How Tai Chi Chuan Cures Old Age

by Dr. Wu Tao-Wei – Bamboo Delight
 
Tai Chi Chuan, as most people know, is that slow motion exercise of the Chinese People. Those Westerners who have not actually seen this exercise method for themselves have probably seen news clips of people practicing Tai Chi on the various TV programs or on video programs about China or Taiwan or Hong Kong or Singapore. Wherever there are any groups of Chinese, you will find Tai Chi Chuan being practiced, usually in the early morning hours by the elderly and in the pre-dawn hours by the Chinese martial artists.

… But how does it cure old age, itself?

First, you must think about it for yourself. The Western physicians, being both ignorant and incompetent in these matters, are of no help whatsoever. So, ask yourself what are the first signs of old age? First, the muscles of the body are always under a certain tension known as “muscle tone”. And over a lifetime, these muscles become harder and the joints, through lack of bending, become stiff.

As Lao Tsu wrote: “A man is born gentle and weak. At his death he is hard and stiff. Green plants are tender and filled with sap. At their death they are withered and dry. Therefore the stiff and unbending is the disciple of death. The gentle and yielding is the disciple of life.”

The three main movement fibers of the body are the muscles, tendons and ligaments. Each is relatively tough to one another. Ligaments, which attach one bone to the next, are the strongest and the least pliable. And if the joints are not fully articulated during one’s daily work or exercise, then these harden and make joint movement difficult or even impossible. Thus, a person loses the ability to stand or to move easily. Old age begins when what was once pliable becomes solidified.

Tendons, which attach muscles to bones, are tough and medium in pliability. And muscles, which do the actual movement, are attached one to another and to the bones by the tendons. Only the muscles have the ability to move. And they move only by contracting or relaxing.

If you look at the muscles, ligaments and tendons of a person, you will see that as we age, all three of these harden and become stiff. But they do not become stiff at the same time. What moves, continues to move. What is rigid becomes more rigid. “A hinge that is used, needs no oil. A hinge that is not used, rusts into a solid mass.”

You can get an idea of how this system works by using two different rubber bands, one thick and fat and the other of regular size and weight. Link them together and give them a stretch. The thin rubber band is like the muscles in that it stretches the most. And the thick band is like the tendons in that it stretches very little. But when you pull on them linked together, they both stretch. BUT, if you pull them quickly, TIME enters the equation. Try it yourself as an experiment. It is easy to do and the experiment will teach you far more than these written words can. The thin rubber band stretches the most but linked together with the fat one, they BOTH stretch though at different rates.

When the thick and thin linked bands are pulled quickly, it is the thin one that stretches. The thick one doesn’t have time to stretch. BUT when you pull them slowly, they both stretch. This is how Western exercise compares with Chinese exercise. In the West, the goal is usually to be faster and stronger. The competition of being first in the race or strongest on the weight machine is paramount. But what happens is that the muscles become hard and tight and the tendons become brittle. This is a symptom of old age even in young athletes.

But with Chinese Tai Chi Chuan, BOTH the muscles and the tendons are stretched because they are MENTALLY linked together through the concentration of the practitioner. And through the use of MENTAL CONCENTRATION as he moves slowly, ever so slowly, the muscles AND the tendons together stretch in coordinated unison.

Try it again with the linked rubber bands. The thick rubber band will or will not stretch depending upon how slow or fast you pull them. The muscles and tendons of your body operate on the same principle — in unison. …

Though Tai Chi Chuan was developed from Chinese Taoist philosophy, it links directly with the teachings of Jesus: “Be ye wise as serpents and gentle as doves”. Tai Chi Chuan uses the serpent power of muscles, tendons and ligaments that are pliable as snakes linked with a mind that is as gentle as a dove. Tai Chi Chuan brings Health, Joy and Peace to those who practice it. And it gives Peace to those who watch it being practiced – in the parks, with the glorious sun rising among the singing of birds and the sweet scents of the new day. Ah, Tai Chi is wonderful!

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