1) What is Tai Chi? And how is it different from other Martial Arts?
Taichi Chuan (“Supreme ultimate fist”) is the original combat form of martial arts. It was once used for self-defense and warfare just like Karate, Judo, Tae Kwon Do etc. Its history can be traced to more than 5000 years ago. Tai Chi is considered as the Mother of all Martial Arts. The form of Tai Chi used in combat is called the “Hard form”.
Tai Chi (“Supreme Life Force”) is the camouflaged version of the original Hard form. This form was discovered a little over 100 years ago by Grand Master Yang Cheng Fu, a 3rd generation member of the Yang Family. This form is called the “Soft form”.
The Soft form of Tai Chi is composed of slow and graceful movements which can be likened to those of a non-stop flowing river. This is also why it is sometimes referred to as “moving meditation”.
2) What are the different styles of Taichi Chuan?
A number of styles of the Hard Form of Taichi Chuan exist. These are variously named after their respective founders. These are variously called the Chen Style, Yang Style, Wu Style and Sun Style among others. The Yang Style is the most popularly practiced style of Tai Chi in the world. Only this style has both Soft and Hard forms. As a result of the widespread practice and popularity of the Yang Style among the wider population, other styles of Tai Chi have begun incorporating slower, softer and non-stop movements into their practice.
The Tai Chi Academy in India practices the authentic Yang Style of Tai Chi.
3) What are the unique features of the Yang Style?
While practicing the Yang Style, the spinal column remains straight at all times. The moments are flowing and harmonious i.e. there are no jarring or jerking movements, and at no point during practice does the body come to a complete halt. It is only at the end of the practice that the body comes to a halt. The movements are so harmonious that it looks like a gently flowing river. At the end of the practice which typically lasts about 21 minutes, the practitioner feels rejuvenated.
4) Who can practice the Yang Style of Taichi?
Anyone can practice Taichi from day 1. The Academy has students who range in ages from 10 to 85.
5) How does the practice of Taichi benefit the mind and concentration?
Taichi is a combination of physical movements, breathing techniques, and meditation. It works on the Central Nervous System, and calms the mind. In the process, it reduces stress-related problems like anxiety, depression, and helps with the problem of being physically unfit as a result of the modern sedentary lifestyle.
6) How important is my current level of flexibility in order to practice Taichi?
Taichi is simple to perform. In fact, it is so simple that even a person with heart disease or other major health conditions can practice it from day 1, along with the prescribed medication for the respective condition. Taichi is recommended to pregnant women as a great help during this important period in their lives. One’s current level of flexibility has very little bearing on one’s ability to practice Taichi. It is also helpful to note that the more one practices Taichi, the stronger and more flexible one becomes.
7) What is the most effective way to learn Taichi?
Taichi is a martial arts. Like all art forms, the most effective way to learn it is from trained instructors who have been practitioners for many years. It is dangerous and inadvisable to learn it from videos and books without vigilant, guided instruction. Aside from the dangers of bodily damager, it is also impossible to learn this or any other art form, by oneself. Please note that it is essential to know which certified school/academy an instructor is attached to as instructors also learn the art form from their own teachers.
8) What is required to maintain healthy food habits and a healthy lifestyle along with Taichi?
Regular practice of Taichi – for a period of 6 months to 1 year – helps practitioners become more aware of what is beneficial and harmful to their bodies and minds. The secret remains a commitment to practice what has been taught. Innumerable practitioners of Taichi have given up harmful habits by themselves and have replaced these stress or anxiety-relieving behaviours or habits with more healthy ones – including the regular practice of Taichi itself.
9) What is modern Taichi?
The ancient form of Taichi Chuan that was practiced for millennia was the Hard form. This had tremendous value in terms of self defense for oneself and the larger community. Today, this need is far less. Modern Taichi refers to the Soft form of Taichi.
10) How useful is the Soft form in self defense?
The regular practice of the Soft form for a period of at least 5 years will help the practitioner develop the martial arts skills required as a solid foundation for self defense. Along with certain conditioning exercises which Sifu George Thomas teaches from time to time, practitioners are able to use the art form for self-defence purposes as well.
11) How important are books and videos in learning Taichi?
Books and videos are of great benefit if they are not used as a substitute for learning from certified instructors. One can learn the history, philosophy and benefits from books, videos, blogs etc. However, it is worth repeating the caution to not use these as a substitute as one can end up practicing in the wrong way resulting in grave harm in either the short or long term. It is easy to destroy joints or even fracture bones if Taichi is not performed under the watchful eye of a trained instructor.
12) What is the ideal age for learning Taichi?
Your current age.
13) What would happen if I discontinue practice?
With daily practice, you gain the benefits Taichi delivers to you. If you discontinue it, you stop gaining those benefits.
14) How soon can I resume practice after discontinuing it?
Any time you wish.
15) How suitable is Taichi for obese people?
Obese people stand to benefit from regular practice in numerous ways. One of these is that it helps with weight loss. Of course their breathing, posture and the strength of their limbs improves greatly – as it does for all practitioners.
16) How different is Taichi from other martial arts like Judo, Karate or Tae Kwon Do?
Taichi is different in that it is performed in a slow, flowing, graceful and sophisticated manner. The movements are nuanced. The untrained eye misses much of what is being done. One of the most important differences is that it builds strength in your limbs gradually. Taichi helps you become rooted to the ground. A second way it differs from other martial arts is that the practice of Taichi does not leave your exhausted or tired. In fact, you feel energized and rejuvenated. A third way is that it works on your breathing and posture. A fourth is that regular practice helps build your internal calm in stressful situations.
17) How popular is Taichi in India?
Taichi has been growing in popularity over the years. Sifu’s frequent travels, coverage by the media, and other factors have contributed to its rise in popularity. Not least of these factors is the ease with which it can be performed. If you can walk, you can do Taichi. It takes only about 21 minutes daily to perform it. Of course, many practitioners practice it for about half an hour to an hour, daily.
18) Taichi is a meditative art form like Yoga. Why would I choose Taichi over Yoga? What advantages does it have over Yoga?
I will limit myself to 3 main advantages.
- Taichi is a combination of 3 yogas – Hatha yoga, pranayama yoga, and raaja yoja.
- Yoga is performed in one spot. Some people may get bored. Because Taichi is non-stop, flowing movement from one sequence to another – we perform over 600 movements in 21 minutes – it is essential to be fully conscious as one performs Taichi.
- Yoga requires some time to become flexible before one starts. With Taichi, one does not have to spend up time to warm up and warm down. The practice of Taichi involves both.
19) What points must I keep in mind as I begin and continue my practice?
- Be patient. It takes 10-15 classes to get the hang of it.
- The more you practice, the better you get at it. The better you get at it, the more benefits will flow into your life.
- This is not a race to some imaginary finish line. Taichi is something you keep learning and learning about, for a lifetime.
20) How well trained are the instructors in India?
Sifu personally selects and trains each instructor. The selection is not done merely on the number of years a person has spent practicing Taichi. As important as that is, it is equally important to be able to pass on the knowledge in a calm and passionate way. In addition to this, it is essential that the instructor have the time required to pass on this art form as it has been received.
In addition to all these, Sifu regularly visits his instructors and continues to teach them the finer and more subtle aspects of Taichi. There is no end in learning.