Tai Chi, Meditation in Motion


There is a martial art for everyone regardless of age, strength, flexibility, or skill. Many people can be dissuaded from starting a martial arts journey because they feel they lack the physical prowess or perhaps think that they are too old. However, the path of a martial artist can start at any time in one's life; there are so many martial arts out there and bound to be one for just about anyone. Tai Chi is one such martial art; it has no harsh strength, flexibility, or balance requirements but it builds all 3 for those who practice it.

Tai Chi warmups are atypical compared to other sport or martial arts warm-ups; there is no squats, crunches, push-ups, or other strength building exorcises. Instead, Tai Chi builds leg strength via the stances utilized in the art, namely in the Tai Chi routines. Longer"bow and arrow" stances (also called front or forward stance) strengthen the front leg while "open" stance (back stance) strengthen the rear leg. Tai Chi footwork revolves around moving from stance to stance which alternates which leg is bearing the weight of the body. Essentially, it's similar to constantly doing lunges without ever placing the entire load of the body forcefully on one leg.

Similarly, Tai Chi also builds one's flexibility without the need for stretching typically found in most sports and martial arts. Whereas many sports use static poses and stretches along with joint rotations to improve flexibility, Tai Chi utilizes constant movement that gradually increase flexibility. A practitioner will enter a stance but never be rooted into any pose, rather they will begin a transition to the next stance as soon as they finish the prior. Like building one's strength Tai Chi never makes it feel as though one is stretching, rather it increases gradually as the student trains.

Perhaps the biggest draw to the art form is Tai Chi's way to increase balance among its practitioners. While we've spoken a lot of the stances, which do wonders for increasing strength and flexibility and balance, the footwork is where balance building shines. Tai Chi stepping involves lifting the toes, turning them outward, stepping forward, and landing heel first. However, unlike other striking martial arts, Tai Chi can be done all low to the ground with no high kicks, spins, or jumps. Whether doing the intricate footwork, stances, turning, or even the kicks, Tai Chi can be done low to the ground without ever endangering the practitioner and at the same time building up their balance.

Tai Chi is often seen as a counterpart to yoga whereas in reality it is still a martial art. It builds up ones body and spirit but without ever having that person feel like they are exerting themselves or endangering their body. It is an art of gradual increase to the extreme, mirrored in the routines it utilizes.

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