Why is Tai Chi Practised Slowly?
Slow and smooth movements are safe and beneficial for
everyone. They allow people of different ages, capabilities and strength to
exercise, each to their own limit, and to become stronger and healthier. It is easy to
injure your body if you train fast and hard. Practising slow movements enables you to be
more aware of your body and to avoid injury. For example, if you have a back problem or
knee condition, with awareness you learn to adjust your body alignment. This allows your
body weight to travel through to the ground, instead of being trapped in the lower back or
knee, where problems may develop.
Moving slowly improves coordination and balance
which helps to prevent falls. Fast movement often brings a degree of tension. When you are tense, you can no longer
discern differences clearly. For example, if you are supporting a heavy object, and you
add a pebble to it, you are unlikely to feel the difference.
Moving slowly induces relaxation which in turn
promotes awareness. Increased sensitivity allows you to feel different parts
of your body more acutely and thereby improve coordination and balance.
Better balance will prevent falls.
Tai Chi walking is likened to the stepping of a cat: slow,
light, relaxed and natural. Once you have achieved this, you will be able to move swiftly
and accurately, and yet stay relaxed as a cat.
Coordination at first may just involve the limbs. Then it
extends to the waist, the spine, the breath and ultimately, the circulation of chi
[internal energy] through the body’s meridian pathways.
Tai Chi is designed to train the body thoroughly and
evenly. Slow, smooth and continuous movements relieve muscle tension and train
the weak areas of the body, especially the joints, tendons and ligaments.
When you train in hard exercise programs which emphasise
brute force, your muscles become strong and over-protect the joints. This means that the
joints are not trained. Due to the density of the joints, there is less blood circulated
to these areas than to the muscles. This makes the joints more difficult to heal once
In Tai Chi, slowness, relaxation and correct alignment enable
you to relieve the tension in your muscles, thus allowing the joints to be exercised
thoroughly and strengthened gradually. Slow, circular and continuous exercise loosens any
stiffness in the joints, resulting in greater freedom of movement. Circulation to the
joints will also improve, and so hasten recovery in existing injuries.
In order to experience a deeper level of relaxation, it is
necessary for you to build a strong basis. The legs are the first and most important
aspect in building this foundation. Many sports people in Australia are prone to knee and
ankle injuries, in spite of their physical fitness. The Academy employs a traditional
training method to strengthen not only the muscles of the legs, but also the tendons and
joints. This training, when it is performed properly and under expert instruction, will
greatly strengthen the knee, the most vulnerable joint in the body. Stronger legs will
lead to a stronger lower back which will improve your overall posture.
The following analogy illustrates this slow, smooth and
continuous training method. If you have 1,000 litres of water in a container, 10 metres
above a concrete slab, and you release that water in one splash, perhaps you might get a
clean slab. However, if you take the same amount of water, and let it drip onto a concrete
slab continuously, the water will eventually wear a hole in the slab. This same process is
applied in Tai Chi training. The joints are exercised slowly and continuously until they
become strong and flexible.
Slow and continuous movements stimulate circulation,
which is essential in maintaining your health and vitality.
Slow, relaxed movements calm the mind. For
centuries, the Chinese have realised the benefits of slow, natural movements. Practising
this way has a calming effect on your mind and nervous system. As your breathing and heart
rate slow down, your mind and body feel relaxed, refreshed and energised. This is quite
different from hard and fast training which tends to result in tiredness and lack of
According to traditional Chinese medicine, keeping the heart
rate low during exercise is more beneficial than accelerating the heart rate. Warming the
body while the heart rate remains low is the result of deep mental and physical