The smooth and graceful movement is so characteristic of Tai Chi that we rarely consider why this traditional exercise is performed so slowly.

The benefit of Tai Chi to health is unquestionable. It provides excellent exercise for the muscles and joints, relaxes and collects the mind, at the same time enhancing the bodily functions in a fundamental way. These are largely the consequences of the slow moving exercises.

We go about our daily activities rarely being conscious our movements. In a sense we act by ‘automatic pilot’ most of the time. Tai Chi enables us to re-establish a connection of the mind with the body. The slow movements allow our focus to follow and direct the positioning of our hands and feet. Through this connection we gain greater balance and co-ordination, and our nervous system improves as we develop an awareness of our body.

We would rinse a sponge by gently squeezing it in water. In the same way Tai Chi movements slowly stretch and relax the muscles in our body, thus promoting circulation of blood thoroughly in our blood vessels, reaching to every part of our body without vigorous exertion. By exercising deliberately, we can develop and maintain a correct posture as we learn to relax the tensed muscles that contribute much to chronic pains. Just as importantly the regular gentle turning and twisting of the spine greatly reduces the incidences of neck and back pains.

In keeping with the speed of our movements as we do Tai Chi, our breathing tends to become slow and deep. Deep breathing mobilises the diaphragm, causing a continuing cycle of rise and fall in pressure of the abdominal and chest cavities. This effectively massages the various organs and glands, thus enhancing our bodily functions in a multitude of ways.

Tai Chi is a formidable self-defence discipline. Over a long period of intense practice, the slow but focused movements enable the martial artist to develop a superior inner strength. This strength is considerably more powerful than the brute forces of the ‘hard’ martial art styles. Greater accuracy, opponent awareness, body co-ordination and speed are also the products of the Tai Chi method of practising.

To perform Tai Chi slowly and gracefully is an enjoyable experience. All over the world groups of people in the parks practise in a synchronous way. This has become the social highlight, sport, hobby and leisure activity for a great number of individuals, and they will tell you that Tai Chi would not be the same if you had to hurry it through.

Michael Ngai




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