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T’ai Chi Ch’uan For Health & Fitness

by Paul MacFarlane and Bill Grivna

You’ve probably heard something about T’ai Chi, have seen people practicing it in a park, or watched it on a television special about China.  You know it’s some kind of slow moving, graceful exercise that is supposed to be beneficial for your health.  You may also know that at advanced levels it is a formidable martial art based upon relaxation, yielding, and using the opponent’s energy against himself. But do you really “know” about the many health benefits that can be gained from this wonderful, relaxing exercise system?

T’ai Chi, when practiced regularly, has been said to help with relaxation, concentration, coordination, flexibility. posture, (spinal alignment), and both physical and mental balance or centering.  If any or all of this sounds intriguing to you, then we’d like to introduce you to the St. Louis T’ai Chi Ch’uan Association, a  not-for-profit organization has been offering classes in the art of T’ai Chi Ch’uan for over 30 years.

“The five principles we practice are: relax and sink, separate the weight, waist as commander, body upright and beautiful lady’s wrist, ” said Michael David, President of the Association. Mr. David has practiced the Yang Style Short Form, as taught by the Association for nearly twenty years. And like most of the Association’s students, T’ai Chi Ch’uan has changed his life in countless ways. Mr. David tells of his more relaxed manner at work, increased health and vitality, plus increased balance and strength. David adds, “These benefits come subtly, like laying a sheet of paper on top of a sheet of paper. Over time, you find the way you sit, stand and move tends to change. You gain strength, balance, suppleness, stamina, and most of all, a more meditative approach to daily living.”

For centuries, T’ai Chi Ch’uan had been kept a closely-guarded family secret in China. But today, anyone with a sincere interest can learn the basics of the Form. With an earnest practice, some, if not all of the above benefits can be realized –something of value for the remainder of any student’s life.

The Association’s Yang Style Short Form was condensed from the Long Form (mostly by eliminating repetitions) by Professor Cheng Man-Ch’ing, a supremely gifted master of  t’ai chi ch’uan, painting, calligraphy, medicine and poetry. Benjamin Lo, one of the Professor’s senior students, has taught all of the Association’s current instructors. Though now in his eighties, Mr. Lo has strength, sensitivity and suppleness that must be felt to be believed.

Yang Style T’ai Chi is characterized by slow, rhythmic movements of the body. The Form can be practiced at any age, requires no special equipment beyond comfortable, loose clothing and flat, thin-soled shoes. The Form takes about eight minutes to practice, once learned.
To learn more about T’ai Chi Ch’uan, call the St. Louis T’ai Chi Ch’uan Association at 314 -961-1355 or on the web at www.taichistlouis.org. Beginner classes start Sunday, February 5, at the Monday Club in Webster Groves.

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