Monday, September 22, 2008

Taoist Tai Chi

Taoist Tai Chi is an exercise form of tai chi chuan which is taught in more than 25 countries by the non-profit and associated national Taoist Tai Chi ® societies. It is a modified form of Yang style Tai Chi Chuan developed by Taoist monk Moy Lin-shin. Moy incorporated principles of and other internal arts
to increase the health benefits of practising the form.

Taoist Tai Chi Awareness Days have been proclaimed by municipal governments across Canada since the 1980s to acknowledge that "the slow and graceful movements of Tai Chi relax and strengthen the body and mind, help to relieve stress, develop flexibility and coordination which is particularly beneficial to seniors and others in combating a variety of health conditions and disabilities"

These proclaimed days also serve to acknowledge that "members of the Taoist Tai Chi Society contribute many hours of service to our community, conducting fund-raising campaigns and events that have benefited many charitable organizations and other worthy causes"

Form principles

Taoist Tai Chi has several principles of movement that are meant to be a part of every posture;, these principles are what defines Taoist Tai Chi as a unique tai chi practice. Several of these are attributes espoused by many non-Society teachers, but are expressed somewhat differently than is traditional within Taoist Tai Chi. Here is a brief description.

;Position of the feet "45/90": the principle of 45/90 refers to the desired degree of the feet in relation to one another, usually with the front foot at 90 degrees and the back foot at 45 degrees outward. This is meant to aid in squaring the hips.
;"Squaring the hips": at the end/forward position of a movement the hips of a practitioner should be square or facing completely forward and in line with the front or "90" foot. Conversely, when at the rollback or beginning of a posture the hips should be in line with the back or "45" foot. The professed health benefit of this is that it facilitates a turning/stretching of the spine and an opening of the pelvic region .
;"In-stepping/out-stepping": In order to properly square the hips, the feet should be placed on either side of a straight imagined line. Stepping either too far outside or inside the line makes the space between the feet either too large or to small to square the hips.
;"Head to heel": there should be a straight line from the top of the head to the heel of the rear foot in all forward positions.
;Knee requirement: The knee should not extend beyond the toes to prevent injury.
;Weight placement: In Taoist Tai Chi, similar to the teaching of Wu style Tai Chi Chuan, only one foot should be weight bearing at a time. Also referenced as one foot being Yin or empty and another being Yang or full.

Foundation exercises

In addition to the full 108 Taoist Tai Chi set, students are taught a unique group of cyclical foundation exercises that focus on the joints, called "the jongs". Most of these exercises, either in their form or execution, are completely unique to Taoist Tai Chi. These exercises are not only used as preliminaries to the form, they are espoused as being the basic elements that provide health benefit in the varying movements of Taoist Tai Chi. Instructors often explain postures by referring to a foundation exercise.

The main foundations include:
* A basic forearm rotation: the forearms are held up and forward and rotate in and out. The hands are located in front of the left and right . The elbows are stationary.
* A rotation of the arms in front of the body: making a circular motion with the hands: where one pushes away the other pulls in. The thumbs move from the central axis of the body. It is mainly an upper body stretch in which the arms move outward from the center and then back.
* "Dan Yu" . A squatting exercise meant to work primarily the pelvic region, the legs and the lower back. Fifty or more repetitions may be performed in advanced classes. The feet are placed in a stance wider than the shoulders. When squatting the knees move in the direction of the feet.
* "Tor Yu" . The feet are at the typical "45/90" position, minding the "in-stepping/out-stepping". The pelvis alternates between weight over the front "90" and the back "45" foot. Thus the trunk moves following the pelvis. The hands follow the body and cross in front of the lower Dan Tien when the body moves backward to the '45 back" position, and then uncross and push away towards the "90 front" position leading the trunk. For the outside observer it seems that the hands make a circular motion, however they don't for the practitioner. In addition to its purported health benefits this exercise is particularly similar to the Silk reeling of other styles in that it helps develop the theory of movement present in all of Taoist Tai Chi.
* An arm separation such as in kicks: the arms start crossed in front of the body, move sideways, backward and down, and forward up again with the hands crossed on the centerline in front of the chest.
* A variant of the "Wave Hands like Clouds" move.
* Stationary stance versions of the posture "Snake Creeps Low", in which the practitioner may come to a full standing position in between left and right sides of the posture.
* Sometimes repetitions of various other movements but usually movements that lend themselves to repetition.

Form list

The 108 movements of the Taoist Tai Chi set are:

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