History and Rationale
What is Tai Chi?
Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese martial art developed about 700 years ago that focuses on cultivating and moving energy in the body through a smooth and connected series of slow movements. In Tai Chi, this body energy, called Qi (pronounced “Chee”) or Chi, is harnessed and used for self-protection, centeredness and stress reduction. Its various movement patterns, known as forms, were created mainly by observing nature and animals in battle. For example, there are many ancient stories describing how Tai Chi was born when a Taoist priest simulated the bobbing and weaving movements of a crane and snake engaged in a contest for survival. The specific forms or movement patterns of Tai Chi practice create a balance or harmony in both body and mind. Today, millions of people around the world practice Tai Chi for its health benefits such as stress reduction, improved balance and flexibility, and enhanced concentration, self-awareness and self-control. The quiet concentration required for Tai Chi brings serenity to the mind, enhancing one’s ability to calmly and clearly face life’s challenges.
What is Qigong?
Qigong is a method of cultivating the Qi or life force of the body through healthful movement practices, meditation and massage. (link to Yahoo article)Like Tai Chi, most Qigong movement is slow, smooth and connected. Qi refers to the life-force or life-energy that is found in all living things, i.e., plants, animals and people. Gong or Kung is the practice or training that cultivates the body’s life-force and maintains or increases its positive potential. Predating Tai Chi (which itself is a form of Qigong) by thousands of years, there are hundreds of Qigong exercises and patterns which have been practiced in China throughout much of its history and are still part of Chinese culture. Qigong forms are varied and are generally much easier to learn than the more complex patterns of Tai Chi. Today, its many forms and exercises are used worldwide in health and fitness programs for people of all ages.
What are Animal Frolics?
The Animal Frolics are a form of Qigong that include hundreds of exercises that are lively, playful and engaging. Animal Frolics first appeared during the late Han Dynasty about 2,000 years ago and are attributed to Hua To, considered by many to be a founding father of Chinese medicine. He developed a series of exercises called Wuqinzi (“Woochinsee” or the “Five Animal Play”). Having carefully observed animals in nature, he adapted the movements of the crane, bear, monkey, deer, and tiger to be expressed through symbolic patterns and gestures, using the whole body as one. He taught these exercises to his patients to improve their health and sense of well-being. They have remained a popular form of exercise in China and are now being enjoyed in many other cultures throughout the world.