Tai chi principles

Chen Taijiquan's Integrated Curriculum by David Gaffney

A great insight into Chen Tai Chi by a very experienced martial artist with long term connections to the school at the Chen Village. This piece covers important basic stuff in easily understood terms – I am looking forward to the rest of the series. Read the article …

Develop your journey with Tai Chi

As a martial artist (since starting Karate in the early 70’s) and as someone interested in my own personal development, I have experienced many styles around the world and many approaches to personal growth.

Now in my 60’s I try to share what I have learned in those areas and seek to facilitate others in finding their own path. I eventually settled on Chen Style Tai Chi when, having reached the level of 4th Dan, I found it made my Karate much more effective and was better for my body and mind.

Tai Chi is ideal in many respects – martial, health, physical, emotional and intellectual since it has the scope to bring together real world experience with movement and mental/emotional concepts.

Tai Chi is increasingly recognised as a formidable martial art and as a major contribution to continued personal health, e.g. in the realm of falls prevention – see the World Health Organisation. The emotional and spiritual concepts associated with Tai Chi are practical and well proven, e.g. Traditional Chinese Medicine, Buddhism, Taoism, psychology, neuroscience, bio-mechanics. They find much resonance today in helping us each achieve our own harmony with the increasingly stressed societies in which we live.

The end result is more effective movement in all areas – it is said that “you can put Tai Chi into anything – but you can’t put anything into Tai Chi”. Somewhat tongue-in-cheek really since Tai Chi has somehow managed already to hoover up what is useful and reduce it down to some simple principles.

There are many reasons for practicing Tai Chi, here are some of them:

  • Hit a ceiling in other martial arts practice
  • To become more effective as a martial artist
  • Develop a skill in managing health issues, e.g. balance, suppleness, injuries
  • Mental, emotional growth
  • Maintain health and ability into old age – excellent for aiding age related diseases
  • It’s really useful
  • Find the fun again!
Tai Chi and Alternative Health Exercises

Well there are many factors and to begin, as I understand it, during aging cellular replication slows down around 50 or so, that is the number of stem cells in our body start to run down. The 115 year old woman who died a while ago was found to have only two types of stem cell left in her bloodstream – greatly down on a younger person.

Then the cells that do not replicate do not die, they enter a lower energy state of senescence where they are not so efficient or effective at converting the energy of blood sugar work. Consequently we become weaker cell by cell, muscle fibre by fibre. The same of course happens with our internal organs which consequently become likewise as capable!

Now perhaps many things including Tai Chi, exercise in general, good diet, a low stress lifestyle etc. can prolong that period of decline extending the onset of senescence some years, but ultimately, unless we die by trauma, then we all die the same way, by gradual aging.

The difference is that Tai Chi offers a way of developing skill in body usage – Tai Chi people age and die like everybody else – they have simply learned how to deal with it better than most. They learn how to manage their body and if you have not learned Tai Chi by age 50 then this is when you probably still have enough energy left to learn.

The connected movement of Tai Chi allows the whole body to act together, supporting and enhancing the weaker parts. Like a convoy protecting and supporting the slower weaker ship. We need to get the whole convoy home – the whole body – with as little damage or loss as possible.

So, like a team who organise themselves so that the strong support the weak and the quick cover for the slow, the clever for the not so clever – of which each individual will exhibit a range of attributes that need to be meshed together so that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and ensuring that the weakest link does not fail.

As they grow old Tai Chi people learn to do this with their bodies, minds and emotions so that by developing relaxed integrated movement, the body organs and consequently the cells of which they are comprised are less stressed and for any action the whole body is brought to bear – thus compensating for developing weakness.

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Tai Chi group at Belsey Bridge 2016

A small group of us with widely varying interest and background in Tai Chi had an interesting weekend at the Belsey Bridge Conference Centre near Bungay in Norfolk – the theme was around the whole idea of movement and how Chen Tai Chi forms and partner work can help us to develop this in a strong resilient way whatever our level of interest or ability – we focused on the principles of relaxation, movement from the centre and connectedness. This was approached by looking both at releasing the body so that it can move according to these principles – and on how the forms provide a structure to help us study use of the principles in movement with empty hand and with weapons – in this case broadswords.

There was also a good deal of socialising and some personal contemplation in the pleasant grounds of the centre and the nearby convent.

We are now looking forward to the Alternative Health Exercises weekend in May with my friend and colleague Judy Hammond – who brings her wealth of expertise and experience of Alexander Technique – along with a considerable amount of dance and other movement understanding.

A Western View of Chi

31 August 2016
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Models for training, practice and life Many intellectual and emotional models all congruent with each other integrated in a body trained in their principles, which demonstrates the sum of those models and physical practice. Physically the ability to propagate waves through the body emanating from the centre by integrated segmental motion. This result could be […]

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Tai Chi wellness at the RSPB Sandy

19 May 2016
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I was recently asked to do an introductory Tai Chi session at the RSPB Sandy where they were having a staff wellness month with a variety of activities  – on what turned out to be the only rainy day of the week! – but despite this we had a delightful lunchtime session and it was great to do […]

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Chi and body mapping and muscle power

12 May 2016
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It seems to me that when we pattern our bodies through practice – directed by thought – to work according to Tai Chi principles – then we set up an internal pattern of muscle and nerve activation which feels like (and actually is) a flow of movement within our bodies that will be experienced differently […]

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Mindfulness in Tai Chi

18 December 2015
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Mindfulness is receiving a lot of attention in “alternative” circles at the moment – but it is worth reflecting that it is, and has been, a vital component of spiritual meditation and of martial arts for centuries – helping us to link mind, body and spirit on a daily basis. For example we use the […]

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Tai Chi & Alexander Technique Seminar 15th November 2015

20 October 2015
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Covering exercises, spiralling movement, Qigong, meditation, Tai Chi principles and Alexander principles. The seminar will be run by Ian Deavin and Judy Hammond and participants will be engaged in a fascinating mix of meditation and movement, creating inner body awareness and developing a practical and spiritual mind/body link of considerable strength. Qigong is a basic training […]

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How Tai Chi links to Western models of medicine, biology, neuro-science, quantum physics, psychology etc.

10 September 2015
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It is intriguing to find as one asks the questions – what is Tai Chi? – how/why does it work? – that there are often two answers – the culturally Chinese one and an “equal but different” western science one and that they are connected through the reality of the human body which enables a […]

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