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March 2015 - The 5: Tai Chi Chih

Winter Elise

Tell me a little bit about the basis of Tai Chi Chih and how it differs from Tai Chi Chuan?

The basis of T’ai Chi Chih rests on the principle in Chinese medicine, which holds that maintenance of good health comes with the circulation and balancing of the vital force in the body, known as ‘chi’ in Chinese. This is the same principle found in acupuncture treatments.

T’ai Chi Chuan and T’ai Chi Chih are fundamentally different. T’ai Chi Chih can be roughly translated to mean, “knowledge of the Supreme Ultimate” or “knowledge of Reality”; it is a moving meditation, and regular practice can bring enhanced health and serenity to the practitioner. There are only 19 movements; each movement is done nine times on the left side of the body and nine times on the right, which makes it very easy to learn. In contrast, T’ai Chi Chuan is the ancestral root of the martial arts and means ‘knowledge of supreme boxing’. The movements are stylized blocking and striking postures, and there are 108 patterns, which make it much more difficult to learn.

Justin Stone taught Tai Chi Chuan for 20 years, and he often commented on the high drop out rate in classes; Americans, he said, grew frustrated with the difficulty of learning all the movements. Furthermore, he commented, it would take a good two years of dedicated practice for most of his students to feel the circulation and balancing of the vital force in the body. In 1974, Justin Stone created T’ai Chi Chih. The movements came to him fairly rapidly, and he experimented with various patterns until he settled on those that are known today as T’ai Chi Chih. It is very common that beginning students feel the circulation and balancing of the body’s vital force during the first eight-week class. Because of this speedy result, students stick with the practice.

How long does it take to learn TCC and where can someone do that?

T’ai Chi Chih is very easy to learn since there are only 19 movements and one pose. All the movements can easily be learned in one eight-week class, meeting once a week. Because each movement is repeated nine times on the left side of the body and nine times on the right before moving on to the next movement, it is easy to remember the movements. T’ai Chi Chih is taught by accredited instructors throughout the world. In Albuquerque, it is taught at senior centers, health clubs such as Defined Fitness, and at the non-profit T’ai Chi Chih Center. Someone looking for a class, can go to or and find hundreds of teachers and sites where it is taught.

Personally can you tell me how TCC and being a teacher of TCC has changed your life?

Justin Stone told me years ago that the most frequent letters he got were from people who told him “T’ai Chi Chih has changed my life.” It has certainly changed mine! I took my first class in 1996 because I was suffering from panic attacks as well as severe back pain. During the first eight-week class, both of these chronic conditions almost completely disappeared, and they are no longer problems in my life. I have had many students who have had similar dramatic results from the practice. One student had been scheduled for thyroid surgery, and she cancelled it because her thyroid function normalized. Another lost 35 pounds even though she didn’t change her diet! Another had had weekly migraines since she was 12, and they have almost completely disappeared. Most of these students went on to become T’ai Chi Chih instructors due to the dramatic improvements in their well being.

How does such a slow and peaceful movement help to improve a person’s health and function?

When we watch someone do T’ai Chi Chih, it appears that they are moving through very heavy air; it looks like they are doing almost nothing. There are only three basic principles that they are following: complete weight shift, circularity with the hands and wrists, and polarity positions with the hands; in many of the movements, the hands face each other, which is called ‘polarity’. These three principles cause the vital energy of the body to circulate and balance, which often brings dramatic improvements in felt well being. There have been many medical studies done on T’ai Chi Chih. The UCLA Medical Center studied the effect of T’ai Chi Chih on the shingles virus and found that there was a 50% enhanced immunity to the virus among practitioners. The National Arthritis Foundation specifically endorsed T’ai Chi Chih as being excellent for strengthening the joints and keeping them flexible. The Mayo Clinic study showed a 40% reduction in falls among the elderly who practiced it.

What advice do you have to someone thinking about trying TCC for the first time?

When people tell me they’re thinking of trying a T’ai Chi Chih class, I tell them to participate with an open mind, a happy heart, and a relaxed body. There are no special clothes or shoes to buy, and the movements are so soft and gentle, they don’t have to worry about hurting themselves. It’s a great way for people to learn how to take care of their minds, bodies, and spirits. Furthermore, it’s something they can do for themselves their entire life, and they can do it alone or in groups. The T’ai Chi Chih Center has free practice sessions every week for anyone who has completed a beginning class. So it’s a very affordable investment in their health,

and some of the nicest people I’ve ever met are T’ai Chi Chih students and teachers, and they’ve become close friends

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