Chen Taichi is an internal Chinese martial art, founded by Chen Wang Ting (陈王廷), of the Chen Jia Gou village (陈家沟) in Henan Province in China, at the end of the Ming Dynasty (approximately 1600 A.D.). At its core is the practice of sequential dynamic movements that combine softness within hardness, and slow motion with fast motion. The movements always adhere to the philosophical theory of Yin and Yang – moving in a balanced and natural way. Chen Taichi has key skills based on Silk Reeling techniques - Chan Si Gong (缠丝功), and Power releasing techniques (发勁) – Fa Jin. The body is required to be relaxed, centered and upright. Movement is rooted in the foot, allowing energy to be issued through the legs, pivoting at the waist, up through the spine, and with shoulders and elbows relaxed, finally coming to the tips of the hands and head – all in one harmonies motion. The seven principle energies are spiraling, twining, twisting, folding, leaping, jumping and explosive releasing.
All health benefits from practicing Yang Taichi also apply to practicing Chen Taichi. Here are some recent medical research findings by Grandmaster Chen Zhenglei's Chen Taichi student, Dr. Shin Lin, Professor of Cell Biology at University of California Irvine:
Dr. Lin and his colleagues have shown, using sophisticated measuring techniques, that slow movement trains those leg muscles that are important for balance. This is one explanation for the efficacy of taichi in reducing falls in the elderly.
There is a "Yin/Yang" when it comes to muscle: Muscle contains both slow twitch and fast twitch fibers. Slow muscle fibers are used for sustained contraction, and fast twitch fibers are used for rapid contraction. These fibers are innervated by slow and fast motor neurons. Failure to use muscle fiber results in loss of those fibers within 10 days. Fast fibers deteriorate more as we age. When we are holding static postures, we are exercising the fast twitch fibers.
Clinical trials have shown taichi to be better than resistance training in prevention of osteopenia (bone mineral density lower than normal, a precursor to osteoporosis). Part of this was due to the fact that subjects did not comply with the study protocols if they were in the resistance group. Professor Lin points out that the way we step and move during Chen taichi has a resistance (weight bearing) component.
A 2008 meta-analysis concluded that taichi was the best activity among those tested for lowering blood pressure. Taichi ranked first among many activities including Trancendental Meditation, yoga, qigong, and other such activities.
In a controlled study with patients with the Zoster virus (shingles), the treatment group practiced taichi. The antibodies of the taichi group increased significantly. Then a vaccine for Zoster virus was given to both groups. The vaccine helped both groups, but it worked better for the taichi group.
Serotonin is a very important neurotransmitter that regulates mood, appetite, sleep, muscle contraction and other things. Although our brain contains 100 billion neurons, there are only 250,000 serotonin receptors.
A study with cats found that repetitive motion increased serotonin levels (think silk reeling — repetitive motion) as did deep breathing. While cats go through their famous grooming activities, their serotonin levels skyrocket. (That is probably why they groom... It feels good!)
This study was done with people doing standing meditation. Components of the brain EEG’s were independently analyzed. The standing meditation was found to increase all the major brain waves: Alpha (indicating calm), Theta (indicating deep rest) and Beta (indicating mental alertness). At the same time, the measure of oxygen consumption in the forebrain was decreased compared to a non- meditative state, indicating calmness and rest, while remaining alert without burning a lot of oxygen.
We cannot measure qi, because it is an abstract, non-scientific term. However, ancient Chinese medical literature gives us some very important clues:
"Blood is the mother of qi": Where the intention goes, so goes the qi, and so goes the blood
Using laser doppler flowmetry, cutaneous blood flow was measured at the lou gung point. Blood flow increased while doing single hand reeling, and increased more when coordinated with breathing.
First, faithfully follow the practice principles:
Second, establish 5 spirits:
Third, follow 3 primary elements:
Relax to gain power! Go slow to become fast!
Energy is rooted in the feet, issued through the legs, controlled by the waist, and manifests itself in the hands and fingers.