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Find poetry in motion. Tai Chi is a is a Chinese martial art created to keep your body’s energy flowing smoothly and to teach instinctive reactions that would keep you one step ahead in combat. It has many different forms, including the slow, choreographed group exercise classes you might have caught sight of at the park.

How does it work?

If you’ve ever wondered how the slow movements of Tai Chi are supposed to get you fit, you’re probably coming at it from a very western perspective. Traditional Chinese Medicine teaches that the body has its own energy, ‘chi’ or ‘qi’, which runs in channels and through meridian points in our bodies. The movements of Tai Chi are designed to encourage a smooth flow of chi throughout the body, along with good breathing techniques and concentration. The calm, relaxing movements are also thought to be great for stress, turning the heat down when your mind’s bubbling over.

It’s not just about keeping your life juices in full flow, though; Tai Chi is a martial art. Each move, whether performed slowly or at the faster speed of some forms of Tai Chi, is based around the exchange of energy in combat. To get you trained and ready for when the sparks start to fly, the defensive and offensive postures are often practised with a partner – it’s called Pushing Hands or Tui Shou.

Other forms of Tai Chi include San Shou, which is also partner work. It involves free sparring, matching defensive and offensive positions with your partner to teach you those instinctive reactions and self-defence that’ll give you extra peace of mind when you’re wandering down dark alleyways.

Is it for me?

Because it’s so graceful, some see Tai Chi as more of an art form than a form of exercise, but if you progress to the more rough-and-ready forms it can provide a good workout. For many people, though, it’s just a good way to keep flexible, strong, supple and stress free without having to be as bendy as a yoga queen or sweating it out with the gym bunnies.

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