What Is Tai Chi Chih
By Michael Isaacs
WHAT IS T'AI CHI CHIH?
You may not realize this. There is a simplified form of t'ai chi. It is called t'ai chi chih® (pronounced tie-chee-cha), often referred to as "joy thru movement". T'ai chi means "the supreme ultimate energy". T'ai chi chih means the knowledge of this supreme ultimate energy.
T'ai chi chih is relatively easy to learn, since it consists of only twenty movements. Its sole goal is to accumulate, balance, and circulate this internal energy called "chi". It is not a martial art. It can be done in the sitting position and no special clothing or equipment is needed. With practice, the moving of this energy through the meridians (energy pathways) often leads to profound physical, mental, and spiritual benefits.
The movements of t'ai chi chih were originated in 1974 by an American, Justin Stone. He is a successful and accomplished businessman, composer, and artist. He traveled many times to India, Japan, and China where he experienced and learned much about martial arts, meditation, and MY PRACTICE.
Among his various endeavors, he taught the traditional martial art of t'ai chi chuan for many years at the University of New Mexico. However, he found that most students were not obtaining the benefits because the form was too difficult to learn. So he originated twenty substantially easier movements. Stone is now 78 and still is leading a productive and creative life as a writer, lecturer, artist, and advisor to the t'ai chi chih organization of more than 1000 accredited teachers.
What is "chi"? It is the universal energy that creates and sustains life in the external world and in our bodies. It moves the planets and the waves in the ocean. It propels the seed to grow vegetables, fruits, and trees. It causes the heart to beat and the lungs to breathe. This invisible entity has been called such names as vital force, cosmic energy, intrinsic energy, life force, and divine consciousness.
The Chinese discovered thousands of years ago that if the chi in the body is accumulated, circulated, and balanced, one will experience health and harmony. Conversely, if the energy in the body is unbalanced and blocked, one will experience the opposite- disease and disharmony. Acupuncture is based on this theory.
Balanced chi means an equal portion of yang (positive, assertive, masculine) energy and ying (negative, yielding, feminine) energy. Circulated chi means a free flow of energy through the meridians, countering stagnation. Accumulated chi means energy drawn from the earth, the air, and from the infinite storehouse of power
in the abdomen. This storehouse of energy in the abdomen located two inches below the navel is called the "t'an t'ien" (pronounced "dantienne").
The benefits from learning and practicing t'ai chi chih are impressive. I know this from my own experience and as a teacher talking to countless students and other teachers.
The most common benefit is serenity. There is the serenity while doing the flowing movements. And there is serenity that can spill over into daily life. Moodiness, irritability, and hyperactivity often lessen. Who among us can say they are not looking for more serenity, calmness, and peace? The practice can be seen as a moving meditation. Such active meditation may attract those who are restless by nature, who find sitting meditation too vague and difficult.
At the physical level, many have achieved substantial results in lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, improving balance, increasing energy, healing of bone diseases like arthritis and osteoporosis, lessening and eliminating knee and back pain, correcting weight imbalances, treating asthma, and reducing the symptoms of diseases of the nervous system such as fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson's disease.
I have been practicing t'ai chi chih for three years. I was accredited as an instructor in November of 2002. After many years of yoga and cardiovascular exercises, I decided to learn a new gentle discipline that would put no stress on the bones, flow like a dance, and add to longevity. I had previously tried t'ai chi chuan, but found this martial art to be too arduous and complex.
The benefits I have received were relatively quick and unexpected. No longer are my hands and feet cold in the winter. My cholesterol lowered despite the fact that I had reduced my aerobic exercises substantially. My knees and ankles became stronger. A painful bursitis in my left toe area subsided.
My most important benefit, however, has been mental. Doing the practice brings me rather quickly into serenity. The soft, continuous flowing movements helps me shift into the relaxation response effects of deep breathing, lower blood pressure and heart rate, relaxed muscles, and less thoughts. This is a real advantage especially at those times when I wish to counter turbulent and upsetting emotions. Now I am fortunate to have added to my daily morning sitting meditation a t"ai chi chih moving meditation during another part of the day. They both help me empty my mind. In this regard, Justin Stone has written:
"Words play no part, nor do concepts. The chi knows well enough what to do without an intellectual road map. All the practiser has to do is to enjoy it and reap the benefits of renewed life force."
What are some of the main principles of t'ai chi chih that can lead to far reaching bodily and mental benefits? Three S's in the movements are the most important factors in moving and balancing the chi- Soft, Slow, and Smooth. There is emphasis in the full shifting of weight from one leg to the other (yinging and yanging). Concentration can be on the soles of the feet or on the rhythmic movement of the abdominal center. Energy comes up from the ground or floor, radiates from the abdominal center, and is drawn in from the air as the arms move. Many of the arm and wrist movements are circular and oblong. This positioning is auspicious since it is in harmony with the universe, such as the round shape of the earth, sun, moon, and our cells.
You can find out more about t'ai chi chih via the website www.taichichih.org. It is best to learn in a group or individual lessons. As adjuncts to learning, there are three helpful tools. There is Justin Stone's videotape, audiotape, and photo text. They can be ordered toll free at 1-888-540-7459.
Consider learning t'ai chi chih. With practice, the window of possibility to intended and unintended physical benefits will be opened. Similarly, in the mental sphere, the door will be opened to what many Asians experienced thousands of years ago and still experience: "serenity in the midst of activity".
®t'ai chi chih is a federally registered trademark