Monday, March 30, 2009

Tai Chi to Win

International Press •
Interview with
Win Straube ••
Managing Member, The Straube Foundation, Inc.

What is Tai Chi?

Translated from the Chinese, "Tai Chi Chuan" literally translates as "Supreme Ultimate Fist " or "Boundless Fist," but can also be read as "Great Extreme Boxing," or “Yin/Yang Boxing” or “Supreme Ultimate Boxing.” Over 5000 years old, Tai Chi is considered by many the physical application of Taoist philosophy, which stresses that all good comes from the fundamental harmony between man and natural forces. Legend has it that an early Taoist witnessed a snake fighting a crane. From that observation allegedly, tai chi was developed, in essence a self-defense routine that encourages correct posture and body mechanics in order to use an opponent’s force against himself, and at the same time exert maximum force and pressure on him.

Is Tai Chi the only martial art which is purely defensive?

In this respect, the philosophy of Tai Chi resembles that of Judo, which means “The Gentle Way,” and is a Japanese martial art based on the ancient techniques of Jiu-Jitsu, which was developed as a weaponless system of self-defense by Buddhist monks over several thousand years. Or also as the “Way of the Intercepting Fist,” the basic mental and physical concepts, combat maneuvers, and attitudes expressed by the late Bruce Lee.

Have these practices been the same throughout history?

They’ve been around for a long period of time and finely honed by many people, adapting to particular needs of the epochs. Just to relate to the length of time involved, consider that the Hebrew calendar presently counts the year 5770, and the Chinese calendar 4707. Only fairly recently, within the last 200 years or so, these practices have been written down and defined in various forms. For example, the Yang style of Tai Chi is probably the most commonly practiced form around the world today. Wu style is also popular, particularly in some Asian countries. There is substantial literature available on all the traditional Tai Chi styles, their practice and applications, including on the World Wide Web.

Why are people still practicing physical self-defense of this type? In these days it may not be appropriate nor effective?

Many people nowadays practice Tai Chi for the purpose of building and maintaining good health, although the underlying philosophy and strength is that of self-defense.




Well, the first objective of an opponent was (and maybe still is) to throw you off balance. The main aim of Tai Chi is to retain your balance, and let him lose his. Since Tai Chi is a practice of body and mind inseparably combined, this also applies to keeping your senses and intellect in balance and not go off-balance, regardless how much others might try.


Tai Chi practice improves your flexibility, again both in body and mind.


It teaches you swiftness, moving at the right moment, in the right places, as well as your logic computing super-fast in precise anticipation.


Proficiency in Tai Chi results in deliberate, strong movements, including being able to grasp and hold on to things and thoughts.


It teaches focus, improves your intuition as well as non-verbal communication skills, exuding strength and confidence on your part, especially when facing an opponent. More than that for the experienced practitioner: it exerts one’s focus on others, gives non-verbal commands with nothing but the mind.


As a major benefit for living in stressful times, the practice of Tai Chi counter-acts the onslaught of outside forces and influences, tunes your body and mind for deliberate moves and action, more control, more attention to detail, enables better learning, leading to better performance.

It sounds like sharp concentration is necessary, careful attention to detail and a lot of hard work.

One of the major factors in bringing the desired results about, Tai Chi needs to be practiced very slowly. The slower it can be done, the better, and the harder it is. It teaches discipline, for body and mind, concentration, motivation to learn and practice for kids and grownups alike. Once mastered, Tai Chi moves can be executed very fast when necessary, very effectively, including in the thinking process.

Apparently many people practice Tai Chi purely for its health benefits?

Yes, Tai Chi can function as a non-pharmaceutical medicine. The practice of Tai Chi provides many health benefits. It improves breathing, posture, endurance, concentration, lowers blood pressure, gives relaxation, and more.

Do I have to join a group to practice Tai Chi? Are there any other requirements for me to take part in the exercise?

One of the many advantages of practicing Tai Chi for a modern, mobile person is that it can be done anywhere, any time. No gym needs to be visited. No equipment is required. No uniform. No partner. It can be done any time one feels like it or the opportunity presents itself, regardless where, with the rest of the world tuned out, in “the space it takes for a cow to lay down” (that’s how it is described in old South Asian writings.)

It sounds like it is as much a mental exercise as physical?

Actually, you can practice Tai Chi merely in your mind, going through the entire form, with your eyes closed, while sitting in a crowded hall waiting for your airplane to arrive or leave, for example. And yes, even just the mental exercise, picturing and feeling yourself going through the motions, will provide benefits to your system. So does, by the way, merely watching when others practice Tai Chi, even if seen just on a screen. As long as you turn out everything else and concentrate on nothing but the Tai Chi movements being performed, and stay the course, the entire form from start to finish, it will do you some good.

Why is the way you teach Tai Chi referred to as “Tai Chi to Win”?

The Tai Chi form I teach is geared to the needs of the 21st century modern human being. It is the ancient Chinese discipline of meditative movements practiced as a system of exercises. Gentle deliberate movements refreshing the body, revitalizing the spirit and clearing the mind. “Tai-Chi to Win” improves blood circulation, strengthens the cardiovascular system, massages the internal organs and supplies the entire organism with life energy. For the mind, it teaches concentration and visualization techniques. It is both a self-defense system and a moving meditation, it develops peace and harmony in its practitioners. The classical form I teach has 150 movements or positions, including Yoga posture adaptations in the ancient Chinese way for the benefit of health and longevity.

So how can one end up learning better and win?

“Tai Chi to Win” means making you more resilient, tougher to compete with, and solidly healthy overall.

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