Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Tai Chi

Tai Chi: More than just calisthenics


Most people associate Tai Chi with yoga or see it as an Eastern form of calisthenics. It was developed as a breathing system that utilized all muscles and joints while circulating the “chi” and is typically practiced for a variety of reasons.

But, at it’s core Tai Chi is a style of Chinese Kung Fu, and if properly taught, is excellent for self-defense.
“Most people seem not to know that Tai Chi is a martial art,” says Wes Adams, founder of the recently opened Columbia Tai Chi center on Rosewood Dr. “It has been heavily ‘marketed’ to the yoga crowd—and it does have many yoga-like benefits—but it is a martial art.”
Modern professional athletes go to sports trainers and sports psychologists to enhance their performance, because they are professionals and they have a lot to lose by failing in their chosen sport. “Well, ancient Chinese martial artists likely lost their lives if they lost a fight,” says Adams, “so you can bet they were motivated to perform at a high level.”
Enter Tai Chi. In ancient China, there were no sports trainers or sports psychologists, but there were the ancient Taoist masters of Chi Kung (Qigong), a mind and body discipline that modern research has proven has tremendous mental and physical benefits. Tai Chi absorbed Chi Kung to enhance the performance, peace of mind and physical health of Chinese warriors.
“The funny thing is that, in our day and age, the martial art of Tai Chi is the most popular form of Chi Kung for health, even though there are hundreds of ancient forms of Chi Kung out there that were developed purely for mind and body health and have no martial content at all,” Adams says, preparing for his next class. “I personally believe that this is because the martial arts movements of Tai Chi much more fully engage the body and the mind than the relatively limited movement of most Chi Kung styles.”
As a martial art style, Tai Chi focuses on self-defense rather than sport competition and focuses on techniques that help practitioners overcome a larger, stronger, faster opponent. Today, it is practiced all over the world. There is still much speculation over who actually created Tai Chi, which translates from the Mandarin (linguistics) "tai chi chuan" as "supreme ultimate fist." Regardless of its creator, the theory—including elements of Taoism and Confucianism—and the martial practice evolved in concert with one another.
Adams, who practiced Tai Chi for 15 years in Charlotte, says he is excited to have found a home in Columbia for his rapidly growing center.
“I helped my teacher start his school, The Peaceful Dragon,” he says. “But, just as you can’t live with your parents forever, I started to feel the itch to go out on my own and open my own center. I knew that I wanted to be far enough from my teacher that my center would not compete with his, but close enough to maintain a good relationship. I knew I needed a major city for the center, but I wanted a city that had a nice feel to settle down in. I looked at both Greenville and Columbia, but of the two, I liked Columbia better. And Columbia had no full time professional Tai Chi center, so it seemed perfect—happily, I was right.”


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