Tai Chi Unveiled

By Peter Hill

Q: How many Tai Chi instructors does it take to change a light bulb?
A: 100. 1 to change the light bulb and 99 to stand around and say, “We do it a little differently in our school.” Tai Chi is a beautiful art to watch and yet many beginning students are frustrated by the numerous veils that seem to keep them from seeing what Tai Chi is, how it works, how it can benefit them and the best way to learn it’s intricate and flowing movements. The veils start with how the Western mind perceives things in contrast to Eastern perspectives and concepts, or, in many ways, a left versus right brain approach. We are going to explore both POV (Points Of View) so you can see behind the curtain and integrate what you currently know and train in with Tai Chi Concepts and Principles. Western Left Brain: Tai Chi is a low impact aerobic exercise that generally uses slow movements and deep relaxed breathing to:


  • Allow the muscles to relax and lengthen relieving stress and tension
  • Develops tendon and ligament strength by keeping the joints slightly bent and utilizing twisting and spiraling movements
  • Diaphragmatic breathing promotes better balance or “centeredness” and combined with the gentle twisting movements boosts lymphatic movement and immune function
  • Improves lung capacity and digestion
  • Improves nervous system function
  • Improves skeletal structure through compression exercise
  • Integrates left and right brain into whole brain neural net through left and right side movement ‘switching’
  • Improves cardio function
  • Eastern Right Brain: Tai Chi is not something you learn, it is something you become. The ideogram for ‘Tai’ is a person stretching out their arms opening wide their heart and embracing everything the world throws at them while keeping their ‘center’. ‘Chi’ or ‘Qi’ is a person standing between heaven and earth carving out their world (symbolized by a tree) with their mouth (words) and hands (actions). Tai is often translated as “Great” and Chi as “Energy” or together a great person cultivating their energy. When you have enough energy, you can say and do what you WILL with conscious intent rather than being afraid of what others will think or do. The Art of Tai Chi is made up of qi gung (energy work) and tao yin (movements promoting pliability). When you connect the body, energy and mind with movement and balance you have achieved the Tai Chi, also known as “Moving Meditation”.

    The yin yang symbol also represents the Tai Chi because it is the fusion of light and dark, positive and negative energies (like your car battery) working in harmony.

    You might notice some similarities between Tai Chi and Yoga because Yoga is the mother of Tai Chi.  Damo, also known as Bohhidharma, an Indian Prince, brought his yoga movements from India to the Shaolin Temple in China around 500AD. From static postures to flowing movements, Tai Chi was influenced by Buddhist and then later, Taoist Philosophy. The Chen Family gave birth to it’s modern identifiable movements and then the Yang, Wu and Sun families adapted the art to fit their goals and intentions. Thus today there are 5 Major Family Styles of Tai Chi, 2 Temple Systems and a lot of sub styles and they all “change the light bulb” a bit differently. This brings us to a very important “Rule” in Tai Chi and one you want to keep in mind when looking at schools and teachers. “Do not be overly concerned with FORM or the way in which FORM manifests. Pay attention to the ENERGY and INTENT.”




    Dynamic Living Magazine Issue Vol. 1  Jan/Feb 2011 continue to page 2