need a little extra force to open a particularly heavy door. Tai chi chuan enables you to understand body dynamics in order to be able to use your chi or energy in combination with your body weight to accomplish a physical task.
Memorizing this dance like movement in a particular order requires practice, usually 10 minutes a day. Obviously, the more it’s practiced the quicker you will learn the basic form. Then, if you are interested in the martial arts aspect, practicing regularly will enable you to advance to pushing hands or actual combat. As the basic movements are memorized the breathing is integrated into the form and coordinated with each of the movements, you learn when to inhale and when to exhale. After a while the forms will have trance like feeling as a natural rhythm is practiced.
It’s important after the basics are learned to be able to relax so that if you move your fist forward, which may be translated to a punch, you must be relaxed, your forearms are loose, your triceps are loose and the vastus medialis muscle is coordinated with the thumb. Both legs are also coordinated with this muscle when there is movement with one knee there is a corresponding and coordinated movement with the other knee. It feels as though the knee is attached to the other knee by a large rubber band.
As the tai chi form is practiced, it is most important for energy flow that the muscles around the rib cage are relaxed. Shoulders must also be relaxed to allow the energy flow. When energy, or chi, flows it feels as though you are rooted to the ground. The big toe feels as though it is cemented to the ground and automatically releases the energy upwards tor an action, such as a punch, kick or even a push. This energy is released through the first two digits of the punching and is coordinated with the thumb. At the same time as Master Chen would say the valve is open, or the ribs are relaxed, to allow energy flow. The explosive force that’s released the somewhat explosive energy or force is called “fa ching”.
When the tai chi form is properly applied it affects some of the cardinal acupressure points. It is important to see maximum effect you should think about the thumb and big toe being activated simultaneously. The Spleen 21, or Da Bao meridian, when stimulated enhances chi or energy flow when you focus on the big toe and the thumb.
Master Chen refers to the bird as though the bird is about to lift off to fly. This is an example of this type of action. If you have a cat and watch it jump onto a table you could notice a similar dynamic: it looks as though the hind legs sink as it winds up and pushes off the ground. It’s as though a giant spring is compressed and then released. Releasing the spring gives the energy for the cat to propel itself up onto a table that 4 feet off the ground. Releasing the spring allows the energy to flow through your fist and relaxed body and arms for a punch. This occurs as the big toe provides the steering or direction.