I love Tai chi and the other spiritual arts of China. My Master is Mrs Bo Ou Mander of the Chinese Wushu Association Beijing. Under Bo I have learned the mystical disciplines of China including, Tai Chi and Qi Gong and Taoist Meditation but most of all Bo has taught me the art of living in harmony with the world.

The Story of Tai Chi

Tai Chi Quan is one of the legendary arts of ancient China. There are many myths about its origins; the most popular and well known being that it was created 800 years ago by Daoist master Zhang Sanfeng who lived in the Wudang Mountains. The story goes that he had dreams in which the secrets of Tai Chi were taught to him and that, using these dreams as inspiration, he softened Kung Fu into a more spiritually focused martial art.

However, the earliest historical records we have of Tai Chi are only 300 years old and suggest that Tai Chi was first developed in Chen village in the Wenxian County in the Henan Province, as we know it was practiced by an army garrison commander and great warrior called Chen Wing Ting. Many martial arts had developed throughout China due to many years of foreign invasions and peasant uprisings. But while previous arts had consisted of powerful quick movements, Tai Chi emphasized using the opponents force against them and 'overcoming the vigorous with the soft', using 'one pound of weight to redirect 100 pounds' and most of all 'adapting oneself to the opponent'. The Tai Chi movements from this period have both soft and gentle movements and energetic forceful strikes. As time went on Tai Chi continued to evolve away from its martial roots and the movements became far gentler and health focused.

Many styles of Tai Chi evolved throughout China and five main styles remain to this day: Chen (the original martial style); Yang (a softer more circular form); Wu (known for its smaller stances and smaller movement); and second styles, another also named Wu (known for its quick short range movements); andSun (known for its fast pace and advanced footwork).

What are the Health Benefits of Tai Chi?

Tai Chi Quian is a traditional Chinese system of health preservation and illness prevention. Tai Chi could be seen as the healthiest art in existence as it includes the health benefits of calm and gentle exercise, the physiological and stress relieving benefits of meditation, and the curative power of acupuncture. For this reason, in China Tai Chi is prescribed as a treatment for illnesses as diverse as high blood pressure, neurasthenia, pulmonary tuberculosis, nervous breakdown, impotence, anxiety disorder depression, arthritis and even diabetes. The real power of Tai Chi, however, lies in its power to prevent illness.

Studies into the effects of Tai Chi have shown that although the exercises are gentle and require relaxation, they also involve focus and visualization. They bring about great benefits to the functioning of the central nervous system while at the same time stimulating the cerebral cortex, causing stimulation in certain areas and offering protection in others. This allows the cerebral cortex a rest from any pathological excitement caused by mental diseases.

The meditative nature of the exercises brings around a relaxation response in the whole body and this has been proven to lower blood pressure and completely counteract the negative effects of stress. It has also been shown that those who practice Tai Chi are more calm and balanced during everyday life.

Disease prevention studies have discovered that those who practice Tai Chi have far stronger muscles and bones, have more efficient cardiovascular, respiratory, metabolic systems, and lower blood pressure cholesterol than non practitioners. There is also some evidence that Tai Chi enhances the regulatory functions of the central nervous system and thus the coordination of the internal organs.

But there may be another hidden benefit to Tai Chi practice not yet known to science. Traditional Chinese medicine asserts that the body has natural patterns of an energy called Qi - also spelt 'chi' or in romanized Japanese, 'Ki'. The concept of Qi is fundamental to traditional Chinese culture. It is a form of spiritual energy that is part of every living thing that exists. It is the life force or ether of the west. The energy regulates the body and keeps it healthy through a system of channels called 'meridians'. Tai Chi was designed to ensure the correct and healthy flow of Qi through the body thereby revitalizing the bodily tissues and organs.

Butterfly Tai Chi

The traditional styles of Tai Chi consist of movements joined together like a slow dance. One move flowing to another without hesitation. The form appears to the onlooker to be like clouds floating across the sky or similar to a snake moving slowly along the floor.

Each traditional form consists of 108 movements and really needs to be performed in a large hall or outside. In recent times it has become increasingly difficult for people to find room to practise such a long form and many find it hard to remember all the movements.

Through teaching this art learned that  many students found even the modern short forms hard to practise in enclosed Western domestic settings and so I resolved to develop a form of Tai Chi that could be performed while standing on the spot. In a hotel room for example, or small flat.

The need for Butterfly Tai Chi was there and on a trip to Kew Garden I found the answer. I noticed butterflies moving their wings to warm themselves in the sunshine. Watching mesmerized by the movement I realized this was the only animal I had ever seen exercise. Butterflies, being cold-blooded, flap their wings in the sunlight to warm up a little before they can fly. The butterfly was stationary but inside everything was moving, flapping its wings it was circulating newly warmed blood throughout its being. The penny dropped: if the practitioner was going to be stationary then the flow had to happen internally. We need Tai Chi movements that naturally enhanced the Qi flow in the order dictated by Chinese medicine. Thus was born the Tai Chi set described in the best selling book, Butterfly Tai Chi. Brought to life.

About Martin

My life's work has been to learn and master the art of meditation. To do this I have practiced and studied meditation with unbroken, daily discipline for over two decades as taught in the works of Franz Bardon. However, just like Bardon himself, I have also dedicated my life to gathering what is of use from different traditions around the world - whether hidden in the Japanese mountains, Egyptian desert or with the Indian yogis.

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