There's nothing quite like tai chi and chigong
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So lets get one thing straight: what we offer as a society is nothing like what you've ever seen or done before.
On the surface, you may be forgiven for thinking that tai chi and chigong (or if you like: taiji / qigong) are any of the following;
Tai Kwon Do
Meditation / Mindfulness
Slow movement therapy for old 'uns
The truth is that tai chi is none of these things, and nor is chigong! Although we are certainly in the right category (i.e mind-body-spirit) and we do in fact practice relaxation, breathing, and movement (and meditation in the common sense) we do each of these to amazing and novel depths, and so much more besides. These are artforms which derive from the ancient Chinese spiritual tradition of Taoism and they're nothing like you've seen before. Lets take those surface examples above:
Yeah sure, we relax. But not just the surface muscles. We have techniques that slowly uproot deep tensions that have taken years, maybe decades, to form and condense; and absolutely everything we do trains the muscles, the nerves and much else more to relax and let go. In thoroughly relaxing the body, it can start to lose its frozen, dead quality and start to come alive and engage. This leads to an entirely different form of strength, and to levels of calm and clarity (mental and emotional) unheard of in normal university life.
A lot of people would call tai chi a form of meditation or mindfulness. You may well think so, but in the context of tai chi, we would say you're missing the point! For us, 'Mindfulness of breath' is actually 'breathing properly' and 'mindfulness of the body' is just 'moving properly'! This level of feeling ought to be so ordinary, so mundane, you don't need special words to define it! Nothing needs to be done, except perhaps to switch on in the first place. That said, everything we do will move you in the direction of being more alive, more present, more mindful - but not just for five minutes during a class, but all the time, 24-7. And the body is the marvellous tool we use to make it happen.
We do indeed move, but not always. A lot of the mechanisms are awareness and relaxation driven, and so can be done invisibly - so when we do move, we do it right. Have you ever moved in such a way that massages your internal organs? That twisting and spiraling, that expanding and contracting, that circling and pulsing. Continuous and smooth, relaxed and uninterrupted, tai chi and chigong really move. There are no disjoints, no gaps, no tensions, and the whole body moves as one unbroken whole. Unlike most exercise systems it actively engages and uses everything: the tendons and fascia and ligaments as well as the muscles ; and activates fluid flows, like blood and lymph and cerebrospinal fluid - that can really do your insides good.
Our breathing engenders these novel levels of engagement [not just pushing air!] every intake and every outtake gives a long, deep massage to the kidneys, liver, spleen (even the heart) always relaxed, always circular, all the time. Integrated into the system, it can eliminate stress before it even begins. 'Therapeutic' doesn't do it justice!
Hopefully that gives you some idea of how novel this stuff is (even on the surface level) and indeed, how much of a contrast to the norm of stress, numbness and general shit-ness that life can be. And that's only the beginning! It must be said that all of this flowery language and description can't give you the right picture. Nah! You have to live it, experience it in your own body to know it. That's why we're here, the most old school mind-body-spirit club at the University of Warwick.
Tai Chi - a most curious martial art
Softness and smoothness in a world of tension and turbulence.
That's a curious one. A martial art that emphasises relaxation, softness and slow, gentle movements in training, surely this is a world apart from the effective - and often brutal and damaging - techniques of most martial arts? So it is the biggest surprise that people still practice tai chi as a martial art in its own right, not just laypeople but seasoned martial artists as well.
All over the world, you see all sorts of old folk in parks performing strange abstract movements which, taken together, slowly prescribe the external movements of tai chi. Do not be fooled! If external movements are the nutshell of tai chi, what we practice is the juicy kernel, precisely what we call internal work (neigong.) These are the very mechanisms that when ingrained over time can make tai chi a lethal combat art (sped up of course) or an excellent platform for health and meditation proper, and they work invisibly below the surface. To be clear, this does not mean venturing off into la-la land or pandering to empty imaginings. Oh no, that is the antithesis of tai chi proper, which can be approached very rigorously indeed. Clear presence-of-mind and intention are a must for good tai chi, as much as the deep, core movements.
Weird and interesting movement mechanics for unified, relaxed strength; powerful relaxation techniques for releasing tensions and engaging tissues to the n-th degree. Smooth and circular awareness that keep one's reflexes and intent switched on. Yes, there can be more than meets the eye in tai chi, but its all below the surface.
Like most of the gentler martial arts that can venture beyond just martial power, like aikido (I can personally vouch for the University of Warwick Aikido club, which is of an excellent callibre - highly recommended) it can take a long time to get good at tai chi from scratch as a martial art.
As of such, it is most martially effective as a form of cross-training to enliven and empower existing martial arts methods; for greater power, speed, fluidity and technique, and also to avoid and actively counter injuries and inabilities stemming from poor quality training. This applies not only to the martial arts, but can benefit any movement artist (dancers included). It is also very effective at balancing and smoothing out mental and emotional patterns, giving tai chi a spiritual/presence-of-mind dimension that simply does not exist in other martial arts.
But that's not to say that tai chi doesn't look out for you. How it does so is most interesting! Simply at the level of being relaxed and switched on with positive attitude and posture to match, one can look bigger (peng-ed) and more vibrant (whatever your build) and therefore much less of a victim. Moreover, danger is much easier to avoid when one is much less distracted, more present. Pre-self defence, if you like - and that disregards
What is of far more concern to most students (and therefore to us) is tai chi's amazing self therapy, self healing and meditation aspects, which are exactly what we people living at university need - therefore, are most valuable.
Qigong - a powerful movement art in stuck times.
Alive and flowing in a time of numbness and stagnancy
Qigong (Chi gong) is often translated as 'energy work' and refers to a family of movement systems designed to open the body, increase physical awareness, and activate and drive the circulation of fluids in the body (such as blood or lymph). It is a branch of traditional Chinese medicine which originated from Taoism along with herbal medicine, bone setting and acupuncture. It is so effective it is still used in Chinese hospitals today alongside the cutting edge techniques of orthodox medicine!
As a physical training system, it has this unique yin flavour that is soft, unstrained and relaxed that leaves you with more energy, not less; with fewer injuries, not more, and with greater calm and clarity, not less. It doesn't have the martial techniques that are hidden in tai chi, nor can it act as a platform for meditation like neigong. It is more peripheral (around the outside) but it is undoubtedly the fastest art at unclogging blocks and bringing a person back to full vitality (and beyond.) Again, as a form of cross training, it can have magical results.
Classes run throughout the academic terms:
Mondays in R1.15, 19:30-21:00 (NOTE: Term 3 Week 3 Monday is in R1.03)
Thursdays in R1.15, 19:30-21:00
If you would like to find out more about us, check out our website here.