China has a long tradition of using exercise techniques to promote health and longevity. Its roots go back to ancient times. In the 6th century BCE (Before the Common Era) Lao Tzu wrote in the Tao Te Ching, ‘Yield and overcome, bend and be straight.” From these origins of Taoism comes the central philosophy of Tai Chi Chuan – literally Supreme Ultimate Fist.
In 250 CE the physician Hua Tuo developed a system of exercise based on the movements of five animals. He believed that regular exercise was necessary for good digestion and circulation, and that this would assure a long and healthy life. These Five Animals Exercises form the basis of the modern systems of Tai Chi Chuan and Qi Gong.
In the 6th century CE an Indian monk named Bodihdharma came to China to the Shaolin monastery. He noticed that the monks there were in poor physical condition from meditating too much and moving too little! He developed an exercise system called the Eighteen Form Lohan Exercise, from which came Kung Fu and all other external martial arts forms. Some of these exercises survive today in modern Tai Chi Chuan.
Today Tai Chi Chuan enjoys a world wide following of people with little or no interest in martial arts. They practice Tai Chi for its physical and mental health benefits. Concentrating on the movements of the forms and regulating the breathing brings about a state of mental calmness and clarity. The physical movements rotate the joints of the body to about 95% of their capability, keeping one limber and flexible. No other Western exercise comes close to this range of movement.
Researchers have found that Tai Chi practice improves balance, flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness. Other health benefits include relief from pain, fatigue, insomnia, depression, and symptoms of diseases such as diabetes, fibromyalgia, ADHD in adolescents and many others.
Tai Chi’s gentle, low impact movements burn more calories than surfing, and nearly as many as downhill skiing! These many health benefits explain the huge popularity of Tai Chi Chuan world wide.
*Note – CE (common era) is the same as AD (anno domini). (ex: 1400 CE is same as 1400 AD)
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