Chinese Martial Arts

A man practicing martial arts

One of the most famous Chinese Martial Arts form is Tai Chi. When walking around parks in China, one cannot help but notice many Chinese people practicing the most common form of martial arts: “Taijiquan” (太极拳) or Tai Chi.

Taijiquan is an internal Chinese Martial Arts practiced for both its defense training and its health benefits. Before taijiquan was introduced to Westerners, its health benefits were largely explained through the lens of traditional Chinese medicine, which is based on a view of the body’s healing mechanisms. These mechanisms have not always been studied or supported by modern science, and that may be the reason why taijiquan has not been relatively known in the West. Today, however, taijiquan is in the process of being subjected to rigorous scientific studies in the West. A common misconception by Westerners is to dismiss taijiquan for its health benefits and to focus on defense training. In fact, the majority of health studies have displayed a tangible benefit in some areas to the practice of taijiquan, and health professionals have called for more in-depth studies to determine mitigating factors such as the most beneficial style, suggested duration of practice to show the best results, and whether taijiquan is as effective as other forms of exercise that are more common in the West.

Watch: Taijiquan – Chinese Martial Arts

Chinese Martial Arts Health Benefits

Health benefits for the Chinese Martial Arts of Taijiquan manifest themselves in the physical and in the mental levels. Latest research that has been conducted in the West claims that intensive tajiquan practice has favorable effects on the promotion of balance control, flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness and has shown to reduce the risk of falls in both healthy elderly patients and in those recovering from chronic stroke, heart failure, high blood pressure, heart attacks, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and fibromyalgia. Research also concluded that Taijiquan’s gentle, low impact movements burn more calories than surfing and nearly as many as downhill skiing.

Chinese Martial Arts and the West

Throughout history, Taijiquan developed from being solely applied in China to being recognized and practiced worldwide by people with little or no interest in martial arts training. As time passed and as taijiquan evolved, people all over the world began to appreciate the Chinese Martial Arts benefits to health and to health maintenance: It is believed that focusing the mind solely on the movements of the martial art form helps to bring about a state of mental calm and clarity, much like the one that is achieved during meditation.

Today, though, as people are busy with work, school, kids and other everyday nuisances, Taijiquan might be losing its place of glory, at least in China. As China welcomes a new pace of life, and cities become more robust and vibrant than ever before, taijiquan (and other forms of martial arts) is being tested to see if it can survive modern time constraints. Share your thoughts: Do you think that taijiquan is losing its popularity in China?


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About the Author

Lior Paritzky is the Editor in Chief and Manager of Laowaiblog, an internet platform that provides opinion and views about social phenomena in modern China. Look for Lior on Twitter: Liorpari