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Despite regular media claims trumpeting tai chi as the 'perfect exercise' - there is no such thing as a panacea.
There is no miracle cure for aging and ailments.
It is important to avoid foolishness and naivety when it comes to your health.
Pilates, yoga, swimming, jogging, gym work, weight training, Alexander technique and countless other approaches to health and wellbeing all have their pros and cons.
The same is true of tai chi.
Everyone is different and their health needs tend to be specific to the individual. What suits one person may not suit another.
It is important to be open-minded and listen to your body rather than to the media.
Although many people seek to use tai chi as a means of curing illness, this is not where its strength lies.
Tai chi is best employed whilst healthy, not sick.
When a healthy person does taijiquan they are more apt to remain healthy.
It takes far less effort to prevent something than to cure it...
Tai chi differs from other approaches to health because it aims to move in accord with nature.
This means no straining, no forcing anything, no excess and no upset.
Compared to other forms of exercise, tai chi is quite mild. It progressively improves health without ever pushing the body.
Change occurs quietly and unnoticed.
Flawless tai chi?
Tai chi as an exercise system is not without flaw:
(i) Every class is different
Teaching styles and syllabuses vary quite radically in tai chi. There is no real consensus.
Some schools are not professional enough to follow a syllabus.
The very nature of 'tai chi' is subject to debate.
(ii) Muscles & joints
Tai chi may arguably exercise every muscle in the body but it does place emphasis upon certain muscle groups to the relative neglect of other ones.
This is inevitable in any 'system'.
'Tai chi knees' is a common ailment that can arise from poor tuition and/or poor practice.
If you want to improve your health, start with your diet.
Food and drink represent the chemical constituents our bodies require for fuel and wellbeing.
You cannot reasonably eat a lousy diet and expect good health.
The intake needs to be nutritious, balanced, wholesome and good for your body.
Do not regard eating as being a leisure activity. Eat what you need rather than what you want.
me to vibrate the breath and body rather fiercely and loudly like a growling
lion, stretch the tendons, turn the waist like the motions of a food mixer,
hit my own body and then flap my arms in the air.
I started accruing some fa jing, although of a more shocking nature, rather than the smooth kind that can come from tai chi.
The drawback is that it made my energy jumpy.
Many forms of exercise neglect the mind. Tai chi is quite different.
It has grown out of Taoism and offers an approach to living that permeates every aspect of your relationship with the world around you.
If you study tai chi and do not read extensively, you are failing to fully exercise your mind and this will diminish your understanding of tai chi considerably.
Training a variety of exercise systems may offer a more balanced approach to health rather than focussing upon just one system.
However, this might also be time consuming.
If you are training tai chi and want to explore something alongside your tai chi it is important to find a system that is compatible.
By approaching exercise and health from different perspectives, you increase the diversity of your workout and hopefully the resultant health benefits.
Remember the old cliché, though: A jack of all trades is the master of none.
Cross-training is essential but it must be done properly.
Mainstream exercise can potentially sabotage your tai chi because they encourage people to develop and maintain muscular tension.
Muscular tension ruins tai chi and makes it very difficult for people to understand or access the deeper levels of the system.
Not many people can successfully train weights and also get good at tai chi.
If you want to train tai chi alongside something else, do so carefully and with awareness.
Page created 2 March 1995
Last updated 25 April 2017