The Chinese characters for Tai Chi Chuan can be translated as the “Supreme Ultimate Force.” The notion of “supreme ultimate” is often associated with the Chinese concept of yin-yang, the notion that one can see a dynamic duality (male/female, active/passive, dark/light, forceful/yielding, etc.) in all things. “Force” (or, more literally, “fist”) can be thought of here as the means or way of achieving this ying-yang, or “supreme-ultimate” discipline.
Tai Chi, as it is practiced in the west today, can perhaps best be thought of as a moving form of yoga and meditation combined. There are a number of so- called forms (sometimes also called “sets”) which consist of a sequence of movements. Many of these movements are originally derived from the martial arts (and perhaps even more ancestrally than that, from the natural movements of animals and birds) although the way they are performed in Tai Chi is slowly, softly and gracefully with smooth and even transitions between them.
For many practicioners the focus in doing them is not, first and foremost, martial, but as a meditative exercise for the body. In Chinese philosophy and medicine there exists the concept of chi, a vital force that animates the body. One of the avowed aims of Tai Chi is to foster the circulation of this chi within the body, the belief being that by doing so the health and vitality of the person are enhanced. This chi circulates in patterns that are close related to the nervous and vascular system and thus the notion is closely connected with that of the practice of acupuncture and other oriental healing arts.
Another aim of Tai Chi is to foster a calm and tranquil mind, focused on the precise execution of these exercises. Learning to do them correctly provides a practical avenue for learning about such things as balance, alignment, fine-scale motor control, rhythm of movement, the genesis of movement from the body’s vital center, and so on. Thus the practice of Tai Chi can in some measure contribute to being able to better stand, walk, move, run, etc. in other spheres of life as well. Many practitioners notice benefits in terms of correcting poor postural, alignment or movement patterns which can contribute to tension or injury. Furthermore the meditative nature of the exercises is calming and relaxing in and of itself.
Classes in Tai Chi and Qi Gong are offered Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings with Russell Therrien. For more details and to register please view the class schedule.