What is Tai Chi?
The full wording for this famous Chinese martial art system (although it is recognised as a health promotion exercise nowadays) is Tai Chi Chuan (Taijiquan), and not Tai Chi, to be precise. The core idea of this martial art system is based on the traditional Chinese Taoist philosophy of Tai Chi (Yin and Yang [陰與陽]). Yin and Yang can be defined as two things on the opposite, i.e. day and night, hot and cold, hard and soft [剛與柔], hollow and solid [虛與實]. In Tai Chi Chuan, it instils the idea of solid/hollow and how to use soft inner force to control and overcome hard, strong physical power.
What is Chi Kung (Qi Gong) [氣功]?
Chi Kung (known as Qi Gong in mandarin) is the ancient Chinese art of combining gentle exercises with simple breathing techniques to enhance fitness, health and well-being and requires less space to practice than Tai Chi. There are several well-known Chi Kung systems, such as Yi Jin Jing, Five Animal Frolics (play), Eight Pieces of Silk Brocade [八段錦] and 6 Healing Sound [六字訣], etc ..., and is suitable for people of all ages.
The Five Animal Frolics [五禽戲] Chi Kung system
The original Five Animal Frolics was created by Hua Tuo (a famous doctor who lived in China almost 1,800 years ago) who imitated the habits and movements of five animals, namely the tiger, deer, bear, monkey and bird. Each exercise has its own individual function for health benefits which include:
- Relief of stress
- Improved blood circulation
- Improved leg strength and balance
- Improved function of the internal organs such as the kidneys, spleen, liver, heart and lungs
Yi Jin Jing [易筋經] (muscle & tendon development)
The Yi Jin Jing is regarded as one of the best Chi Kung systems.
Legend has it that this Chi Kung system was transmitted to the Shaolin monks of the famous Shaolin Temple by Bodhidarma (also known as Da-mo; founder of Zen in China) over 1,400 years ago.
It is renowned for strengthening the muscles and tendons through the circulation of the Chi, stretching and loosening of joints, unlocking and opening meridians while energising the body and mind increasing an individual's internal strength.
Benefits of Tai Chi and Chi Kung
Tai Chi is suitable for all age groups and can be tailored for each individual's capability to improve balance, coordination and concentration. It also reduces stress and benefits people suffering with joint problems, back pain, asthma, ME or high blood pressure. As Tai Chi is a weight bearing exercise, it is claimed that it can help and delay the on-set of osteoporosis (brittle bone disease), a valuable consideration for women of all ages.
The exercises train the body's muscles and bones to be more resilient. It also trains the joints to be more flexible while the integrated Chi Kung (Qi Gong) stimulates the natural breathing process by exercising the lungs and maximising their efficiency in oxygenating the blood, which in turn feeds the body's organs and increases their ability to function.
In short, Tai Chi has the efficacy of treating chronic ailments by building up one's health and bringing longevity. It is an exercise for the whole body and it trains both the mind and the body.
The effectiveness of all training routines is dependent on the individuals current fitness level, how often they train, and various other factors. However, the general concept/requirement of both Tai Chi and Chi Kung is that it commands commitment and dedication (perseverance) to get the best from it.