Tai Chi and Kung Fu: Balancing of the Mind, Body and Spirit
by Rene Ng, AP, L.Ac.
When you take a stroll through a park lined with trees and permeated with fresh air during the early morning hours in China—and also those located in major U.S. cities—you will notice people, the elderly in particular, practicing the ancient art of Tai Chi. The moves are smooth and gentle-flowing, radiating a sense of peace and tranquility.
When you observe the practitioners of this beautiful exercise and how flexible and mobile they seem, you pause in amazement upon realizing the majority of these people are in their 70s, 80s and 90s. The flexibility and muscular endurance they exhibit belies their age.
So what is Tai Chi? First of all, this practice is a martial art. In olden days China, Tai Chi was one of the most feared forms of martial arts, and its origin can be traced back to Taoist priests. Its creation is attributed to an individual named Cheung San Feng, a famous martial artist in his own right. Tai Chi is considered a soft, internal practice which does not utilize physical force, but rather uses an opponent’s energy and strength against themselves.
It is famous for its ability to condition an individual’s internal energy, and over the years, it has grown to become more of an art known for its healing rather than its fighting efficacy. Tai Chi is considered a form of moving Qi Gong, an ancient Chinese art famous for its breathing exercises and in ability to optimizes the flow of the life force Qi throughout the body. The optimal and smooth flow of Qi leads to optimal health and an abundance of energy which, in turn, leads to an excellent quality of life.
Tai Chi is all about Qi Gong, but it incorporates slow movements into its sequences. These slow movements require the use of each joint in the body, especially those in the feet and toes. In most human beings, some of our joints are not used as often as others, and these underused joints can stiffen up over time and even become arthritic. Tai Chi forces a balanced usage of every joint when done correctly.
It also keeps the back straight, increases lung capacity, improves oxygen supply through optimal breathing, keeps the muscles relaxed, calms the mind, and improves both circulation and immune function. It is also low-impact and not stressful on the body, making it a popular exercise among people of all ages in China.
Wing Chun is undoubtedly one of the most popular kung fu styles in the world. This is because it was the style the legendary late kung fu actor Bruce Lee was trained in and made famous in his movies. Wing Chun is a soft kung fu art just like Tai Chi, and is extremely effective in confrontations. It is also a relatively young art—only about three hundred years old—and traces its lineage back to the Shaolin Temple in China.
It too utilizes the opponent’s energy against themselves instead of relying on physical force. It was developed by a woman named Yim Wing Chun, making it an effective art for women and people who are smaller in size. Wing Chun is also extremely well-known for its internal conditioning, endurance building and mind relaxing. In fact, the first sequence taught in Wing Chun, called “Siu Lim Tao” (translated to “Little Idea”) is a Qi Gong based form which enables a person to optimize breathing, relax the muscles and calm the mind.
More recently, a series of hit kung fu movies were released in Hong Kong, showcasing Ip Man, who was Bruce Lee’s teacher. These films explain the development of Wing Chun, and its effectiveness in fighting. Ip Man incidentally was also the teacher of my own Wing Chun teacher Master Ho Kam Ming. What makes Wing Chun unique and different from other martial arts styles is the individual develops their skills in a similar method as they might when learning a new language instead of memorizing techniques and moves. This is one of the most sought-after kung fu styles across the globe.
Mind, Body, Spirit
The human body is an amazing machine and a miraculous work of art. The three major body components of mind, body and spirit help to dictate the wellness and vigor of the body. When these three are healthy and in harmony, the body is also healthy. But when they are imbalanced, the body is also imbalanced. An ideal approach to keeping these components in balance is through the martial arts of Tai Chi and Wing Chun.
As a result of these practices, circulation becomes optimized which helps to keep the mind alert, active, engaged and healthy. This builds an individual’s psyche and spirit up, and their lifestyle becomes full and active. So if you feel down in the doldrums and want to experience for the better, consider adding something to enhance these wellness components—especially your body.
Rene Ng, AP, L.Ac., is a board-certified, licensed Acupuncture Physician and Chinese Herbalist in Sarasota. He is a multiple-time winner of Sarasota’s “Favorite Acupuncture Physician” and “Favorite Anti-Aging Practitioner” awards. Ng is also an internationally recognized Wing Chun kung fu master and Tai Chi/Qi Gong practitioner. He has been teaching these martial arts in both China and the USA for nearly 40 years. For more information, call 941-773-5156, email RNG@ChineseMedicalSolutions.com or visit ChineseMedicalSolutions.com.