What is Tai-Chi?
When most people think of Tai Chi they think of a group of old people doing slow meditative movements in a park, it has even earned the nick name 'old people sneaking up on tree'.
The history of Tai Chi (aka Tai Chi Chuan, aka Taijiquan) is centuries old and has roots in traditions that date back at least 3 millennia. The principles on which the art is founded can be found in some of the earliest Chinese writings. Tai chi, as we know it today, initially gained fame in the 18th and 19th centuries as a powerful internal martial art. In the 20th century, it also became known as a healing exercise.
Why do people today practice Tai Chi?
- Health and healing. Tai Chi has many health benefits that will be discussed in the section below.
- Reduce stress and anxiety.
- It can be practiced at any age. Unlike most other forms of martial arts where old age starts to become a problem at some stage, Tai Chi can be practiced at any age and has been proven to be beneficial for the elderly.
- Self-defense. Although Tai Chi is mainly slow movements, it is a very powerful form of martial arts. It is however an advanced form of martial arts and most people do not practice it a the level required to be able to use it for self defense. It is mainly today done for health and relaxation.
Health Benefits of Tai Chi
Tai Chi is well known for its health benefits and healing power. Tai Chi and Qi-gong is used as part of Chinese medicine, The healing benefits are even well known (although not fully understood) in the west (science and modern medicine). Below are a couple of independent, well known medical sites, news sites and universities that reported on the health benefits of Tai Chi:
Tai-Chi is also known to be great for the treatment of mental disorders like depression, anxiety disorders, panic disorder and more.
Can a Christian do Tai-Chi?
There are of course a lot of Christians that has a problem with Tai-Chi as they claim it is part of an eastern religion. Then there are others that say you can do an alternative form of Tai Chi that focus only on the physical side but you should stay away from the meditation side – that is like drinking decaf coffee – what is the point?
Tai Chi is not a religion. Nothing is worshiped. Tai Chi is used by other religions like Buddhism and Taoism but is not a religion in itself.
What about the yin-yang symbol?
There are a lot of Christians that have a problem with this symbol as they incorrectly claim it represents good and evil. Yin-Yang represents two opposing forces, mutually dependent on one another and in perfect balance.
Example of Yin-Yang
- Yin (female) – Yang (male)
- Cold – Warm
- Night – Day
- Inhale - Exhale
Yin and Yang is not something evil or demonic, it is part of the creation of God (who made male and female, night and day, etc) - the Chinese only came up with a cool name and symbol for it.
This idea of opposing forces in movement is everywhere around us – from large planets orbiting one another to small atoms (negative electrons and positive protons).
In Tai-Chi, Yin and Yang is simply a combination of movements: Accept and divert the attackers force (Yin) - move forward and attack (Yang).
The only place you will read about good and evil in yin and yang is in articles written by 'Christians' who see everything as evil and demonic and have no clue what they are talking about.
What about the meditation?
Tai Chi is called mindfulness in motion.
Mindfulness is, talking a walk in nature and not letting your mind be worried about your meeting tomorrow, your finances or anything else - instead appreciating each breath, the grass, the trees, focusing on the here and now.
With mindfulness you don't 'empty' your mind, but instead focus on the here and now. With Tai Chi you perform each movement focusing on the movement, your breathing and posture.
The idea of mindfulness was also taught by Jesus. When He is talking about the stress of our daily lives in Matthew 6:25-34, He explains that we should look at nature, the birds (26), and the lilies (28). Of course, not just look at nature but understand that God is in complete control (a child of God can do everything better, including mindfulness). He then ends with saying we should not be anxious about tomorrow but focus on today - Matthew 6:34 (the here and now) – mindfulness on steroids!
What about Qi (Chi)?
Qi literally translates as "breath", "air", or "gas", and figuratively as "material energy", "life force", or "energy flow". Qi is the central underlying principle in traditional Chinese medicine and martial arts.
Concepts similar to qi can be found in many cultures: prana in Hinduism (and elsewhere in Indian culture), chi" in the Igbo religion, pneuma in ancient Greece, mana in Hawaiian culture, lüng in Tibetan Buddhism, manitou in the culture of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, ruah in Jewish culture, and vital energy in Western philosophy.
The idea of a life force / energy / power is also in the bible:
He gives strength to the weary, And to him who has no might He increases power. Even youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, But those who wait for the Lord, Will gain new strength and renew their power; They will lift up their wings like eagles. They will run and not become weary, They will walk and not grow tired. - Isaiah 40:29-31
The word for 'power' in the verse above is: kôach kôach (ko'-akh, ko'-akh):
From an unused root meaning to be firm; vigor, literally (force, in a good or a bad sense) or figuratively (capacity, means, produce); also (from its hardiness) a large lizard: - ability, able, chameleon, force, fruits, might, power (-ful), strength, substance, wealth. - taken from Strong's
A 'life force' or 'bio energy' or qi is not some demonic force but something that was created by God. We can also increase our strength (some will call it qi) with our faith - by keeping calm and trusting in God!
There are more examples in the bible that becoming still and calm will increase strength and health:
“In returning [to Me] and rest you shall be saved, In quietness and confident trust is your strength.” - Isaiah – 30:15
A calm and peaceful and tranquil heart is life and health to the body, - Proverbs 14:30
There is also a link between health and your mind/spirit.
A happy heart is good medicine and a joyful mind causes healing, But a broken spirit dries up the bones. - Proverbs 17:22
The spirit of a man sustains him in sickness - Prov 18:14
The word for sustains above is kûl (kool) and means to nourish, 'make provision', sustain, 'provide sustenance'.
This life force (qi) that can heal and increase strength can be used and moved by us. Jesus felt a power that flowed and caused healing:
Immediately Jesus, recognizing in Himself that power had gone out from Him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched My clothes? - Mark 5:30
You might argue - it was God that healed her and not qi or some healing force - yes, God healed her, but He did it by using a power that could be felt flowing. A power that was activated and moved because of the woman's faith. Jesus clearly says because of 'YOUR faith' (Mark 5:34).
The devil is not a creator. God created power. God created our bodies to be able to heal themselves. The Chinese again just came up with a cool name (qi) for something that they saw in God's creation.
Tai Chi is a good way to improve your health and reduce stress no matter what your age is. If you are looking for an instructor, try to find one that will cover all aspects of Tai-Chi, not just the self defense.
If there aren't any instructors or schools close to you, you could teach yourself by getting hold of a Tai Chi book (you might need to shop around for a good one). It will be difficult figuring out the form just from a book - this link is a list of youtube videos that explain the Tai Chi 24 form step by step. You would still need to read some books as only the form is taught in the videos.
Tai-Chi will not be for everyone. There are obviously many other ways you can relax, exercise and improve your health.