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Introduction of Taijiquan(Taichi Quan)

Though legends tell that some eight centuries ago, Emperor Xuanwu taught the art of taijiquanto an alchemist hermit in a dream, the available historical data seem to indicate that ataijiquanwas first devised in henan province some 300 years ago, in the late Ming and early Qing dynasties. In subsequent years foreign invasions and domestic peasant uprisings stimulated the diffusion of martial arts among the people, and a new form of boxing envolve. While earlier boxing styles emphasized quick movements and strong, vigorous punches, this new style forllowed the principles of " subduing the vigorous by the soft", " adapting oneself to the style of others" and " overcoming a force of 1,000 pounds with a force of four ounces. "

In the past century, taijiquanhas undergone signficant changes, with its movements becoming more relaxed and graceful. Many moves requiring explosive strength disappeared, as did excessive foot stamping. Eventually taijiquan became popular with men and women, young old alike, and increasing attention was paid to its hygienic and theraqeutic value.

In the pocess of its development, taijiquan gradually evolved into many different styles, which need not be described here.

There were, however, five main schools, and numerous subdivisions under each school. Although each of the five has its own characterisitc features, they share the following essentials:

First, the posture is natural and relaxed. Motion remains even and fluid, with the muscles neither stiff nor rigid. Breathing should be deep and regular. The practice of taijiquan requires a combination of vigour and gentleness-- neither inertness nor rigidity is allowed.

Secondly, the mind should be tranquil but alert, with consciousness commanding the bodt, in order to achieve stillness within movement -- a unity of stillness and motion.

Thirdly, body movements are well coordinated throughtout the entire exercise period. Though the movements are gentle and slow, each part of the body is in constant motion. While practising taijiquan, the weight of the body is mainly borne by the waist and legs. A characteristic feature of taijiquanis that all movements are carried out in a half squatting position.

In 1956, a simplified set of tiajiquan exercises based on the most popular sequences of the Yang school was issued. This series consists of 24 forms which progress logically from the easy to the difficult, and which take five minutes to complete. "Simplified Taijiquan" has proved to be a great stimulus to the popularization of the sport both in China and abroad.

A Medical Assessment

Taijiquan as one of the methods of treatment prescribed in hospitals and sanatoriums has proved its efficacy in curing chronic diseaseds such as high blood pressure, neurasthenia and pulmonary tuberculosis. The salubrius effects of taijiquan are closely related to its characteristic features, namely: 1) the exercises require a hight degree of concentration, with the mind free from distractions; 2) the mvoements are slow and uninterrupted; and 3) breathing is natural, sometimes involving abdominal respiration, and is performed in rhythmic harmony with body movemtns.

The high degree of concentration required in taijiquanexercises also benefits the function oof the central nervous system. Training the mind and the body at the same time , these exercises stimulate the cerebral cortex, causing excitation in certain regions and protective inhibition in others . This enables the cerebrum to rest and relieves the cerebral cortex of the pathological excitation caused by ailments , thus helping to cure certain nervous and mental diseases.

The results of recently completed testing and examination involving taijiquan practitioners are given below. In this projects, healthy subjets aged 50-89 were divided into two groups and given a battery of tests. Group A contained 32s persons who practised taijiquan regularly, while Group B (the control group) was composed of 56 indivduals who did not engage in taijiquantraining. In general, those in Group A were found to have stronger phsiques characterized by more efficiently functioning cardiovascular, repiratory, osseous and metabolic systems.

Specific Findings

In regard to cardiovascular efficency , the two groups underwent a functional test of stepping up and down a 40-cm-high bench 15 times within a minute. All but one person in Group A could bear this workload with normal reponses in blood pressure and pulses. In the control group, however, the ability to bear this workload decreased and abnormal reponses (such as type of step reaction and dystonia reaction ) increased with the age of the subjects. The difference was also evident in electrocardiograms, which suggestions that regualr practice of taijiquan results in an increased supply of blood to the coronar;y arteries, more forcefull heart contractions and improved hemodynamic function. Moreover, taijiquan may enhance the regualtory function of the central nervous sytem, improve the coordination of te internal organs, increase the trasion of thevagus nerves ensure adequate supplies of blood and oxygento teh tissues, and facilitate substance metabolism--all of which contribute to a lower rate of incidence of hypertension and arteriosclerosis . The average blood pressure was 134.1/80.8 mm Hg. for Group A and 154.5/82.7 mmHg . for Group B , while the rate of incidence of arteriosclerosis was 39.5 and 46.4 per cent repectively.

Regular practice of Taijiquan exercises can increase the elasticity of the lung tissues, the respiratory magnitude of the chest (which helps to retard the ossification of the rib cartilages ) and the ventilatory capacity of the lungs, and improves the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. The experiments showed Group A to be superior in both the respiratory discrepancy of the chest and vital capacity . Greater vital capacity and lower rate of ossification of rib cartilages. For those whose breathing is already limited by ossification of rib cartilages, the abdominal respiration accompanying taijiquan exercises will improve ventilation of the lungs and, through rhythmic change of abdominal pressure, speed up blood flow and gas exchange in the alveoli pulmonum. This explains why, when completing the functional test, Group A subjects breathed more easily and recovered more quickly than those inthe control group.

Taijiquanexercises can also strengthen bones, muscles and joints. Since many taijiquanmovement can also strengthen bones, muscles and joints. since many taijiquanmovements hinge on the waist and involve a great deal of lumbar movement, systematic exercise can be lumbar movement, systematic exercise can be beneficial and indeed the spinal column as a whole, Researchers noted that only 25.8 percent of the subjects in Group A suffered from spinal column deformities, whereas in the control group the percentage was 47.2. Furthermore, fewer Group A subjects were victims of vommon, age-related hunchbackdeformities. Individuals in this group had more flexible spines, as evldenced by the facethat 77.4 per cent of them were able of touch their toes, as against 16.6 percent in the control group. X-ray examination indicated that the rate of incidence of senile osteoporosis was 36.6 per cent for Group A and 63.8 per cent for Group B. Senile osteoporosis, which often leads to joint deformity and inflexibility, is a degenerative affliction mainly caused by inactivity of the osteoblasts. It may also be caused by such factors as refuced blood supply to the bones owing to arteriosclerosis and poor absorption of calcium and potssium from food due to the lack of hydrochloric acid in the gastric juices. Insofar as taijiquan can prevent or lessen such disorders, its role in retarding the aging process is noteworthy.

Limited data were obtained relative to the effects of taijiquanon substance metabolism . Howere, judging from the difference between the two groups in skeletal changes and in the incidence of arteriosclerosis, the beneficial effects of exercise appear significant, as far as the metabolism of fats, proteins and calcium and potassium salts is concerned. In recent years, several researchers in other countries have studied the role of physical exercises in delaying senescence. Cholesterol levels drop substantially for those who engage in regualr exercise. Experlments conducted on elderly people with arteriosclerosis reveal that after five or six months' training, there is anincrease of albumin and a marked decrease of globulin and cholesterol in the blood, while symptoms of arteriosclerosis diminish markedly.


These findings, though preliminary and superficial,suggest that a regular programme of taijiquan exercises can be of benefit to one's physical well-being.

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