Understanding the art of Tai Chi Quan

Written by Eugene Makokha
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The Meaning of Tai Chi Quan
Tai Chi Quan or Taijiquan is translated as “Grand Ultimate Fist” hence many admirers of the art assume that this form of martial is the greatest among other forms of fighting. It is a form of martial art which is described as the principles of yin and yang applied to the human and animal body. According to Wu Jianquan, a Chinese martial arts teacher Taiji comes about through the balance of yin and yang. Tai Chi Quan is embedded in Chinese culture for its health benefits, apart from its effectiveness in attack and defense.

What is Yin and Yang?
The word Yin means “shady side” while Yang means “sunny side”. Yin and Yang refer to two halves that together complete wholeness. They are the starting point for change. To say that something is whole is to say that it is unchanging and complete. When something is split into yin and yang it goes against the equilibrium of wholeness, both halves chase each other while trying to seek balance with each other. The symbol for Yin Yang is called the Taijitu.

Understanding Tai Chi Quan
In Tai Chi Quan, energy is created in the body movements and flows as martial artists practice the art. When yin and yang complement each other, someone is able to interpret the tenacious energy. Continuous and correct practice of Tai Chi enables one to see the yin and yang in motion, such that he/she can develop body and mental energies.

It is important to seek to understand yin and yang in your body as the “push” and “pull” of every tai chi posture. The only way this works is if your movement originates from, and remains connected to the torso. The torso, especially the spine is the pivot point through which every Tai Chi Quan movement goes through. Think of the body as a revolving door. Think and feel: Where does each posture simultaneously push while pulling. The spine acts as a pulley wheel and the right and left sides of the body are like the ends of the rope. Each of the tai chi stances exhibit a mix of solid and empty, or yang and yin, respectively.

Another way to easily find yin and yang in your tai chi moves is to consider where you are protected and where you are exposed. It is crucial to beware of this vulnerability and know that one can always change to cover it if needed. Training to be light and agile in ones legs enables them to quickly change their stance to protect themselves on the vulnerable sides.

To understand Tai chi, it should not be seen as a follow-along routine but as a deeply contemplative mind-body art. Slow down and feel it as you listen. Slowly the yin and yang will reveal themselves to you – first in your tai chi, and then in your life.

About the author


Eugene Makokha

Student at Kenyatta University main campus, Kenya.

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