Tai Chi: Instilling Tranquility in Powerful Movements

Tai Chi - this term may be unfamiliar amongst most people that aren’t Chinese or Taiwanese. In a nutshell, Tai Chi is known as a type of Chinese martial art that aims to balance yin, which represents the dark, colder half containing gentle, mother-like feminine traits; and yang, which represents the bright, warmer half containing strong, dominating masculine traits that coexist in our body. Unlike the fierce gestures that are shown in various types of Chinese martial art, what makes Tai Chi unique is its seemingly peaceful movements that require extra balance and control of your body. My impression of Tai Chi is that only seniors do this form of ‘exercise’ in order to maintain their health. However, after receiving Tai Chi lessons since the beginning of this year, my perception of this exercise completely changed.

Photo courtesy of Taiwan TaiChi official Facebook Page

As I suffer from scoliosis (sideways curvature of the spine instead of a normal, straight spine) since my teenage years, I had been actively searching for various exercises that can slightly heal my sore back. My aunt, who also suffers from the same condition, introduced me to Tai Chi as she finds Tai Chi helpful in healing her back. During the first few lessons, I didn’t really feel the healing effect of Tai Chi. As I continued to receive one-on-one intensive Tai Chi lessons, my body conditions changed; my sore back conditions are no longer as frequent as before, and my body balance improved. Through daily practice of Tai Chi, I believe that this non-intensive exercise is the perfect form of workout for me.

Regarding the one-on-one lessons that I took, they are 2 to 2.5-hour sessions in the morning for about 3 times per week. The morning lessons are taught by teacher Lee, who is the president of the Taiwan Tai Chi Academy. It is truly fascinating to watch her perform Tai Chi movements with utmost elegance as she perfectly combines meticulous body balance and powerful movements. In addition, I had also learned that Tai Chi is an underrated self-defense method. I also had the chance to take a few extra evening, 2-hour lessons throughout the summer break. The evening lessons are taught by teacher Sun, who is teacher Lee’s younger son. He had been learning Tai Chi under family influence since a very young age and is known as the Tai Chi athlete representing Chinese Taipei (Taiwan). The gold, silver, and bronze medals that he garnered are enough to fill an entire shelf. Even though he is only 23-years-young, Sun is able to showcase adept Tai Chi movements that are instilled with his vital and powerful spirit.

Photo courtesy of Taiwan TaiChi official Facebook Page

There are known to be five families of Tai Chi, and the type of Tai Chi that I am introduced to is the Chen-style Tai Chi, which is the oldest and parent form of Tai Chi. In the Chen-style Tai Chi training system, there are 18-gesture, 36-gesture, 56-gesture, and 74-gesture series that you can learn from. Under the full Chen-style Tai Chi training program, it includes learning core principles of Tai Chi movements, such as relaxation and breathing methods. You can also learn about traditional and modern forms of Tai Chi through partner work. For the simplest 18-gesture Tai Chi series, it takes about 4 to 5 minutes to complete all the movements. Even though I had only learned 9 gestures out of the 18 in total, doing these 9-gesture series 5 times every night can effectively make your thighs fit while also being able to train your body balance.

While people may still be prone to engage in ball sports or more rigorous workouts, I truly believe that Tai Chi is definitely a great form of exercise that young adults should try out. Tai Chi serves as the perfect route of health promotion and medical care. Through the period of learning Tai Chi, I am amazed by how Tai Chi is nothing like the boring exercise that seniors do in the park; I come to view Tai Chi as a form of slow dance - you can use pop music that is not too fast-paced as accompaniment when you perform the Tai Chi movements. You only need a room or open space to practice Tai Chi, and being able to perform the various tranquil and powerful gestures makes you feel accomplished.