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Yiheyuan Martial Arts

Real Tai Chi in Leeds, UK

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Philosophy and Tai Chi Chuan
Tai Chi is not a religion or a religious practice.  It is a martial art which has its roots in the purest and oldest form of Taoist (pronounced "dowist") philosophy, and also has much in common with Zen disciplines, in that it is practiced with patience and skill and it trains the mind as well as the body, but you don't have to be a Taoist or a Buddhist to practice Tai Chi. 
Worldwide, there are Tai Chi practitioners from every faith, culture and walk of life and a Tai Chi class is a non-discriminatory environment which can allow you to feel part of the global family of humanity.  Ultimately, as with scientific enquiry, it can help us to better understand the universe and our place within it.
Wu Chi is the Chinese name given to the "grand ultimate space" where nothing exists yet the potential for everything is contained. Out of this arises Tai Chi, the journey from stillness to movement - the extremes of yin and yang - and back to stillness. The name given to the entire Cosmos and everything that supports and sustains it is Tao. 
These are only names, however.  To use terms from modern science, Tao could be simply "Cosmos" and Wu Chi could be the cosmic ground out of which and back to which sub-atomic particles continuously come and go.
As Lao Tzu says in the Tao Te Ching:  "The name that can be named is not the eternal name..... Continually emerging, it returns again and again to nothingness."
After a mere few thousand years, modern science is beginning to catch up with Lao Tzu and you will find quotes from the Tao Te Ching in various modern scientific texts, especially those relating to quantum physics and quantum computing. 
The Tai Chi symbol shows the eternal motion and interplay of yin and yang around the central point of stillness. Each contains a little of its opposite (the “eyes” of the fishes) and as each reaches its extreme, its opposite arises again. The circle enclosing all of this represents the Tao.
(Interestingly, subatomic particles created in the depths of space always emerge as pairs of opposites.  It is this phenomenon which gives rise to Hawking radiation from black holes as one of the pair crosses the event horizon and is captured by the black hole while the other remains outside and becomes part of the radiated heat around it. Stephen Hawking has likened this to yin and yang at this fundamental level of the universe.)

A Tai Chi form also begins with Stillness (Wu Chi), moves to the extremes of yin and yang in a flowing tide of continuous motion and comes back to stillness. An internal stillness is retained throughout the movements of the form. Meditation resting in the state of Wu Chi can bring peace of mind, serenity and greater wisdom
 Tai Chi and Meditation

Although most of the time in class will be spent learning forms and martial applications, some of the time may be spent in still meditation. This is because:
1. Tai Chi is based on the philosophy of Yin and Yang (opposites), therefore movement is balanced with stillness.
2. Still meditation is a very powerful way to calm the mind and manage stress.
3. Still meditation, when practiced correctly, increases the peripheral awareness, which is very useful for a martial artist as it makes it less likely that someone can creep up and attack you from behind.
4. Still meditation allows a mental "stepping back" into the observing self.  From this wider perspective, one is better equipped to deal with difficult situations, master one's own mind and become aware that the apparent differences which separate people are quite superficial. 
The importance of this ability to our mental health and well-being is now becoming widely recognised in modern psychology.  The practices of meditation and mindfulness are therefore increasingly recommended and taught by psychotherapists.

 Tai Chi Philosophy and Daily Life

Tai Chi teaches us the importance of balance and harmony in all things.
We gain a sense of equanimity, a kind of detachment from the ups and downs of life and an ability to remain on an even keel.
The interplay of yin and yang tells us that everything has its opposite, so however bad things get, the good times will come again, and when things go well, we don’t become complacent but appreciate what we have.
We begin to see unity in diversity – that everything in creation operates according to the same basic principles and is essentially the same.
We can see that all people and all living creatures are of equal value and we are all part of an integrated whole, like threads in a tapestry.
This leads to greater tolerance and respect for each other and for the planet as a whole.
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