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Tai Chi is a unique martial art from China that dates back 400

So Tai Chi is the balance and interaction between the Chinese

General Health - Sláinte Magazine

years, with influences from traditional Chinese medicine that date

principles of Yin (passive and negative) and Yang (active and

back thousands of years.

positive), slow and fast, hard and soft, stretching and contracting, gathering energy and releasing energy.

Tai Chi, known in China as “Taijiquan”, trains the physical body and


Tai Chi

Around 200 million people around the world already practice this ancient Chinese martial art, and now it is fast becoming one of the most popular forms of exercise in Europe, too. Tai Chi master Niall O Floinn explains the many health benefits.

develops calmness, concentration and internal energy. Tai Chi

How does it work?

comprises martial art movements that are closely co-ordinated

There are several stages of development. The first is getting rid of

with deep breathing, with your mind leading and guiding your

stiffness in the body by opening the joints and releasing muscular

internal energy to harmonise with these movements.

tension. Then comes co-ordinating the body to move in a way that uses connected, spiral-like, whole-body movement from the core

The theory of how “qi” (pronounced “chee”) flows through the

out to the extremities.

body will be familiar to anyone who has ever heard of acupuncture. Tai Chi uses movement and meditation to build the

The third stage is calming the mind and focusing internally to

“qi” and circulate it around the body. At first, training focuses on

micro-adjust the posture and movements to help the body move in

softness and relaxation, which yields many health benefits and

a highly efficient and balanced way with smooth energy flow.

greatly reduces stress. As you progresses further, more fast and dynamic movements are added, which then help increase fitness,

Finally, when the body has undergone a lot of training, you can

stamina and endurance.

learn how to use Tai Chi for self-defence, because every movement also has a martial application.

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How does it benefit health? Chen style Tai Chi, which is fast becoming the most popular

By a process of relaxing muscular tensions, improving

form of Tai Chi in the world, regulates all systems within the

posture, and a deepening of the breathing process, Tai Chi

body, improving digestion, respiration and circulation.

has positive effects on stress levels. So it helps reduce depression, anxiety, and mood disturbance in regular

In addition, the low-impact nature of the routines improves


the condition of bones, joints and muscles without strain, while encouraging balance, focus, flexibility and coordination.

And Tai Chi consists of constant, co-ordinated movement of the head, trunk and limbs, requiring

Tai Chi is recognised by the Chinese Government and many

tremendous concentration and balance control, so

Health Institutes around the world as a form of exercise

it’s also the number-one exercise for fall

that offers one of the greatest all-round benefits to

prevention among the elderly.

health. But Western Medicine is just starting to test the health benefits of Tai Chi, and some of the results have been remarkable. The most famous published medical studies have stated Tai Chi reduces stress and is extremely beneficial for people with heart conditions, arthritis, osteoporosis, depression, hypertension and anxiety.

Am I too old for Tai Chi? Tai Chi can be practised at any age. For the very young, it

Tai Chi is not only beneficial for various medical conditions,

helps with hyperactivity, posture, patience and cognitive

but also a way of getting fit and burning up some calories. If

functions like memory and attention. Kids especially love

you do the postures correctly with wider and lower stances,

learning the sword after they have finished three years of

you will generate internal heat and burn calories! The whole

foundation training.

body gets toned and deeper muscles are strengthened, which support your spine.

So for anyone thinking of taking it up at an older age, don’t worry, there is no age limit. To start with, everything is done

Finally, people who start Tai Chi find that their mood becomes

slowly to help the body relax and give you time to co-ordinate

uplifted after training and that, over time, many positive

your body.

lifestyle changes follow.

It is a non-impact sport that helps people recover from injuries or illness. Fitness is very gently and gradually built up

Niall O Floinn is director of Ireland’s largest Tai Chi

and you can practice to whatever level of intensity you

school, the Galway Tai Chi Academy. Contact him on

choose, according to your physical health, strength and age.

085 154 7157 or visit for

What’s more, all ages train together, which is fun.

more information.

Tai chi  

What you need know about Tai Chi

Tai chi  

What you need know about Tai Chi