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[Martial Arts] Brief History about Martial Arts
There was no real evidence to specifically prove when did martial arts really started out. The speculations and myths we have, draw us back to ancient China and India. It is believed that a high monk from India - Bodhidharma, or more commonly known as "Da-muo" by Chinese buddhists, once visited Song-Shan Shaolin Temple and monastery. He stayed there for a period of 9 years facing a wall to meditate. In the process, he taught all the other monks the meaning of "Chan", a method of breathing techniques and exercises to increase one's overall well-being, and along with it, the ability to defend oneself. This method of breathing techniques and exercises is also known as "Zen" by the Japanese.

Due to the very fact that the very basis of martial arts is dependent on these techniques, one might conclude that martial arts begun around that age. However, do remember these are just speculations.

In the past, martial arts are learned and used specifically for defending oneself. The sole purpose of martial arts is to be able disarm/disable the enemy in the shortest time possible. However as time passes, martial arts grew to have a new purpose - To make money. During the Warring States Period in China, there were many outlaws and bandits abound. Hence merchants have to employ bodyguards to protect themselves and their goods.

Martial artists thus flourished at this time and many classes or arts were developed. By the route of Silk Road, the culture of martial arts spread and cross-exchanged with India, to Baghdad, to Tyre, and even up to Plamyra on the borders of Rome. Trade and cultural exchange was the main source of energy that helped martial arts to spread across the globe then. And it is still a source now...

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[Martial Arts] Moral of Martial Arts
There is often a misinterpretation and misuse of martial arts by most people. Starting out from a young age, many people see martial art as a form of skill that can be used to "over-power" people. Children often think that as long as they are well trained in some form of martial arts, no one else can bully them. And on the other hand, they can do what they like, even if they cause harm on others. This is a wrong concept for an approach to learning martial arts.

Aggressiveness that is often portrayed in most arts has the purpose of boosting one's confidence and scaring away a tough opponent. It should not be taken as an act of superiority over others. The primary motive of unenlightened learners of martial arts is to put their skill to use for fighting and for bullying weaker folks. With this mentally, one could never really achieve excellence in any form of martial arts. Moreover, it also defeats the true objectives of learning a martial art - To defend oneself and improve overall well-being (Both physically and mentally).

A good martial artist should practice what the chinese call "wu-te", or martial virtue. This consists mainly of four kinds of character that a person should have:

Discipline, Restraint, Humility and Respect for Life.

It is only you have all these characters, shall you be fit for the life of a true martial artist.

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[Martial Arts] The Martial Art for YOU
Now that you have come to understand the brief history and moral of Martial Arts, we shall take a deeper look at which form of martial arts is most suitable for us. There are several kinds of arts from which to choose from. Kalaripayit from India, Shaolin Fist from China, Katori Shinto Ryu (which includes ninjutsu) or Aikido from Japan and the list goes on... There is really quite a few which can give most beginners a headache to choose from.

Whichever art you choose to take up is very much of a personal preference. Most martial arts will assist people in improving their discipline, endurance, mental power, physical strength and overall well-being. As long as you take up one that is suitable for your health standard, you are sure to benefit from it, body, mind and soul. You will feel much healthier and more ready for harder life challenges ahead. But what do I mean when I say "suitable for your health standard"?

When it comes to martial arts, it is actually classified into two categories. The hard arts, or the soft arts. Hard arts will be those like Shaolin Fist and Karate. These arts focus mainly on physical strength, speed and co-ordinations. More suitable for younger people or physically fitter ones. Soft arts are those like Aikido, Hsing-i and Tai Chi. They are much "softer" in nature compared to their counterparts and can be practiced by a wider age group of people.

As such, I recommend that you go for a soft arts, Tai Chi especially. It is an art suitable for you to pick up at any age, and one that can accompany you for life.

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[Martial Arts] Introduction to Tai Chi as a Martial Art
As mentioned in Tai Chi theory by most Tai Chi masters....

"The aim of Taiji as a martial art is to stop violence conclusively without recourse to more violence, most of the time the violence is redirected against itself or rendered ineffectual. Hence Taijiquan exponents usually just overpower their opponents by turning their own violence against themselves, educating them rather than hurting them."

Tai Chi, or perhaps the more commonly known "Taijiquan" by the chinese, is a martial art that combines the fundamentals of combat skills with chinese philosophy. It dates back to around 300 BC, from the writings of Tao by Lao Tzu (The Sage who wrote down the philosophy of Taoism).

The basic component within Tao was energy or chi, the life force. As Lao Tzu wrote:

"Man when living is soft and tender; when dead, he is hard and tough. All animals and plants are tender and fragile when living; when dead, they become withered and dry. Therefore the hard and tough are parts of death; the soft and tender are parts of Life. This is why tough soldiers cannot carry the day; the trees when too tough will break. The position of the strong and great is low, and the position of the weak and tender is high."

With this philosophy in mind, Tai Chi masters saw through the surface of the external world, and the hidden inner laws of life's nature was finally revealed: "The soft and weak can overcome the hard and strong." This is the force of Tai Chi...

Tai Chi Master, Zheng Man Qing, can send a 200-pound man flying across the room but can find a bowling ball too heavy for him to carry. The principles behind the adage of deflecting a thousand pounds with four ounces hold true in Tai Chi (known commonly as "si liang ba qian jin" by the chinese).

From my point of view, the stronger the opponent is, the more powerful would Tai Chi be against him. That is because you are using himself against HIMSELF.

