T’ai Chi Ch’uan For Health and Fitness

by Paul MacFarlane and Bill Grivna

You’ve probably seen people practicing T’ai Chi on TV, in a movie, or even locally, in a park or at the botanical garden. You know it’s a slow moving, graceful exercise that is supposed to be beneficial. You may have heard that at advanced levels it is a formidable martial art based on relaxation, yielding, and using an opponent’s energy against himself. But what 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 improve relaxation, concentration, coordination, flexibility, postural alignment, and both physical and mental balance or centering. If some 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 since 1979.

“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 experienced a more relaxed manner at work, increased health and vitality, plus improved 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 was kept a closely-guarded family secret in China. But today, anyone with a sincere interest can learn the basics of the Form. With dedicated practice, some, if not all of the above benefits can be realized –something of value for the remainder of any student’s life.

The Yang Style Short Form taught at the Association was condensed (mostly by eliminating repetitions) from the Long Form 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. Now in his eighties, Mr. Lo still 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. Once learned, the Form takes about eight minutes to practice.

To learn more about T’ai Chi Ch’uan, call 314 -961-1355 or please go to the web site at www.taichistlouis.org. Beginner classes start Sunday, September 2 and 9, at the Monday Club in Webster Groves.