Aging Successfully: What makes tai chi so special?

Tai Chi is practiced by about 20 percent of the world’s population and its popularity is increasing rapidly. It is my opinion that tai chi is the perfect, universal exercise. It is safe for people of all ages and of all physical conditions, including those confined to wheelchairs. No special equipment is needed and the various movements can be done at any time and in any location. Best of all, it is low-impact and stress free.

The history of tai chi is filled with truth, legends and some myth. Historians all agree it was founded by a Taoist monk named Chang San Feng while he studied in the sacred Wudang Mountains of China. Apparently the monks needed fighting skills to defend themselves against wild animals and warring tribesmen.

In an attempt to improve those fighting skills, Chang began watching animals in nature fight, and soon realized there was a back and forth, and a circular movement in each animal’s fighting motions.

This was opposite of mankind’s technique which was a continuous attacking of an enemy until one or the other was defeated. Chang used what he learned to develop 13 Forms (movement patterns) and created a new “soft fighting” martial art. For centuries these Taoist Monks kept their fighting techniques a secret. Some historical records say even the government people were afraid of the monks with their magical fighting skills.

As recent as 100 years ago tai chi was considered one of the four basic martial art disciplines. Even though it is now considered predominately an exercise routine, these moves can still be used in fighting off an attacker.

Unlike other martial arts tai chi does not have a rating system, such as a white belt for novices and a black belt for experts. The reason for this is mastering tai chi is viewed internally, such as better peace of mind and healthier organs as opposed to mastering some physical routines.

Over the centuries this ‘soft fighting’ martial art has evolved into comprehensive exercise routines for the mind as well as the body.

The various routines, or forms, include deep breathing exercises and relaxing techniques. Deep breathing techniques are beneficial in weight reduction. Tai chi also builds muscle strength, stamina and balance, which are critical for senior citizens. Medical research believes tai chi has additional benefits such as improving one’s quality of sleep and reducing joint pain.

If you have watched tai chi you know the movements are slow and flowing, like a graceful dance.

There is chair tai chi for those in wheelchairs or others who have difficulties standing. Children and mentally delayed adults can learn basic tai chi forms and benefit from the exercise and health benefits provided. Also, many businesses are now providing tai chi opportunities for their employees.

There are several ways to learn tai chi which are either free or affordable. You can go to the library and check out videos, or use YouTube as both have quality videos on learning tai chi. In addition to general martial arts studios, there are more studios opening that are specifically for tai chi. My favorite method is to find a local class in a community center.

Have you tried tai chi? If so email us with your experiences at I personally reply to every email.

Crystal Linn is a multi-published author and an award winning poet. When not writing, or teaching workshops, Crystal enjoys reading a good mystery, hiking, and sailing with friends and family.