“This ancient art is an exercise involving the body and mind with movements representative of the circular, encompassing state of the universe. It focuses on bringing serenity in action and action in serenity,” says David Bao, a tai qi and wushu (6th Duan Wei) instructor.
“Tai qi comes about through the balance of yin and yang. In terms of self-cultivation, one must train from a state of movement towards a state of stillness. Even though the movements may seem slow, the prac-titioner is in a constantly latent internal state. It is all about the balance of opposite yet complementary forms. Every movement is based on circles, similar to the shape of the yin yang symbol.” Tai qi chuan, a self-paced system of gentle physical movements which combines the philosophy of tai qi and martial arts, was formed. Each movement has a logical combat application. If one uses hardness to resist violent force, both sides will be injured. Instead, students are taught to meet an incoming force with softness and follow its motion meeting yang with yin. As Lao Tzu wrote in Tao Te Ching: “The soft and pliable will defeat the hard and strong”.
“In tai qi, each posture flows into the next without pause, ensuring that the body is in constant motion to enable the qi (energy) to develop and flow naturally. It is important to allow the muscles in the body to remain flexible and the breathing natural. Advanced students strive to align their mind, body movements and internal energy to achieve an optimum state of balance on all aspects of their lives,” says Bao, 33. Tai qi is believed to be started by the 12th Century Taoist sage Zhang Sanfeng in Wudang Mountains, China. Traditionally, the teachings were kept a secret and were only passed on from master to student. The secrecy prevailed until one of the students, Yang Lu-San of the Chen Family spread the art throughout China and gradually, all around the world. There are five main styles of tai qi — Chen, Yang, Wu, Wu/Hao and Sun, each named after its family of origin.
Tai qi has enjoyed great popularity all over the world due to its immense health benefits. Research has shown that it successfully promotes balance and agility especially for the older population. In addition to keeping people free from falls, it also regulates the immune system, improves circulatory function, maintains bone density, aligns the posture and beneficially alters the lipid profile. It restores the calmness and peace of mind that is often absent in our busy, daily lives.
Don’t be fooled by the gentle, slow movements! Tai qi burns more calories than surfing and nearly as much as downhill skiing. Former 2006 World Tai Qi Champion Bao explains: “Most people are able to observe positive effects in their overall health after three to six months of practising tai qi twice a week. Obvious results have been seen on students with health problems, for example, hypertension, diabetes, asthma and digestive problems.
“As a person ages, the more rigorous forms of physical exercises we choose in our early years may not serve us well. Tai qi is appropriate for people of all ages because the nature of its movements is based on our body’s natural rhythms. In most other exercises, we force our body to move according to the speed we want and sometimes, we hurt ourselves in the process.” Henan-born Bao inherited his martial arts skills from his ancestors from the Shaolin Temple. He started learning martial arts at five and picked up tai qi when he was 16. He trained under Wang Er Pin, also known as “Prince Of Tai Qi” for his wonderful performance of the Chen-style tai qi chuan.
In 2000, Bao established the Fu Sheng Yuan Tai Chi Academy in Malaysia which has more than 300 members. He teaches tai qi and wushu at his centre in Taman SEA, Petaling Jaya. Call Jin Lu at 012-299 8203 for more information.
By Chim Li Yen
The writer is co-founder of The Violet Flame Holistic Shop and Therapy Centre, Bangsar. Check out www.thevioletflame.com.my for more details.