August 18, 2008

Dressage the Tai Chi of Olympic sports

The New Zealand Herald reports that dressage—the "ballet" of horse training featured at the Olympics—is most like t'ai chi ch'uan. It is a sport that involves balance and flexibility, responsiveness and grace.

"For someone brought up on rugby, cricket, basketball, tennis, and boxing this one takes work to grasp its niceties. I didn’t get it, until I realised it is actually Tai Chi with four legs, six if you count the rider....[it] is slow, detailed, and requires utter concentration." (Denis Edwards New Zealand Herald 8/10/08; painting by Xu Beihong).

In a related topic, the Summer 2003 issue of Taijiquan Journal featured three articles about t'ai chi ch'uan and horses:

•"The Taiji Horse Riding Form" by Michael Stenson, a horse trainer
•"The Cauldron and the Horse: Internal Cultivation and Yijing by Zhongxian Wu, qigong master
•"All Stances are Horse Stances: Taijiquan's Equine Ancestry" by Paul Magee, acupuncturist

Limited quantities of back issues of Taijiquan Journal are still available at an Olympic special of $5 each (US orders). Offer good until September 17th, 2008. See our website for further information.

August 9, 2008

Olympic Pageantry Features 2,008 T'ai Chi Performers 太極拳在中國奧林匹克

The story of the 2008 Beijing Olympics is being told from many viewpoints: the athlete (as one would expect); the political and economical significance of China's rise (certainly not the first time in its long history); and the cultural—witness the opening ceremonies filled with symbolism, history and pride; not to mention the local, everyday scenes. T'ai chi is being featured both in the ceremonies and the neighborhoods as exercise, embodiment of culture, and as martial art.
The China Daily (中國日报) gives a wonderfully detailed description of the whole Opening Ceremony program. Here's the excerpt about the art of t'ai chi:

"Nature: You can interpret this number as a call for biological protection, but that would be reading too much pragmatism into it. It is about man's relations with nature, embodied in the movements of tai chi. It expounds on the philosophies from The Book of Changes, which contains an ancient system of cosmology intrinsic to Chinese cultural beliefs. The cosmology centers on the ideas of the dynamic balance of opposites.

“The 2,008 performers doing tai chi in a circle that surrounds a rectangle is an epitome of the notion of "heaven is round and earth is square". And the boxing itself perfectly illustrates Lao Tzu's teaching -- 'The soft and the pliable will defeat the hard and strong.'" China Daily

Here are other observations by reporters on the scene:

"Clearly the organizers of the opening ceremonies in Beijing spared no expense in putting this spectacle together. The Tai Chi sequence alone was a marvel of synchronization, athleticism and grace." said the Edmonton Sun.

"Amid forests of sheer fabric on which shifting images of water and light skittered, Tai-chi dancers offered a glimpse of a peculiarly Chinese environmentalism – the unity of mankind and nature." Wall Street Journal

"China hails the Beijing Olympics as the fulfillment of its "100-year dream", a slogan that harks back to a time when China was "the sick man of Asia" and looked to sport to help it return to its former status." Reuters

"You never have to travel a million miles to get cool martial arts in China - kung fu was a major feature, despite China's failure to have it installed as an Olympic sport. The sight of thousands of white-gowned tai-chi experts going through their paces was impressive." Variety

For those inspired by the Beijing Olympics to take up t'ai chi, use the links to the right to find t'ai chi groups near you.

August 2, 2008

China Steps up to Olympic Plate

"WHEN YOU MENTION the Olympics in Beijing, there is a Chinese proverb you are likely to hear from smiling retirees practising their tai chi early in the morning in the city's lovely parks, or from hungry bureaucrats scoffing noodles in a bustling jiaozi restaurant, or even from the migrant workers from Sichuan and Anhui building the new megalopolis. It is "bai nian bu yu", which is best translated as "We've been waiting 100 years for this". The 2008 Olympic Games are China's big coming-out party and everything is going to work, no matter what." Read the full article at: Irish Times 8/2/08

T'ai Chi Helps Dental Workers

"I was exposed to Chinese martial arts as a child. In my small rural community, our family shared a common alley with a grandmaster of kung fu. I listened as people spoke of the grandmaster and his secret. Students would come in hopes of learning this elusive chi (internal energy) from him, and I watched while he effortlessly bounced and threw his students. I knew this elderly Chinese man — this Kung Fu Grandmaster — as gentle and soft spoken, with an indescribable presence. Even now, I remember how intrigued I was with his inner calm and centeredness....From the day I started practicing tai chi, it felt familiar. Surprisingly, while practicing clinical dental hygiene one day, it came to me — the principles of tai chi are applicable to the practice of dental hygiene. A knowledge and practice of tai chi might help dental hygienists work effortlessly, manage the demands of ergonomics, and cope with internal and external stresses." In this highly informative article for dental workers by Carol Lee, RDH, BS, the author outlines the important points of t'ai chi

August 1, 2008

Taekwondo Champ Tries T'ai Chi

"Taiwan's first gold medallist Chu Mu-yen is confident he will retain his taekwondo title in Beijing while girlfriend Yang Shu-chun is hoping for success in the women's competition.'An athlete has to climb up and seek a breakthrough to win and I think tai chi helps stabilise Chu to bring him to the next level,' [coach] Chang said. Tai chi, which is meant to harmonise body and soul with slow and flexible movements, is popular in Taiwan particularly among elderly people."
Chu is dealing with the Olympic pressures with tai chi and staying with his teammates on a retreat to a Buddhist monastary in southern Taiwan. Read the full article at: The Telegraph 7/31/08