Tai Chi is a martial art that cultivates internal energy, known in China as “Qi”.
How popular is Tai Chi?
200 million people practice Tai Chi worldwide and it is growing into one of the most popular exercises of the 21st century.
Tai Chi is famous for stress reduction. How does it work?
By moving the body slowly in a relaxed, connected and balanced way the mind calms down. Heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, glandular secretions, peristalsis and brain wave activity change, leaving you relaxed and energized.
What does a typical Tai Chi class involve?
A beginners class starts with a warm up and releasing tension held in the body. Then exercises called “silk reeling” teach you how to move every muscle sequentially and sense “qi” flow. We then learn a form of martial art movements.
How did you come across Tai Chi?
I was very lucky to be introduced to Tai Chi as a teenager while I was studying other martial arts. I absolutely love it and am still practicing every day at age 35 and hope to be able to continue into my nineties!
What kept you interested even as a teenager?
Initially I was fascinated by the concept of “qi” and how it is harnessed in martial arts for internal power. Later I developed an interest in the philosophy behind Tai Chi. Through daily practice I became more grounded, balanced and confident as a young adult.
Later I appreciated the depth of knowledge of moving in a way that resulted in not injuring oneself ,becoming highly economical in ones movement, conserving energy, being more effective and being able to practice and improve as one passes 40,50 ,even 60 years of age!
When did you become a professional teacher?
In 2000 I was teaching music and dance and was very active with environmental concerns and already taught a small bit of Tai Chi part time since 1996. I decided in order to do things at a professional level I would need to choose one as a career so I chose to develop my teaching career in Tai Chi.
I loved teaching and working with people and saw that there was a demand in Ireland for a very professional service for people wanting to learn Tai Chi and continue studying to a high level.
Today your Academy is the largest in Ireland and has an international reputation. What’ s the secret of its success?
Firstly, the high standard of tuition. In 2002 I visited Manchester to study Tai Chi sword and met Wang Hai Jun, 3 time national champion of China and invited him to become the principal visiting teacher to my school in Galway. As he has trained the most national champions of China I knew my students and myself would develop to a very high standard under him.
Secondly, our Academy‘s commitment and support of all members to achieve their health and fitness goals and auxiliary educational tools like our website www.chentaichiireland.com In 2005 I began educating those with 3 years Tai Chi experience how to teach and they apprentice themselves for a further 3 years in my weekly classes. I don’t charge them but only choose people of good character.
What benefits does Tai Chi offer to health?
Emerging research indicates that Tai Chi can help reduce the incidence of depression, anxiety, and mood disturbance in regular practitioners.
The most famous published medical studies have stated Tai Chi reduces stress and has been proven to be extremely benefircial for people with heart conditions, arthritis, osteoporosis, depression, hypertension and anxiety and it’s the number one exercise for fall prevention among the elderly.
Western Medicine is just starting to test the health benefits of Tai Chi and some of the results have been remarkable. These results are due to a combination of the benefits of meditation, stance training, where pressure is placed on the bones, the twisting of the torso and the flow of chi (i.e. energy) and blood.
Tai Chi is part of the 4,000 year-old system of Traditional Chinese Medicine practiced in China and now recognised by the U.S. National Institute of Health’s Office of Alternative Medicine as an important method of Alternative Health Care. The conventional medical world has welcomed the use of Tai Chi as they see it as a safe, low cost meditative exercise with many health benefits.
Many Tai Chi for Health programmes have been set up around the world. In Australia and the US most of these are government funded.
Can you start even if you are past middle age?
Definitely! Initially everything is done slowly to help the body relax and give one time to co-ordinate one’s body. It is a non impact sport that helps people recover from injuries or illness. Fitness is very gently and gradually built up and you can practice to whatever level of intensity you choose according to your physical health, strength and age. All ages train together which is fun.
Is Tai Chi suitable for kids?
I think it’s fantastic for kid. It helps with hyperactivity, posture, patience and cognitive functions like memory and attention. Kids especially love learning the sword after they have finished 3 years foundation training. We have a section for kids on our website where teenagers give testimonials as to how important having healthy role models at this time kept them balanced as they grew up.
Can you get fit doing Tai Chi?
Yes, of course! Fighting fit !
If you do the postures correctly with wider and lower stances, you will generate internal heat and burn calories! The whole body gets toned and deeper muscles are strengthened which support your spine.
Do men practice Tai Chi or is it like yoga with 95 % of students being women?
More men choose Tai Chi as it is a martial art and the style which is very popular is the oldest style called “Chen ”
The first form has more slow, relaxed movements and is used to build and circulate the “qi” through the body. The second routine has more explosive releases of power and is very dynamic.
Is Tai Chi based on eastern religion?
No. The theory of Yin and Yang is applied within medicine, architecture and landscape gardening as well as cooking, martial arts and meditation. It is basically a study of the fusion and interdependence of opposing forces like in physics you have wave/ particle, matter /anti-matter and positive /negative .
Are Irish people enthusiastic to learn Tai Chi?
Yes. Particularly I have noticed where men don’t talk openly about their health and their inability to deal with stress can lead to excess alcohol consumption, poor diet and lack of sleep, Tai Chi seems to be a fun and engaging way for them to de stress and manage their health and learning a martial art brings out the warrior in them, which they love!
A person’s mood becomes more uplifted after training and over time many positive lifestyle changes follow.
Niall O Floinn
Director Galway Tai Chi Academy