Why Do Chen Style Tai Chi?

“Why do Chen style tai chi?” When I meet new students for the first time, whether in a class, workshop, retreat, or private training, they often ask this question.

Rather than give them a list of reasons, I suggest they ask themselves this question. I do not want them to answer verbally, but rather to write down their reasons in their tai chi notebook.

Then, after practicing for a month, six months, a year, to go back and once again ask, “Why do Chen style tai chi?” And note how their reasons evolve and change.

Because tai chi is an art (wushu = martial art), it is a lifetime study in which we can always learn more, go deeper into it, and further develop all aspects of our lives – physically, mentally, and spiritually.

A martial art must fulfill two functions

Because Chen style tai chi is a martial art, it must fulfill two functions:

  1. It must be beneficial for health and healing for one’s whole lifetime
  2. It must be effective for self defense for one’s whole lifetime

Generally, most people’s reasons for learning tai chi fall within these parameters and/or a combination of the two.  If a martial art does not fulfill both of these functions, then you might want to put that one aside and look for one that does.

Actually, the original tai chi training methods set down by the Chen family, who created this “internal” martial art, are one and the same – meaning there is no separation between training for health and training for self defense – there is one training method for both.

In this article, we will focus on Chen style tai chi’s wonderful benefits for health and healing.

Why Chen style tai chi is good for your health

Often we hear about the many health benefits of tai chi.  But how does tai chi work, and why is it so good for our health?  To list all of tai chi’s benefits for health would be too long for this article.  We will focus on some of the main benefits and why.

Nervous System

When practicing tai chi, great emphasis is placed on relaxation and letting go of tension.  This has a very calming and soothing effect on the nerves.  When the nerves relax, the whole body relaxes, because every part of the body is controlled by the nervous system.

Musculoskeletal System

Chen style tai chi’s continually spiraling movements (called silk reeling), increase vital energy (qi) and blood circulation, and heal injuries to muscles, tendons, and ligaments.  The constant opening and closing (Kai He) movements of the joints restore synovial fluid to regenerate joints and reverse and heal inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.

Cardiopulmonary System

Tai chi’s deep breathing and gentle flowing movements cultivate deep relaxation while increasing oxygenation to all tissues, which lowers blood pressure and improves lung diseases.  Tai chi postures thoroughly exercise the large leg muscles, therefore massaging and strengthening the heart fully.

Immune System

Tai chi movements continuously massage the lymph glands, stimulating lymphatic drainage, which strengthens immunity and resistance to sickness.

Tai chi is good at any age

Tai chi is often portrayed as a “gentle form of calisthenics for the elderly”. This is simply NOT true!

During my years training in Chenjiagou (Chen Family Village), the historical birthplace of tai chi, I observed that everyone practice tai chi on a daily basis.

I was especially impressed with the Tai Chi kids of Chen Village! The children there are observing the elders practicing tai chi every day from infancy. By the time they can stand up, they are already mimicking the tai chi movements, and in a short time they demonstrate tai chi skills that seem to be of people much older than they are!

Everyone. without exception, will benefit from the regular practice of tai chi! Below is a breakdown of some of the benefits that come with different stages in life:

  • For Children – Physical coordination, confidence, concentration, self control, self discipline, self respect, self defense, build strong character
  • For Teens – Build self esteem, self confidence, self worth, positive outlook on life, concentration skills, respect for self and others
  • For Adults – Gain and maintain optimum health, self healing from chronic injuries and illnesses, maintain strength, pliability, and stamina for whole lifetime, manage stress
  • For Adults – Reverse the “normal” symptoms of aging, mental clarity, heightened senses, dramatically improved balance, strengthen immune system to fight infections, regenerate full joint range of motion, reduce/eliminate chronic pain (arthritis, back pain…)
  • For Everyone – Cultivation of deep relaxation of body and mind, improved health, mental clarity, emotional balance, long happy healthy life

In Closing

I will end this article with a quote from my first tai chi teacher, Mr. Chow Chian Chiu, of the Wu style tai chi. When Mr. Chow was asked in an interview many years ago (he was in his 80s at the time) if tai chi was really effective as a martial art, this was his answer:

“You can live your whole life without ever having to fight.  But every day you need good health.  Do you understand?”

When we are young, we are not thinking about our old age.  When we practice tai chi each day, we are already preparing for our later years…

So the question once again, “Why do Chen style tai chi?” Please consider this often as your skill improves – you will most likely find that your reasons will grow along with your skill!

The above article is intended as an overview and introduction to the benefits of Chen style tai chi.  Future articles will expand on all aspects of this wonderful “internal” martial art and health and healing system.

To learn further, have a look at the article entitled  The 3 Principles of Tai Chi.

They are:

  1. Intention (Yi) – using your mind to guide your movements
  2. Letting Go (Fangsong) – pure relaxation
  3. Silk Reeling Force (Chansijin) – tai chi’s continually spiraling full body movements


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