by Dr. Wu Tao-Wei© indomaster
Tai Chi Chuan, as most people know, is that slow motion exercise
of the Chinese People. Those Westerners who have not actually
seen this exercise method for themselves have probably seen news
clips of people practicing Tai Chi on the various TV programs or
on video programs about China or Taiwan or Hong Kong or
Singapore. Wherever there are any groups of Chinese, you will
find Tai Chi Chuan being practiced, usually in the early morning
hours by the elderly and in the pre-dawn hours by the Chinese
That Tai Chi Chuan is an incredibly effective method of
self-defense far surpassing Japanese karate, is not generally
known nor do the Tai Chi practitioners, themselves, brag about
this aspect of the exercise. It takes many years to be able to
develop this phase of the art, so most people content themselves
with the health aspects that Tai Chi Chuan -- the Grand Ultimate
Fist -- offers them.
One of the strange things about Tai Chi Chuan is that its
benefits are not readily apparent. Neither its health benefits
nor its martial arts techniques are easy to perceive by the
uninformed observer. The Christian philosophy is to "put your
lamp on a lamp stand and not under a bushel", that is, to beam
your spiritual light outward for the world to see. For an
evangelical movement that strives to bring blessings to others,
this is very fine, indeed. This is called teaching by doing and
teaching by example.
But the Taoist philosophy, from which Tai Chi Chuan derives,
teaches by not-doing and teaching by example. Christian and
Taoist philosophy are similar in this way and also different.
Rather than put your lamp on a lamp stand where someone can knock
it off, Taoism teaches to be humble and to "Mask your brightness.
Be at one with the dust of the earth." In this way, one can go
about their life without attracting attention.
And so, those who are the most expert at Tai Chi Chuan, whether
having the ability of maiming and killing a drug-crazed street
mugger with their bare hands or merely living to extreme old age
without illness or disease -- these you vary rarely see even when
they are standing right in front of you simply because they are
following the humility path of this Taoist martial art. They are
standing there smiling, but their skills are hidden.
And so, it is not easy for a Westerner to discover the treasurers
that are contained in the practice of Tai Chi Chuan. Indeed, it
is not easy for the modern day Chinese youths to discover this,
either. Whether you are a Western barbarian or a Chinese matters
not. But whether you can calm your mind, relax your muscles,
breath like a baby and find the Original Essence of the Universe,
Because both Tai Chi exercise and Taoist philosophy can become
bothersome to think about, and even more bother to write about,
I will try to explain just one aspect of this unique and
ingenious Chinese martial art. And that aspect is this: How is it
that Tai Chi Chuan can cure old age symptoms? How can youths who
practice Tai Chi never suffer from old age and how can people
already old become youthful again through the practice of Tai Chi
Chuan? All of this is true. Tai Chi Chuan does all of these
things. But how? It has already been proven by Western science to
be the very best exercise for increasing and maintaining balance
so that old people don't fall down and hurt themselves. But how
does it cure old age, itself?
First, you must think about it for yourself. The Western
physicians, being both ignorant and incompetent in these matters,
are of no help whatsoever. So, ask yourself what are the first
signs of old age? First, the muscles of the body are always under
a certain tension known as "muscle tone". And over a lifetime,
these muscles become harder and the joints, through lack of
bending, become stiff.
As Lao Tsu wrote: "A man is born gentle and weak. At his death he
is hard and stiff. Green plants are tender and filled with sap.
At their death they are withered and dry. Therefore the stiff and
unbending is the disciple of death. The gentle and yielding is
the disciple of life."
The three main movement fibers of the body are the muscles,
tendons and ligaments. Each is relatively tough to one another.
Ligaments, which attach one bone to the next, are the strongest
and the least pliable. And if the joints are not fully
articulated during one's daily work or exercise, then these
harden and make joint movement difficult or even impossible.
Thus, a person loses the ability to stand or to move easily. Old
age begins when what was once pliable becomes solidified.
Tendons, which attach muscles to bones, are tough and medium in
pliability. And muscles, which do the actual movement, are
attached one to another and to the bones by the tendons. Only the
muscles have the ability to move. And they move only by
contracting or relaxing.
If you look at the muscles, ligaments and tendons of a person,
you will see that as we age, all three of these harden and become
stiff. But they do not become stiff at the same time. What moves,
continues to move. What is rigid becomes more rigid. "A hinge
that is used, needs no oil. A hinge that is not used, rusts into
a solid mass."
You can get an idea of how this system works by using two
different rubber bands, one thick and fat and the other of
regular size and weight. Link them together and give them a
stretch. The thin rubber band is like the muscles in that it
stretches the most. And the thick band is like the tendons in
that it stretches very little. But when you pull on them linked
together, they both stretch. BUT, if you pull them quickly, TIME
enters the equation. Try it yourself as an experiment. It is easy
to do and the experiment will teach you far more than these
written words can. The thin rubber band stretches the most but
linked together with the fat one, they BOTH stretch though at
When the thick and thin linked bands are pulled quickly, it is
the thin one that stretches. The thick one doesn't have time to
stretch. BUT when you pull them slowly, they both stretch. This
is how Western exercise compares with Chinese exercise. In the
West, the goal is usually to be faster and stronger. The
competition of being first in the race or strongest on the weight
machine is paramount. But what happens is that the muscles become
hard and tight and the tendons become brittle. This is a symptom
of old age even in young athletes.
But with Chinese Tai Chi Chuan, BOTH the muscles and the tendons
are stretched because they are MENTALLY linked together through
the concentration of the practitioner. And through the use of
MENTAL CONCENTRATION as he moves slowly, ever so slowly, the
muscles AND the tendons together stretch in coordinated unison.
Try it again with the linked rubber bands. The thick rubber band
will or will not stretch depending upon how slow or fast you pull
them. The muscles and tendons of your body operate on the same
principle -- in unison.
Oh, but I mentioned that Tai Chi Chuan was better than karate in
self-defense, didn't I? This is also true not only because of the
ingenious METHODS that are used but also because of the HEALTH of
the practitioner's body. Karate players and Western athletes grow
old like dogs, full of pain and misery because their muscles are
hard and their joints are stiff. But Tai Chi players grow old
like cats, able to stretch out their claws at any time or to
relax in the sunshine.
The power of Tai Chi Chuan is found in yielding and gentleness.
Through gentle movement, it stretches both muscles and ligaments
while gently bending the joints so as to stretch the tendons, as
well. It dissolves hard ligaments and tendons and makes them
pliable once again while tonifying the muscles into a
complimentary oneness and unity of health and power. In this way,
Tai Chi reverses old age symptoms and preserves health and
In this art, the hard and strong muscles of the body are trained
to become gentle and soft. But this is NOT the gentleness of a
wet noodle, it is the gentleness of silk that we strive to
attain. Silk is stronger than steel. The power and "snap" of the
fat and the thin rubber band linked together is greater than the
power of either one alone. Thus, the practitioner of Tai Chi
Chuan appears to be soft and yielding, but contained within the
gentleness is the snap of a steel whip.
Though Tai Chi Chuan was developed from Chinese Taoist
philosophy, it links directly with the teachings of Jesus: "Be ye
wise as serpents and gentle as doves". Tai Chi Chuan uses the
serpent power of muscles, tendons and ligaments that are pliable
as snakes linked with a mind that is as gentle as a dove. Tai Chi
Chuan brings Health, Joy and Peace to those who practice it. And
it gives Peace to those who watch it being practiced - in the
parks, with the glorious sun rising among the singing of birds
and the sweet scents of the new day. Ah, Tai Chi is wonderful!