Tai Chi martial arts is a term that refers to the movements associated with an ancient Chinese discipline dating back more than 2,000 years. Most people think of fighting with kicks and punches when they hear the words “martial arts” but Tai Chi is different. This activity consists of slow, rhythmic body movements designed to promote a calm sense of inner peace.
The Five Elements of Tai Chi
Training in this martial art form occurs in five areas. Sanshou are self-defense techniques using subtle movements and internal energy to deflect an attack. Tuishou are response drills that train the body to yield to an outside force and redirect it elsewhere. Qigong involves aligning the mind, breathing, and body while neigong is a series of meditation and Chinese breathing techniques. Taolu are solo weapons and hand forms that are a combination of movements performed as a continuous routine
Who Can Benefit from This Activity?
Because this is a low impact activity with minimal stress on the body, it is suitable for individuals of all ages regardless of fitness level. Practitioners need no special equipment to participate and the activity can take place inside or outdoors. Some people practice with a group of individuals, while others prefer it as a solitary activity.
Health Benefits of Learning Tai Chi
The meditative movements promote a sense of inner calm, which reduces the stress and anxiety that can lead to cardiovascular disease, depression, and other health problems. The arm and body movements help improve balance, agility and flexibility. Repetitive, controlled movements provide an effective way to strengthen muscles. The breathing exercises accompanying the movements can increase aerobic capacity.
Some individuals experience lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Certain research results suggest it can boost the immune system and improve quality of sleep. Because the movements are slow and controlled, it can also provide some relief for individuals with chronic joint pain. Applying the various mind/body concepts without movement is an effective way to deal with stressful situations throughout the day. The individuals who experience the most benefit are those who continue the practice over the long term.
Benefits for Elderly Individuals
Older adults are at higher risk of dying or receiving serious injuries by falling down. Studies done on older individuals who practice this form of martial arts indicate the movements involving shifting weight between the legs and standing on one leg improve balance and reduce the risk of falls. Learning the routines can lead to increased self-confidence and eliminates the fear of falling.
Additional Reasons to Practice Tai Chi
Practicing this martial arts form can be done anywhere at any time. The activity requires just a small amount of space and practitioners do not need any special equipment or clothing. Because it is noncompetitive, individuals are able to practice at their own pace. The risk of injury is low because minimal stress is applied to the joints and muscles. The vast number of movements to learn keeps the workout interesting and reduces the likelihood that the practitioner will be become bored with the activity.
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