I love Tai chi and the other spiritual arts of China. My Master is Mrs
Bo Ou Mander of the Chinese Wushu Association Beijing. Under Bo I have
learned the mystical disciplines of China including, Tai Chi and Qi
Gong and Taoist Meditation but most of all Bo has taught me the art of
living in harmony with the world.

The Story of Tai Chi

Tai Chi Quan is one of the legendary arts of ancient China. There are
many myths about its origins; the most popular and well known being
that it was created 800 years ago by Daoist master Zhang Sanfeng who
lived in the Wudang Mountains. The story goes that he had dreams in
which the secrets of Tai Chi were taught to him and that, using these
dreams as inspiration, he softened Kung Fu into a more spiritually
focused martial art.

However, the earliest historical records we have of Tai Chi are only
300 years old and suggest that Tai Chi was first developed in Chen
village in the Wenxian County in the Henan Province, as we know it was
practiced by an army garrison commander and great warrior called Chen
Wing Ting. Many martial arts had developed throughout China due to
many years of foreign invasions and peasant uprisings. But while
previous arts had consisted of powerful quick movements, Tai Chi
emphasized using the opponents force against them and 'overcoming the
vigorous with the soft', using 'one pound of weight to redirect 1000
pounds' and most of all 'adapting oneself to the opponent'. The Tai
Chi movements from this period have both soft and gentle movements and
energetic forceful strikes. As time went on Tai Chi continued to
evolve away from its martial roots and the movements became far
gentler and health focused.

Many styles of Tai Chi evolved throughout China and five main styles
remain to this day: Chen (the original martial style); Yang (a softer
more circular form); Wu (known for its smaller stances and smaller
movement); and second styles, another also named Wu (known for its
quick short range movements); andSun (known for its fast pace and
advanced footwork).

What are the Health Benefits of Tai Chi?

Tai Chi Quian is a traditional Chinese system of health preservation
and illness prevention. Tai Chi could be seen as the healthiest art in
existence as it includes the health benefits of calm and gentle
exercise, the physiological and stress relieving benefits of
meditation, and the curative power of acupuncture. For this reason, in
China Tai Chi is prescribed as a treatment for illnesses as diverse as
high blood pressure, neurasthenia, pulmonary tuberculosis, nervous
breakdown, impotence, anxiety disorder depression, arthritis and even
diabetes. The real power of Tai Chi, however, lies in its power to
prevent illness.

Studies into the effects of Tai Chi have shown that although the
exercises are gentle and require relaxation, they also involve focus
and visualization. They bring about great benefits to the functioning
of the central nervous system while at the same time stimulating the
cerebral cortex, causing stimulation in certain areas and offering
protection in others. This allows the cerebral cortex a rest from any
pathological excitement caused by mental diseases.

The meditative nature of the exercises brings around a relaxation
response in the whole body and this has been proven to lower blood
pressure and completely counteract the negative effects of stress. It
has also been shown that those who practice Tai Chi are more calm and
balanced during everyday life.

Disease prevention studies have discovered that those who practice Tai
Chi have far stronger muscles and bones, have more efficient
cardiovascular, respiratory, metabolic systems, and lower blood
pressure cholesterol than non practitioners. There is also some
evidence that Tai Chi enhances the regulatory functions of the central
nervous system and thus the coordination of the internal organs.

But there may be another hidden benefit to Tai Chi practice not yet
known to science. Traditional Chinese medicine asserts that the body
has natural patterns of an energy called Qi - also spelt 'chi' or in
romanized Japanese, 'Ki'. The concept of Qi is fundamental to
traditional Chinese culture. It is a form of spiritual energy that is
part of every living thing that exists. It is the life force or ether
of the west. The energy regulates the body and keeps it healthy
through a system of channels called 'meridians'. Tai Chi was designed
to ensure the correct and healthy flow of Qi through the body thereby
revitalizing the bodily tissues and organs.

 Butterfly Tai Chi

The traditional styles of Tai Chi consist of movements joined together
like a slow dance. One move flowing to another without hesitation. The
form appears to the onlooker to be like clouds floating across the sky
or similar to a snake moving slowly along the floor.

Each traditional form consists of 108 movements and really needs to be
performed in a large hall or outside. In recent times it has become
increasingly difficult for people to find room to practise such a long
form and many find it hard to remember all the movements.

Through teaching this art learned that  many students found even the
modern short forms hard to practise in enclosed Western domestic
settings and so I resolved to develop a form of Tai Chi that could be
performed while standing on the spot. In a hotel room for example, or
small flat.

The need for Butterfly Tai Chi was there and on a trip to Kew Garden I
found the answer. I noticed butterflies moving their wings to warm
themselves in the sunshine. Watching mesmerized by the movement I
realized this was the only animal I had ever seen exercise.
Butterflies, being cold-blooded, flap their wings in the sunlight to
warm up a little before they can fly. The butterfly was stationary but
inside everything was moving, flapping its wings it was circulating
newly warmed blood throughout its being. The penny dropped: if the
practitioner was going to be stationary then the flow had to happen
internally. We need Tai Chi movements that naturally enhanced the Qi
flow in the order dictated by Chinese medicine. Thus was born the Tai
Chi set described in the best selling book, Butterfly Tai Chi. Brought
to life.


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