When a person starts learning Tai Chi, most of his moves would be slow in motion. This is the basis of Tai Chi to be soft, flexible and sensitive. The key to Tai Chi as a combat skill is to learn to sense the enemy and co-ordinate your mind and body to react accordingly. The harder the enemy gives out a strike, as in street fighting, the harder he will hit himself. This is due to the fact that Tai Chi directed his attack force back to himself. In the process of re-directing this force, Tai Chi masters can also add a little counter-attack if they want to.

When an opponent is fast and hard, Tai Chi masters do not act like him. They believe that strength meets strength is harmful to both parties, if not destroying them altogether. Hence, Tai Chi masters remain cool and calm to sense their opponent's every motion; so as to counter them effectively (by deflecting and re-directing) and deal serious damage to the opponent by attacking critical parts of the body (if necessary).

In Tai Chi, you don't attack if your opponent don't attack, But if you do attack, you can deal serious damage to your opponent. Furthermore, with Tai Chi, you can easily win people in fights, even when they're much bigger in size or more powerful than you.

However, Tai Chi should not be treated as a skill to kill, though it can be used to. As mentioned before, we need to have martial virtue when learning a martial art. Thus Tai Chi as a combat skill should only be used to defend ourselves.

By using this form of defence, we can also punish those who want to hurt us, in the same way they intended to (by directing their attacks back to themselves). Therefore Tai Chi as a martial art encourages peace, kindness, and righteousness.

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[Martial Arts] Benefits of Tai Chi
The martial art of Tai Chi focuses on a balance of the Yin and Yang energy. This balance of energy is also a concept used by many chinese in medical treatments, for example acupuncture. Tai Chi, also known as the Supreme Pole, was thus considered a martial arts of Life, or more specifically a martial art of life energy.

[Yin & Yang]                 [Yin & Yang]                 [Yin & Yang]

It is believed that there are more than 300 spots on our body, when struck by a weapon, fist or finger, will cause a person to be stunned, paralysed, unconscious or even dead. Up to date, 108 major stunning and killing spots are identified, out of which 36 are very lethal. The knowledge of these vital points plays an important part in Tai Chi training as a form of healing art.

Tai Chi when performed at a correct, slow tempo, will greatly aid in the flow of chi in the body. This flow of energy is able to strengthen the principal internal organs, including our heart, liver, kidneys, lungs and spleen. It also has the effect of building up strong ligaments, muscles and bones.

Unlike most other arts, besides being a form of self-defence, Tai Chi is the one that can promote good health and longevity. That is why you can see many old people practicing Tai Chi in the parks of most chinese countries. Hong Kong's Kowloon Park is one of these many places for catching a view of the graceful performance of Tai Chi.

China once did a research on 400 Japanese volunteers who practiced Tai Chi. It was discovered that 81.05% of them have a stronger body compared to the normal citizens who never practiced Tai Chi or just did other forms of workouts.

Besides this fact, another research done on 576 patients in a hospital in China, Chong Qing, showed that Tai Chi can double the chance of recovery in any illness. Out of these 576 patients, 280 patients practiced Tai Chi, and 30.71% of them recovered completely. In contrast, of the 296 patients who never touch Tai Chi, only 11.82% of them recovered.

[Yin & Yang]                 [Yin & Yang]                 [Yin & Yang]

According to another research done by an American-Chinese, Xu Yan Sen, it was discovered that this ancient art of Tai Chi can help in preventing deaths of old people who fall down accidentally and died. In America, out of 3 old man, aged 65 years or older, one would have died from falling down accidentally. This death from falling is also the second killer for old women aged 65-85.

Through Tai Chi, these old people are able develop a stronger sense of balance, flexibility and toughness. By Xu's records, the chances of an old man falling is decreased by 47.5% if he practiced Tai Chi. Even if he did fall down, the fall is not likely to result in death or serious injury as before. This is due to the increased toughness of the body by practicing Tai Chi.

Tai Chi also has the effects of clearing a troubled mind and enhancing brainpower. When practicing Tai Chi, the student has to reach a state of mind-body co-ordination where "intention is action". A high level of concentration is required and a "combination of the human and environment" is to be reached (known as Tian Ren He Yi by chinese martial artists). The heart calms down while the mind is focused into directing the moves of limbs and the body.

This process helps to improve blood circulation to our brain and instantly clear our worries for the day. A good session at the end of the day will help us to sleep much better.

By learning and practicing Tai Chi constantly, one can attain a higher level of mental awareness, improve his emotional condition and increase his physical power, or even lengthen his life span. On the whole, it is a good form of martial arts that will improve your overall well-being as a human.

Tai Chi is suitable for anyone to start out at any age. After starting out, you can practice it for life, up till 100 years old or even older (like most expert Tai Chi masters).

To know more about Tai Chi and it's benefits, try visiting Tai Chi masters in martial arts schools around your area. They are always happy to elaborate on their ancient martial art.

You can also easily find testimonies of people who learned Tai Chi in some Tai Chi websites on the Internet. An amazing thing to note is that there are quite a number of these testimonies where people are even cured of an incurable illness because of learning Tai Chi.

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[Martial Arts] End Note
Although I have gone into much detail about Tai Chi on this page, you might still find that Tai Chi is not suitable for you. Do feel free to scout around the Internet for more details regarding other forms of Martial Arts.

As long as it is a form of martial arts, it should be beneficial for your overall well-being and also self-defence. So try to take up one as soon as you find something suitable.

Though you are not restricted to taking only one form of martial arts, it is always advisable to take up just one, only one first. This is because every form of martial arts has a very complex background that cannot be easily understood in a short time. It will take you years or even a whole life span to fully master an art. Being too ambitious will just injure you.

May you have a healthy life ahead~!


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