There are many words spoken and written to describe Chen Taijiquan, its origins and benefits, these have their place but can overwhelm in the beginning. The true Taiji is the one that is felt by doing. Taiji can be fulfilling and enjoyable if the systems rules are followed and absorbed into the body through regular practice and the continued guidance of a good teacher. To quote Chen Xin - "All that idle talk does is to create a tide of black ink: putting it into practice is the real thing"
So here is a short overview of both the benefits and the history of Chen Taiji just to get you started:
The health benefits of Taiji come with regular practice, and the training method of performing the movements slowly makes it an accessible exercise for all ages with the potential to increase fitness, flexibility, strength and mental and physical well-being along with the self defense skills. In fact Harvard Medical School have named Taiji as one of the 5 best exercises you can ever do:
In China Chen Taijiquan is commonly referred to as gong fu, often Westernised to kung fu, a term popularised by Bruce Lee and generally misunderstood to mean the fighting arts. In reality gong fu is deeper than this and roughly translates as aquired skill, something which takes a long time and effort to develop. This in itself develops many qualities such as self discipline, mental resilience & focus, strength of character and confidence.
There have been many documented medical studies into the health benefits of Taiji confirming that it:
Boosts immune system - protecting the body against illness
Increases bone density - supports and strengthens the joints, essential for all and invaluable for sufferers of arthritis and osteoporosis
Improves balance - most illnesses in older people originate from trips and falls
Reduces stress - improves mental health, reduces tension and anxiety, increases positivity and aids sleep
Strengthen lungs - continuous "thread" of co-ordinated breath improves oxygen absorption and lung capacity helping to control symptons of asthma, bronchitis etc
Aids weight loss - stimulates digestion and fat absorption and improves muscle tone
For more information about some of these studies, have a look at this article:
A Brief History
Chen Taijiquan originates from Chenjiagou, a small rural village in Northern China. It was created by Chen Wangting in the 1600's who, as a retired Army General, worked on developing martial arts into an all encompasing system containing Yin Yang philosophy, Tu-na breathing techniques and Traditional Chinese Medical Theory. This became classed as an internal style of martial arts.
Chen Wangting Chen Fake Chen Zhaokui
During the following decades Chen Taijiquan was passed down through the generations of the Chen family and there are many tales of their exploits as they used their skills to defend their village and make a living as bodyguards and escorting trade caravans. Due to this their techniques were closely guarded until 14th generation Master Chen Chengxing revised the numerous routines and taught the first non family member Yang Luchan. Yang simplified the Chen family routines and his system became known as Yang Taiji, this became popularised throughout China and led to other other off-shoots being created.
Meanwhile, Chen Taijiquan remained relatively obscure, only thriving in the village where it began. However, in 1928, 17th generation Chen Fake was invited to demonstrate his martial skills in Beijing. His ability amazed the Wushu (martial art) community with his neutralising skills and explosive power being far removed from what they understood to be Taiji. This began the spread of Chen Taijiquan through China and in recent times the world.