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FAQs

What is Tai Chi?

Tai Chi, also called Tai Chi Chu’an, is a form of exercise which combines flowing movements with deep breathing, relaxation and mental focus. It was developed in China in the 13th Century as a means of self-defence. Today, there are many different schools and styles of Tai Chi: some strongly reflect its martial origins; others focus more on mental and physical health benefits of the practice such as stress-reduction, balance, flexibility, and sense of well-being.

Many courses on Tai Chi also include Qi Gong. What is Qi Gong and how is it different from Tai Chi?

Qi Gong also consists of exercises.  It has its roots in the ancient Chinese philosophy of Tao which speaks of the importance of living in harmony with the flow of natural order.    Qi Gong exercises inspired by the Tao were first developed some four thousand years ago – or even earlier.  Their purpose was to free the flows of life-energy (Qi) though our bodies and thereby improve mental and physical wellbeing and longevity.

Tai Chi Chu’an was forged much later: it can be traced back to the Chinese Yuan Dynasty (AD 1271-1368).  Developed initially as a martial art, it is underpinned by the same principles of Tao and the same understanding of energy accumulation and flow.

Qi Gong practices mostly consist of repetitions of quite short movements;  they can be learned relatively quickly. Tai Chi is usually taught as a sequence of some 24 or more movements called a ‘form’.  Given its origins, each of these movements has a specific martial application and understanding these greatly assists in the learning of the form.  Many teachers will support the learning of tai chi moves through ‘push hands’ (two-person training routines).

Today, Qi Gong and Tai Chi are often practiced together for their synergy in promoting heath, inner peace and strength; and for attuning ourselves with others, the world and the infinite.

How suitable is Tai Chi for elderly people or people who are disabled?

Tai Chi and Qi Gong are low-impact, slow motion exercises.  Movements are flowing, usually circular, and not forced.  Muscles are kept relaxed and the joints are never locked out.  As such, these practices are equally accessible to elderly people as they are to younger people.  Furthermore, many of the movements are suitable for, or can be adapted to, people with a disability, including wheelchair users.

Tai Chi and Qi Gong are referred to positively my many organisations including the NHS, Age Uk and Parkinsons UK.  The world-renown medical centre, the Mayo Clinic in USA promotes Tai Chi as a positive means of managing pain and reducing stress and anxiety.

Lots of health benefits are claimed for Tai Chi – how well substantiated are these?

There is now a very large body of research examining the mental and physical health benefits of tai chi and qi gong.  One widely quoted study reported in 2010 examined 77 scientifically sound (use of randomised control trials and peer reviewed) studies carried out between 1993 and 2007.  It concluded:

A compelling body of research emerges when Tai Chi studies and the growing body of Qigong studies are combined. The evidence suggests that a wide range of health benefits accrue in response to these meditative movement forms, some consistently so, and some with limitations in the findings thus far. This review has identified numerous outcomes with varying levels of evidence for the efficacy for Qigong and Tai Chi, including bone health, cardiopulmonary fitness and related biomarkers, physical function, falls prevention and balance, general quality of life and patient reported outcomes, immunity, and psychological factors such as anxiety, depression and self-efficacy.”

(A Comprehensive Review of Health Benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi, American Journal of Health Promotion, July 2010).

Your school is called Metta Tai Chi, what is the significance of ‘Metta’?

‘Metta’ is a Buddhist term for ‘compassion’ or ‘loving kindness’.  This principle lies at the heart of  Mahayana Buddhism and is inexorably linked with the wisdom that we are all connected – with each other and with our environment – through our common experiences and our interdependence.

Tai Chi has Buddhist roots which go back to the introduction of Buddhism into China and the integration of Buddhist spirituality with martial disciplines, especially the ‘hard’ martial arts centred around the Shaolin Temple.  Later, the emerging ‘soft’ inner-disciplined martial art of Tai Chi Chu’an was imbued not only with the philosophy of the Tao but also with the spirituality inspired by Buddhism.  The true warrior was seen as one whose life is centred on compassion – for themselves, for others, for the world.  From compassion comes balance and harmony.  From balance and harmony comes openness of heart and mind.  From openness of heart and mind comes freedom: freedom from fear and anger, and freedom to decide what should be done.

The principle of Metta is central to our practice and teaching and is reflected in the  structure and running of our School, the kindness and respect we strive to bring to ourselves and others, and the care with which we hold the trust of our students.

It looks interesting, but how would I get started?

There are many dvds and web-based learning programmes available but it really is best to learn from a teacher who can guide your progress, ensuring that your movements are correct, effective and won’t lead to injury.  The first step would be to contact a teacher – many will be very happy for you to watch a class or attend a free ‘taster’ session before joining.

Consult your doctor if you have not exercised for a long time, or if you have a medical condition or any other health concerns.  Also, inform your teacher about any such matters.

I teach Tai Chi but am not affiliated to any school. Is it possible to join the ESTCC and teach under your auspices?

If you are an experienced teacher and share our values, we would love to hear from you.  Joining the ESTCC as a teacher will usually involve attending one or two retreats and undertaking a process of peer assessment.  In the first instance, simply contact any of our teachers who will be able to advise you further.