Sinclair Martial Arts,

Tai Chi - Healing exercise or martial art?

Tai chi as a healing exercise for mind and body

Most people practise tai chi for its many physical and mental health benefits.

A typical tai chi workout includes:

  • Gentle breathing exercises
  • Meditation in various standing postures, which are designed to improve natural posture and alignment.
  • Basic movement patterns. Explore the most efficient and natural range of motion for each part of the body.
  • Standard routines. Tai chi routines vary in length from as few as five or ten movement to as many as three hundred. A routine can take a couple of minutes, or up to two hours depending on the style. Most traditional routines take between fifteen and forty minutes, depending on the student. Each part moves through its optimal range, while maintaining an optimal relationship with every other part of the body.
  • Advanced training includes taiji philosophy, the theory of traditional Chinese medicine, energy cultivation, and strategies for improving the quality of life.

Most tai chi students don't necessarily want to be involved in martial arts in any way. They just want to practice the exercises that can improve their health, state of mind, and help them to feel better. These account for 90 percent of tai chi students.
Becoming a martial artist is to violence what becoming a doctor is to illness.
Ian Sinclair
Tai chi as a Martial Art

One finds many misconceptions and delusions when looking at tai chi as a martial art.
Although tai chi initially became famous as a martial art, the knowledge of how it applies to combat and conflict resolution has long been diluted or obscured.

Martial arts in general are poorly understood. But due to its long history as a healing exercise, most people have lost sight of the practical self-defence training that was once part of the art.

Some have tried to make the water-down version applicable to martial arts. But without the missing core training, and without a true understanding of what a martial art is, most such attempts are likely to fail.

Comprehensive tai chi training includes all the elements of other martial arts.

  • movement, structure, and agility
  • core physical training and conditioning
  • meditation
  • philosophy
  • psychology
  • strategy and tactics
  • technique (striking, blocking, intercepting, joint control, pressure point manipulation, throws and takedowns, grappling)
  • short weapons, long weapons, flexible weapons, throwing weapons,
  • method
  • advanced structure.

Tai chi is often referred to as an "internal martial art." But since so few people can agree on what that means, we don't tend to use such terminology to distinguish one school or "style" from another - not in this school.
I do not teach tai chi as martial style. Rather, I employ it as a pedagogy. To limit myself to tai chi would be a contradiction. It is a vehicle which I use to transcend the limitations of style.
Masters do not become great by practising a style, or by purchasing knowledge, or by self-promotion. Instead, they practise an art, develop a pedagogy, and transcend their egos. Many modern schools market "a style" to students who want paint-by-numbers instruction, simplistic knowledge, and self-validation. The best teachers I know are those who seek to liberate their students from the restrictions of style, from the limits of knowledge, and from delusions of self.
- Ian Sinclair


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