Discovering the fun of tai chi
2013-January-11 Source: Szdaily web edition
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Although tai chi is generally considered an activity for older people, you can find many tai chi fans in parks around this young city — Shenzhen. Every morning and evening, people flock to public parks or community parks to discuss and practice tai chi.

It is inaccurate to say that only elderly people like to practice tai chi. A Chinese martial art, tai chi is also popular with young people. It's said that more than 100 million people in the world learn tai chi. It has been taught as a part of the physical education program for three years at some local middle schools.

"When my students have learned tai chi, they teach their parents back home. I think our program benefits a lot of people and helps them keep fit," said physical education teacher Mr. Zhong.

Tai chi literally means "supreme ultimate fist." Its main principle is that of "soft" combat.

It absorbs an opponent's aggressive energy and turns it against him. This is in contrast with many other martial arts, which are, in essence, aggressive.

Zhang Sanfeng is credited with being the founder of tai chi. It is thought that Zhang developed a style of movement that combined the existing combat techniques with his own innovations, aimed at increasing the flow of chi, or energy, through the body. This is believed to be a physical manifestation of Taoism, an ancient Chinese belief system.

Tai chi also imbues learners with lessons in how to be a good person and fosters such desirable qualities as honesty, diligence, benevolence, and respect for other people.

Similar to yoga, tai chi involves a series of slow, controlled and focused movements. Although it was originally intended as a form of self-defense, its evolutionary path has brought about a graceful exercise used to improve balance and flexibility and reduce anxiety. It is sometimes described as meditation in motion, with its gentle, flowing movements promoting a sense of serenity.

Who is it for?

A woman surnamed Lin, 56, who has practiced tai chi for many years, said the exercise greatly improved her health and cured her anemia. As tai chi places minimal stress on muscles and joints, it is considered safe for all age groups and fitness levels. It is particularly suitable for the elderly who may be cautious about taking more strenuous forms of exercise. While it is generally safe, pregnant women or those suffering medical problems such as back pain or osteoporosis should always consult a doctor or physiotherapist before practicing tai chi, as certain postures may complicate their conditions.

Attire

Unlike other martial arts, tai chi has no prescribed form of clothing. Those practicing tai chi are free to wear anything they want, although it is probably better to wear loose, stretchy clothing and flat, flexible canvas shoes.

Whereas many forms of exercise now include the use of Spandex body suits for comfort, they are not usually worn by those practicing tai chi. Most people choose to wear a T-shirt and sweat pants. Instructors often discourage wearing skirts or dresses that can interfere with stretching or extended postures.

Preparation

It is crucial to do some form of warm-up before practicing. This will help avoid injury. During warm-up sessions, slow, easy motions, such as shoulder circles, rotating the head from side to side, reaching towards the sky and stretching the spine and legs, all aid in loosening muscles and joints, and help balance breathing.

Tai chi is particularly appealing because it requires no special equipment and can be practiced outdoors in groups, or as a solo pursuit in the comfort of one's home.

Editor: Jecey
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