by Ronnie Robinson
Many of you may be discovering Tai Chi Chuan for the first time and would like to know more about what is actually taught and practised in Tai Chi classes. It is my hope that after reading the following article you will be able to make a more informed choice before going to your first Tai Chi class.
Tai Chi Chuan is accessible to all ages and physical abilities and can be practised on many levels, from a simple 'meditative' exercise to a realistic martial art! - Why not check out our directory for Tai Chi clubs in your area.
With the rise in popularity of Tai Chi Chuan we also see many interpretations of the art. There are those who cover the full curriculum with form, pushing hands, applications, and weapons. However, there are also those who are predominately interested in developing the health aspects of Tai Chi Chuan. They may concentrate more on the hand form, Qigong exercises and meditation.
You, as a potential student, have the option of choosing which approach is right for you. Before committing to a class it may be worth telephoning one or two local instructors, and discussing what is taught in their particular school.
The Hand Form
The first, and most familiar, aspect of Tai Chi Chuan is the Hand Form. This is the series of slow movements you see performed in the parks, in China, early in the morning. There are many benefits to be gained from practising the Hand Form.
September 10, 1917 – April 18, 1993
Kimura was a Japanese judoka (Judo practitioner) who is widely considered one of the greatest judoka of all time. Kimura (5ft 7in 170cm; 85 kg, 187lb) was born on September 10, 1917 in Kumamoto, Japan.
October 1, 1913 – January 29, 2009
Helio Gracie was regarded as the creator of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, also known as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). Until his death, Gracie was the only living 10th degree master of the discipline and is widely considered as one of the first sports heroes in Brazilian history; he was named Black Belt Magazine’s Man of the Year in 1997. He was the father of the world-renowned fighters Rickson Gracie, Royler Gracie, Royce Gracie, Relson Gracie and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) founder Rorion Gracie. Gracie was also a 6th dan in judo.
When he was just 16 years old, he found the opportunity to teach a Judo class(at that time Judo was commonly referred to as Kano Jiu-Jitsu or simply Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil). This experience led him to develop Brazilian/Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. A director of the Bank of Brazil, Mario Brandt arrived for a private class at the original Gracie Academy in Rio de Janeiro as scheduled. The instructor, Carlos Gracie (Helio’s older brother), was running late and was not present. Helio offered to begin the class with the man. When the tardy Carlos arrived offering his apologies, the student assured him it was no problem, and actually requested that he be allowed to continue learning with Helio Gracie instead. Carlos agreed to this and Helio Gracie became an instructor. Helio realised that even though he knew the techniques, theoretically in fact, the moves were much harder to execute. Due to his smaller size, he realised many of the judo moves required brute strength which did not suit his small stature. Consequently, he began adapting Judo for his particular physical attributes, and through trial and error learned to maximise leverage, thus minimising the force that needed to be exerted to execute a move. From these experiments, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, formally Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, was created. Using these new techniques, smaller and weaker practitioners gained the capability to defend themselves and even defeat much larger opponents.
In 1932 when he was 19 Gracie was involved in an attack on Luta-Livre teacher Manoel Rufino dos Santos. In an interview for Playboy Magazine he regretted that act with this statement:
“It was 66 years ago that I was involved in my biggest trouble. A famous fighter in Brazil [a former luta livre champion] Manoel Rufino dos Santos, said that he was going to show the world that we Gracies were nothing. It was at the Tijuca Tennis Club of Rio that I gave my answer to him. I arrived and said “I came to answer the declaration that you made.” He throw a punch and I took him to the ground, with two fractures of his head, and a broken clavicle, and blood spurting out. But it was a foolish act that I did. Today I would never repeat such a thing.”