Tai Chi Is NOT What You Think It Is!
(this is the second in a series of guest blog posts on Tai Chi)
There are MANY misconceptions that people have regarding Tai Chi. And these misconceptions keep them from exploring how incredible it is for so many different types of people. Thanks, in large part, to martial arts movies many people might immediately think of a very old man of Asian descent with a long white beard in flowing robes gliding around a temple. While this image certainly has an element of truth to it due to Tai Chi’s very long history in China this is not really the Tai Chi of today nor the Tai Chi that fitness professionals need to learn. So what really is Tai Chi? I want to take the chance to provide you with a clear understanding of what it is and what it isn’t.
Does Tai Chi have a religious element?
The origins of Tai Chi are based in Daoist thought and began in the Shaolin Temples as a martial art for the monks. You do not, however, have to accept or practice any religious thoughts or ideas in order to truly benefit from Tai Chi. In the Open the Door to Tai Chi system, we focus on Tai Chi as an exercise and do not explore any of the religious aspects.
Do I have to meditate?
There is a definite meditative effect to practicing Tai Chi and there is ample reason for calling it “movement meditation.” If you are not “in the moment” as you do the form, you will get lost and you won’t be able to incorporate all of the important concepts and principles into the form. You do not, however, have to meditate in the traditional sense.
Is it like yoga?
No. Yoga and Tai Chi vary from one another in several ways. First of all, you are always standing in Tai Chi. In yoga, you may have varying postures including standing, sitting, lying down and even inversions. Yoga has different variations such as Hatha, Vinyasa, Bikram, etc. Tai Chi also has different variations such as Yang, Sun, Chen and Wu. The Open the Door to Tai Chi system teaches the Yang style 24 or Short form. In some variations of yoga, you may have a flow of moves, or you may do separate postures for varying amounts of time in no particular order. Tai Chi is a martial art and it is meant to do as a flow of moves in a determined order. Both Tai Chi and yoga are considered mind/body exercises because of the internal focus developed when practiced.
Do I actually have to spar anyone?
No. While Tai Chi is certainly a martial art and it improves your practice if you develop a sense of your opponent, you do not actually have to fight anyone! Some Tai Chi schools teach “push hands” and forms using weapons which more closely mimic sparring because you have a partner. In The Open the Door to Tai Chi system, however, we simply focus on the form which is performed as an individual.
How many different styles of Tai Chi are there?
The different styles of Tai Chi are Yang, Chen, Wu, Sun, Hao and some combinations as well. In The Open the Door to Tai Chi system, we focus on the Yang style, 24 or short form.
Do instructors have to be certified?
Traditionally, instructors for Tai Chi had to follow a lineage from the original masters in the style. This limited the number of instructors because one would have to find a master, be accepted and probably have to travel extensively to get the years of instruction needed. Some have tried to buck this system by simply learning Tai Chi from videos and then teaching what they learned. This doesn’t, however, give them any kind of feedback as to how they are actually doing with the form and how to improve. There are some organizations in the U.S. that “certify” instructors, but they typically follow the “lineage” form of certification. This shortage of qualified instructors is why I created the Open the Door to Tai Chi system. I want everyone to have access to a competent instructor so more of us can experience the benefits of Tai Chi!
Do I have to wear a uniform?
No. All you really need is comfortable, loose-fitting clothes. Although . . . some of my students after they have practiced Tai Chi for awhile start to request the “silk pajamas” that they see on people in YouTube videos!
Do I have to wear shoes?
No. You can do Tai Chi barefoot. Or you can purchase Tai Chi shoes which are really just minimal slipper-like foot covers. Be careful doing the moves in sport shoes, however, because they tend to be a little too “grippy” and/or clunky and you might twist a knee awkwardly.
I have had a hip replacement (shoulder/knee replacement).
Can I still participate in Tai Chi?
Yes!! Especially if you get involved with the Open the Door to Tai Chi system because we teach it as an exercise and encourage any modifications to movements for all individuals in class. This is not about perfection of movement. It is about movement and helping your body and mind relax.
In the next blog post we will discuss many of the amazing benefits of Tai Chi support by the scientific literature and why it is one of the best (evidence-based) forms of exercise for older adults today.
Want to Learn More? Click HERE for your FREE Tai Chi mini-course!
Dianne Bailey is an experienced martial artist and Tai Chi instructor. She created the Open The Door to Tai Chi certification program so that more fitness professionals can quickly and easily learn how to integrate Tai Chi into their exercise programs to improve balance, strength and cognition with their older clients.