Longevity and Tai Chi Quan
People who practice Tai Chi Quan may have different reasons for doing so. Some may just do it as a sport, others may do it for exercise, and still others may want to master a martial art. However, there is another benefit of Tai Chi Quan: Anti-aging. When done properly, Tai Chi Quan can lengthen one’s lifespan.
Tai Chi is Qigong. By practicing Tai Chi Quan, people can enrich their original Chi which has the effects of strengthening the body, removing diseases, and promoting longevity because by performing Tai Chi Quan, one can massage all of the organs, and extend and lengthen the spine and joints. However, if one observes those who play Tai Chi Quan objectively and carefully, it is obvious that many people still suffer from poor health and a short life span. This situation will not change regardless of mastery in Kung Fu (martial arts) because most Tai Chi Quan students have the goal of improving their fighting skills and not the goal of improving their health (anti-aging).
Throughout recent history, there have been 36 famous Tai Chi Quan masters in China, and their average life was 60 years old. Of the 36, there were 9 who lived less than 60 years, which demonstrates that only those masters who paid attention to their health when doing Tai Chi Quan saw the real effects of longevity. Many people had health problems and even major diseases in history, but doing Tai Chi Quan helped them recover their health and live longer lives. Thus, we can only have a complete and rational understanding of Tai Chi Quan by analyzing these cases scientifically. What is more, we can help the growing number of Tai Chi Quan fans learn about the different functions and benefits of Tai Chi Quan, and different ways of doing Tai Chi Quan in order to live longer lives.
Tai Chi Quan and Daoism have the same source, which is based on the principle of emptiness. The emptiness of Tai Chi Quan involves stillness along with non-action, and understanding this is fundamental to practicing any Qigong well; in fact, it is extremely important. Through stillness and relaxation, they can understand the depth of Tai Chi Quan. By practicing stillness and relaxation, they are more open to listening and observing. They will gradually learn to see that the dimensions of Tai Chi Quan involve many polarities. For example, through doing the visible forms [Tai Chi Quan, action], they can appreciate the invisible [The Dao and Wuji, nonaction].
When people practice Tai Chi Quan under the guidance of Daoism theories and philosophies, they can also understand gradually that everything in the universe has cause and effect and is transferable; that is, the universe promises constant change. After a zenith comes to wane, and after wane come a zenith. After an action, there is a reaction. After an advance, there is a retreat. After rising, there is sinking. These dualisms are universal truths, for which there are laws of equilibrium [balance]. When people come to observe these laws at work, they can follow their destiny and not feel extremely happy or extremely sad when circumstances are changing. Instead of being pulled in opposite directions, people can learn to strike a balance [follow ‘the middle way’]. Then they can face the world and live their life with a quiet and relaxed heart. Living a calm and stress-released life will boost the running of Chi inside of people’s bodies, nurture their original Chi, improve their immune system’s capability to fight diseases, and promote longevity.
As people come to recognize that changes in life are inevitable, they can gradually learn to allow, relax, and trust, and ultimately develop positive thinking and solve their problems. The forms in Tai Chi Quan guide people to this realization. While doing Tai Chi Quan, people can make a deep study of the forms by appreciating these natural principles of change and balance as can be seen in the interplay of Yin and Yang throughout the forms: slow or fast; empty or solid, passive or aggressive, and so on. These connections between the Dao and nature demonstrate that universal laws of change are constantly at work. Once people who do Tai Chi Quan realize how to find the new balance constantly between these dualities, they can relax, forget, and unite with nature itself as they de-stress and manage life better.
Whether people use Tai Chi Quan for fighting, for performing, or for competing, they should all follow the principles of Daoism and nature, and should neither force themselves nor show reluctance. If people overexert themselves when doing the forms or perform them with no internal strength, it will go against the nature of Tai Chi Quan, causing the loss of original Chi and damage to the body. This phenomenon can be seen in many sports competitions.
Whether or not people can live long life depends on whether they live their lives according to the rules of physical and mental health as they master the regimen [mindful, disciplined, focused practice] required in Tai Chi Quan. When people who practice Tai Chi Quan only focus on practicing forms or fighting but not adhering to the internal regimen, they will not have the regimen benefit of doing Tai Chi Quan. In order to nurture internal strength, one must begin practice with emptiness and nonexistence and end the practice with emptiness and nonexistence, and this principle must be applied to every movement.
Also, once people experience the emptiness and nonexistence in the Tai Chi Quan, they can not only build internal strength but also see that they are in unity with the world. Therefore, they can face the world with no qualms, experience and observe life, control the future, lead a clean life, and not feel touched by gain and loss, which is the emptiness mindset of Tai Chi Quan. This mastery, which comes from the improvement of the student’s level, necessitates detachment from life. That is, through Tai Chi Quan, people can learn to observe life’s challenges rather than react to them. They learn how to deal with many stressful situations with calm objectivity rather than being pulled in many different directions. This concept is the Tai Chi Dao of life.
Tai Chi Quan is not just Chinese boxing. Because the way of practicing is based on stillness and relaxation, it has some attributes that other sports do not have, which are looking for stillness from movement, looking for movement from stillness, and considering stillness as the base which enables the Chi inside of people to run naturally better and to have the effect of nurturing the original Chi constantly. With effective practice, Tai Chi Quan can even change the mindset of people and help people study, work and live life better, all of which contributes to strengthening the body and promoting a longer life.
However, often people fail to follow the regimen required by Tai Chi Quan for several reasons: the influence of society, the control of people’s life routine, the pursuit of desire, and the pursuit to fight, perform, and compete with Tai Chi Quan. These barriers inevitably throw people off track, causing them to give lip service to the principle of stillness as it relates to movement.
However, if people remember that the highest level of doing Tai Chi Quan is attaining happiness, health, and longevity, they can be motivated to embrace the principles of stillness and emptiness, which promotes detachment from life trauma and eases suffering in the long run. The interplay of stillness and movement in the forms also promotes the development of kindness and spirit, which can only be attained with the act of forgetting oneself [a form of detachment which helps foster compassion]. Having a kind and open heart is the ultimate goal in the practice of Tai Chi Quan, for an open heart is a vast sea, in which problems are but small ripples. Having less stress in life leaves more room for happiness and thus kindness to flourish. Therefore, moral cultivation is also a part of this process because only by nourishing a kind and open heart can people promote good health and a long life span.
May every Tai Chi fan have a happy, healthy, and long life!