Is T’ai Chi really a martial art?
Given the gentle, flowing appearance of T’ai Chi, it’s fair to ask, “Is this really a martial art?”
The answer is a definitive Yes. However, T’ai Chi’s health and stress-reduction benefits are so powerful that often the martial art aspects of T’ai Chi are not emphasized, particularly in the West. And it is certainly possible to practice T’ai Chi for the physical and mental benefits alone.
What kind of martial art is T’ai Chi?
T’ai Chi is an internal martial art. This means that every movement in the form must not only have self-defense applications, but must also strengthen the internal organs, joints and energy channels of the body. You might say that internal martial arts strengthen from the inside out, and external martial arts (like Karate or Tae Kwon Do) strengthen from the outside in.
How can it be a martial art with all the slow movements?
T’ai Chi is initially always practiced slowly, which has several advantages.
Moving slowly thoroughly develops the muscles (because no parts of the movements are glossed over). You can feel the difference yourself by standing up and raising and lowering one leg at normal speed, and then trying to do the same movement in slow motion. Moving slowly and gracefully actually takes considerably more muscle control and focus.
The slow pace also allows the movements to sink deep into the body’s ‘muscle memory’. Later, when the movements are sped up to practice the martial art applications, they can be practiced smoothly, without unnecessary tension, which allows them to be performed extremely quickly.
Modern life often results in tension being stored in our body, including our muscles. Moving slowly is one of the most powerful ways to train the body to move without tension, which removes one of the primary barriers to speed and power.
Are there any special benefits for women?
Yes! Master Huang Su Chun discusses some of the unique ways that women can benefit by practicing T’ai Chi.