What health benefits do you get from Tai Chi practice?
If you practice regularly, you can expect to enjoy some or all of the following benefits:
- Improved posture
- Increased leg strength and flexibility
- Better co-ordination and balance
- An increased sense of calm
- Sharper mental focus and deeper concentration
- Lower blood pressure
There is also some evidence to suggest that special benefit can be gained by arthritis sufferers, those prone to osteoporosis, early onset Parkinson’s disease and recovering cardiac patients.
Tai Chi practice may also help to ward off Type 2 diabetes.
How does it do this?
Our Tai Chi and Chi Kung (energy exercise) – based programmes regulate and deepen the breathing. This generates energy whilst helping to calm the mind and the emotions. When the mind and emotions are allowed to become calm, the nervous system will likewise be soothed.
Concentration increases, and people can think more clearly. This enhances decision-making and creative problem-solving capabilities.
Posture is improved, and better balance and physical co-ordination enable the body to work more effectively, reducing the likelihood of an individual sustaining back problems and strains, or suffering injury as a result of falling.
When is the best time to learn Tai Chi?
With ever-increasing demands being placed on the National Health Service by an ageing population, unprecedented levels of childhood obesity and high-pressure lifestyles, the Government is actively encouraging each of us to take responsibility for our own health and general well-being. The change in emphasis from treatment of illness to prevention, and the maintenance of good health is an extremely positive one and means now is an ideal time to start learning Tai Chi Chuan. Skills formed here can help you stay safe, fit, and healthy throughout your life.
My son is nine years old. Is he too young to learn Tai Chi?
On a physical level, there is no reason why a nine year-old should not learn Tai Chi. In China a few years ago we saw a three year-old doing the Form! However, realistically, most youngsters do not have the patience, concentration or personal maturity required to study mainstream Tai Chi. They soon get bored and give up. We advise against letting children attend a standard adult class. They are best taught in a dedicated group; either a families’ group or a children-only group.
I am retired, is it too late to take up Tai Chi?
Definitely not. It is not unusual for people to continue practising Tai Chi well into old age. There are Tai Chi practitioners in their 80s and even their 90s. What matters is your fitness, not your age. However, many older people come to Tai Chi with unrealistic expectations of what Tai Chi training entails, so check this out before committing to a class. If, having read it, you think Tai Chi could be for you, then we would encourage you to go ahead undeterred.
If you are not physically able to take part in a mainstream Tai Chi class, that need not be a problem. We can still accommodate your needs in our drop-in Chinese exercise classes.
Am I fit enough to attend a mainstream Tai Chi class?
You are if you can:
- stand unsupported on one leg for 3 seconds or longer
- bend forwards, backwards and sideways from the waist
- keep your knees flexed at all times when standing and stepping
- breathe easily as you move
As a starting point, you will need a reasonable amount of joint mobility in all joints.
How much time will it take up?
There is little point in paying for Tai Chi classes if you only come once a week, and do not practise in between. The Chen Form has 74 moves and the Yang form is even longer at 108. They take about 20 to 25 minutes to perform and have to be carefully memorised. Sections are added from week to week and failure to memorise one section properly before moving on to the next will ultimately frustrate your efforts to complete the form.
To start, five minutes per day may be enough, but realistically that will have to increase as you add sections. Eventually, half an hour per day is a reasonable guideline. However, it is better to practise for a few minutes each day than to do nothing for several days and then do a lot at one go. “A little and often” is the rule to follow.
How long does it take to learn the Form?
This will depend on how hard you practise and how regularly you attend classes. It is reasonable to expect that you will complete the Form in one year.
I haven’t done Tai Chi before. Can I join any Berkshire Tai Chi Beginners class at any time?
No. Go to the Times and Locations page and you will see which classes are best suited to your needs. Some classes only start on certain dates and require you to enrol in advance, whilst others are Drop-in classes you can attend at any time. There are also more advanced classes which are not suitable for a Beginner.
Can I attend a free Berkshire Tai Chi class to see if I like it?
For those with no previous experience, we offer tasters; typically in the form of a paid 7 or 8-week Introduction to Tai Chi programme which you have to sign up for in advance. These sessions run periodically throughout the year, and are advertised on the website’s News page.
At other times, you are welcome to observe – free of charge – any of our other classes, but you will not be able to take part unless you have relevant previous experience and participation has been agreed with us in advance. If you would like to come along and see one of our groups in action, contact us now.
I fancy coming to a Tai Chi class but I can’t commit to attending regularly. Can I just come along now and then?
No. Tai Chi is not like an exercise class where you just follow along and can drop in and out at any time. Progress is incremental, calling for patience and persistence. Lengthy patterns have to be memorised and new moves are added at frequent intervals until the whole sequence is complete. These can only be memorised through repetition, so without regular attendance and practice between times, you will soon fall behind and become disheartened. Moreover, complex body mechanics underpin each move and these have to be understood and internalised; again these will not be developed without commitment.
How long will it be before I can use Tai Chi for self-defence?
To use Tai Chi effectively for self-defence, you need to develop various skills: the ability to relax and co-ordinate the mind and the whole body, and also sensitivity to both your own energy and that of an opponent. These skills have to be built and honed over time. If you are looking to develop self-defence skills very quickly, Tai Chi is not for you. However, with patience, good instruction, and a conscientious approach to practice, very considerable capabilities can be built up over several years.
Does Tai Chi have a grading system?
No, although competitions are commonplace.
I have just started studying an external martial art. Can I learn Tai Chi at the same time?
You can, but the approaches are different and may confuse you at first. It is more usual to study an external style before moving on to learn Tai Chi. Alternatively, try both and concentrate on one or the other, according to your preference.
As an experienced martial artist myself, does Tai Chi have anything to offer me?
Tai Chi practice develops skills which can be used for self-defence and is increasingly attracting martial artists from other disciplines who value the softness, co-ordination and power developed by Tai Chi training as a way of further developing their own martial arts capabilities.