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Who taught you how to use your body?
This is a reasonable question, and most people could not give a decent answer. Did anyone teach you:
Healthy skeletal alignment?
Optimal body use?
How your muscles work?
How and why to relax your body?
Proprioception? (relative position of body parts/awareness of how much strength is being applied)
Kinaesthetic awareness? (knowing where your limbs are positioned without needing to look)
Ambidextrous use of the limbs?
Gait? (manner of walking)
Ergonomic body use?
These skills are known as 'motor learning'.
Your parents probably did
not teach this to you.
School did not teach it either.
A person who is considered
to be fit in the West may be able to do over 100 push-ups, run a marathon,
possess a beautiful, muscular physique – and yet not be internally healthy.
He or she may have a bad back, damaged joints, liver problems, unbalanced emotions, an inability to handle stress and sexual weakness or dysfunction.
Motor learning is about the process of using the body, rather than simply exercising the body.
Agility, mobility, relaxed spontaneous movement, balance, structure, alignment, biomechanics, efficiency, ambidextrous body use, joint health, coordination, skill, emotional wellbeing or psychological flexibility.
Tai chi combines exercise with motor learning.
Physical Education at school should actually educate people on physical matters:
• How to use your body in a healthy manner
• Sport is relegated to an after school club for those who are 'sporty'
• Kids who have postural/gait/movement issues should be given specialist rehabilitation in order to restore healthy body use
• Personal hygiene and cleanliness should be taught
• Ergonomics - sitting, lifting, good usage
• Anatomical knowledge; leverage, balance, strength, stance, poise etc
• How to avoid strain, discomfort, injury
• Everyday body use
Many health problems are caused by the way in which we stand, walk, sit and use our bodies during everyday activities.
Headache, fatigue, stiff neck, bad knees, back problems are usually caused by our own bad habits.
Incorrect muscle use, imbalance, poor physical awareness, work and many forms of exercise only serve to perpetuate poor fitness and muscle tension.
The solution is quite simple. We need to discover how to use our bodies in a healthy, natural, balanced and comfortable manner.
Tai chi is intended to improve health and wellbeing through frequent, regular practice using low effort.
From car seats to constrictive clothing, from chairs to shoes that distort posture, many features of modern life curtail our natural movement patterns.
Tai chi is concerned with re-training the body for optimal functioning. To use the body skilfully, you must dynamically balance muscles within the body and use the bone structure in a healthy way.
We teach people to become incredibly aware of their own bodies.
Correct alignment of the body will enable you to use your body with less effort and greater strength. Counteracting the force of gravity is a key consideration.
The vertebrae and joints must be free to move in a fluid, smooth manner.
Physical tension and bad muscular habits impede the ability to move spontaneously and freely. Tension is the enemy of movement. The more tense you are, the less you can move.
Muscles serve two main functions: they help to hold the skeleton upright and they move the bones.
To move bones, one muscle releases (lengthens) and the other contracts (shortens) - this is healthy and normal.
The ideal measure of muscle tone is that you employ only as much contraction or release as is required to accomplish the task. This is usually far less than you think...
People fail to release a contracted muscle after it has moved the bone, or they over-use one muscle group at the expense of another.
'Tensing-up' is the habitual over-contraction of a muscle, such that it impedes joint movement and distorts the skeleton. This causes imbalance, weakness and postural tension.
Modern life involves a lot of boring activities. People are accustomed to daydreaming or 'spacing out'. Tai chi necessitates complete attention. It helps the mind to become calm and centred.
The nervous system is responsible for gauging how much strength needs to be applied.
As you exert pressure upon an object, your body experiences resistance and there is biofeedback which tells you how much strength is necessary.
Over time, the nervous system of most adults has become faulty, and it provides the brain with inaccurate information.
Instead of applying only the necessary amount of strength, it is normal and comfortable to use an incredible excess. This fatigues the muscles, blunts the nervous system and makes you clumsy.
Taijiquan represents optimal body movement, honed over centuries.
(Jessica Rose, PhD)
The aim of
taijiquan is to
teach and encourage optimal body use.
A body that is capable of spontaneous movement in any direction;
comfortably, safely, with the necessary support and stability.
By sitting, standing and moving in a natural, healthy way you will feel energised, relaxed, comfortable and agile. We encourage students to be fresh and open, supple and curious...
Little & often
Tai chi advocates moderation; not taxing or tiring the body. Rather than train for a lengthy period of time, aim to practice little & often. 20-30 minute increments, with rest breaks in-between is ideal.
Instead of pushing your body hard and putting it under duress, just do a little exercise. Resting will keep your concentration sharp and offset fatigue.
Page created 2 March 1995
Last updated 29 April 2021