Everyone these days has seen Tai chi at some point, either on the television or on a holiday to the far east. To the casual onlooker it looks like some kind of floaty dance sequence, but Tai chi is a sophisticated jewel of Chinese culture that has become part of the global consciousness in the last forty years. It is a martial art, a method of restoring and maintaining good health, a physical manifestation of philosophy in action, and ultimately a yogic path to enlightenment.

Tai chi, or more correctly Tai ji Quan, means roughly grand ultimate fist and refers to its fighting strategy. The Tai ji symbol is what is commonly known as the yin yang symbol in the west, and is the pictorial representation of the core of Taoist philosophy. Yin-YangEssentially the ancient Chinese realised the energy of the universe was split into two opposing and complimentary forces, yin and yang, male and female, light and dark, hot and cold etc.

The fundamental premise of Taoism is that when yin and yang are in balance, harmony, and with it health, success, victory etc will prosper, and when they are not in balance then things are more prone to failure.

As a martial strategy Tai chi sets out to follow these laws of balance between yin and yang. Simplistically when your opponent is yang, i.e. attacking , you must be yin, i.e. yield, receive, deflect etc. He is now yin and now is the correct time for you to be yang and attack. Tai chi cultivates softness in body and  stillness in mind, in order to connect to your opponent and listen for the right moment to attack. Tai chi essentially uses the other persons force against himself, as your opponent dictates the advent of his own demise by attacking in a particular way.

Embodying these principles and practices has the effect of filling your consciousness with these qualities. We all know that life presents constant challenges on a daily basis. Knowing when to act and when to go with the flow is a crucial skill we all must learn. Tai chi trains your intuition and spirit to act in accordance with these universal laws so you respond from a much deeper place. In the end, every thing becomes Tai chi.

Most Tai chi practised in the world however is done so to maintain and restore good health, and Tai chi can be done without having to engage with its martial side or its philosophy. Moving in a soft slow concentrated manor has a very strong effect on both the body and mind and is commonly known as meditation in movement.  It restores correct posture, softens opens and strengthens the joints and muscles, improves balance and builds strength and bone density. It also strengthens the immune system and calms the mind, reducing stressful mental states. Tai chi then becomes a Qi gong, an “energy exercise” that leaves one feeling calm, balanced and more oneself. These aspects have great benefit to offer people in the modern world where disease, poor lifestyle and stress all have a major effect on peoples health.

Our classes at Coast aim to teach people the basic principles and ideas inherent in Tai chi, and focuses on teaching the Wu family long form from Shanghai. Training is traditional as passed down to me from my teacher and his teacher before him. Tai chi presents a completely different way of training the body and mind and provides a framework for understanding life and your own path through it. Its also fun and you will leave class feeling relaxed yet energised. Now that cant be bad!

Here is a video of Jeremy making Tai Chi look so easy – it’s not.

For those of you wanting to try Tai chi – we have a FREE TASTER CLASS on Tuesday, April 8th at 8pm. Please book your place as spaces are limited.

Written by Jeremy Marshall