I have been practising tai chi & qigong for over 20 years and originally took it up as a martial art. I have long since come to realise that self-defence isn't just against an external attacker, it is defence against self - the stresses and injuries, fears and frustrations that we use to beat ourselves up with. What are your thoughts?
Definitely think you are right here. I believe Tai Chi can be an exercise, a meditation, a martial art and/or a spiritual practise. So you could view Tai Chi as a mechanism for battling against ill health and stress. Alternatively, I have found that it helps me to connect more deeply with the world and people around me. So a more positive aspect and way of thinking about it. These days I rarely think in terms of defense or battling against things. Tai Chi is a part of my Buddhist practise so I tend to find it now teaches me a great deal about connection. Connecting with the earth, with nature and with people. Take a look at my articles and meditations on this (see link)
Yes Tai chi Is more than an exercise for relaxing it is a sophisticated martial art. The slow movement and concentration on the movement is like meditation, coupled with the concentration on relaxing breathing in time you will be relaxed and calmer. Tai Chi hand forms have the martial art application entwined and hidden within the movements. Practicing the hand form without the knowledge of these applications may not give you the same kind of focus, the right intent and may cause incorrect posture, weight transfer and timing. Even if you do not practice self-defence, without the knowledge these application the form can look empty like the essence of the movement is not there.
It is interesting we both Practice CMC Tai Chi. My main teachers was Nigel Sutton. I hvae also trained with Wille Lim and Peter Ralston. By integrating tai chi with NLP etc I have found new facets to this wonderful jewel