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T'ai chi is a gentle form of exercise for health and relaxation which originates from ancient China.

Gentle flowing movements are combined with deep breathing exercises in order to cultivate the inner energy of the body or chi.

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The benefits of T'ai Chi Ch'uan

T'ai Chi is not just a physical form of exercise but also has mental and spiritual aspects.

Physical

The gentleness of T'ai Chi ensures that the practitioner does not suffer the kinds of strains or muscular and joint injuries which are common with more physical types of exercise, but develops greater strength while developing greater flexibility and suppleness. Dedicated athletes will find that T'ai Chi is one of the finest ways of gently warming up to offset any vigorous exercise that may follow and it can help to speed up recovery from injury. The nervous system is soothed and calmed which can help aid restful sleep. In China T'ai Chi is often practised as a Health Art because it has been known for centuries to aid recovery from a variety of diseases especially those caused by stress or overwork, and it can also benefit anyone suffering from overweight as it helps to break down the fatty tissue in the body thereby reducing the body to its natural weight level. T'ai Chi is also very good for the balance, and the deep breathing exercises improve oxygenation in the entire body and help to increase stamina.

Mental

T'ai Chi can help to sharpen the mental faculties and improve acuity so that a very strong and purposeful mind is developed. Dynamic and exact control is maintained over all parts of the body and by this means one also learns to keep control over the emotions. We also learn various partner exercises which provide a unique opportunity to learn how to utilize and develop internal energy as well as learning practical methods to stay focussed and relaxed in stressful situations.

Spiritual

T'ai Chi is based upon the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism. Although Taoism is not a religion, studying T'ai Chi can have spiritual benefits by helping us to become aware of how we are a part of the natural environment. By learning how to control the emotions you can start to develop a deep inner peace thereby becoming at one with oneself and others around you. This naturally leads to a greater awareness and understanding of oneself, and a greater appreciation and understanding of others, all of which creates a balance and harmony within oneself and with the world around us.

The History of T'ai Chi Ch'uan

For centuries Taoist scholars, doctors and herbalists have investigated the inner workings of the mind and body. Written texts which are still in use today such as the Nei Ching or Yellow Emperor's Classic have been traced back to the Xia dynasty of 2600 BC. Many Taoist works on subjects such as philosophy, science, medicine, alchemy, astronomy, and agriculture, have survived into modern times. Through dedicated research and experimentation the Taoist philosophy of yin and yang was evolved, but above all it was discovered that each individual's mental and physical health depends upon the quantity and quality of their internal energy or life force known as the 'Chi'. All modern forms of Chinese Medicine such as Acupuncture, Acupressure, Herbalism, Taoist Yoga or Chi Gung, and T'ai Chi Ch'uan are derived from these earlier studies.

The major emphasis in Chinese medicine is on prevention rather than cure. Exercise, lifestyle and dietary habits are of primary consideration. From early times Taoist doctors found that natural foods and deep breathing exercises could help the body to store energy rather than depleting it. Rather than treating disease after it had struck they decided to encourage people to take a more responsible and active role in their own well being. They developed T'ai Chi as a popular way for people of any age or level of ability to improve their health and to aid their recovery from illness from the roots by cultivating the Chi.

More recently, as Chinese people have emigrated to other countries, T'ai Chi has become popular throughout the world as an antidote to the increasing pressures of the urban environment. Sometimes called moving meditation the gentle movements can be practised by young and old alike as there is not the wear and tear on the body associated with more aggressive forms of exercise. Deep breathing and stretching exercises are also incorporated to help rid the body of toxins, but the most obvious benefit to most people is the deep feeling of relaxation which accompanies the practise.

T'ai Chi has become the living embodiment of a philosophical tradition which has been directly transmitted from teacher to student often without recourse to written or oral teaching. Students are encouraged to observe the laws of nature at work spontaneously through their own experience rather than copy something which they have been told or read in a book. Taoist teachers often integrate their studies with other related disciplines such as K'ai Men or Taoist Yoga, Wu Shu or self defence practise, Ch'ang Ming or natural dietary therapy, and the many and various aspects of Taoist medicine and meditation techniques.

T'ai Chi exercises can be practised anywhere as there is no need for any elaborate equipment, all that is needed is some space, some clean air, and a little time each day. With dedicated practice and an open minded attitude it is possible for anyone to feel the flow of their internal energy and thereby take the first steps along the road towards a lifestyle which integrates the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of their being.

Chee Soo wrote a comprehensive and detailed training manual for students who are practising the Lee style called The Chinese Art of T'ai Chi Ch'uan. This book has sections on all of the basic exercises for T'ai Chi practise including stances, sticky hands, whirling arms, whirling hands and advice on the best ways to train. It also tells us about the history of T'ai Chi and the development of the various styles. Although this book is suitable for beginners it is also full of information which will be of interest to the more advanced student. If you are interested in reading more you can obtain a copy by clicking on the image below.


Wu Shu - Self defence

Feng Shou, Hand of the Wind Kung Fu

T'ai Chi is closely related to Taoist Martial Arts or Wu Shu, in fact T'ai Chi itself is the oldest form of self defence practice but this aspect of the art takes many years to learn. Wu Shu is a much quicker method because it relies partly on physical principles, it is particularly suitable for young people.

The style we learn is called Feng Shou or Hand of the Wind Kung Fu. It is a soft or internal style which means that there is no blocking or hard physical contact. Instead you can learn to neutralise the attacking force by turning it back upon itself. This means training the sensitivity so that you can learn to read someone's intentions even before they make a move.

 This kind of exercise depends upon relaxation rather than tension or physical muscular development. Lightness, flexibility and technique are emphasised and everyone is encouraged to train with a spirit of friendly co-operation rather than competitiveness. It involves learning to deal with punches, kicks or grapplers using a wide range of responses, but it is based purely on practical self defence skills which are unsuitable for use in competitions or as a sport.

It is extremely effective and yet it does not involve any violence or aggression. Anyone who has marvelled at the spectacle of a little old man defeating people half his age and twice his size can appreciate that there is much more to self defence than just brute strength or muscle power. In fact the mark of a true Taoist is to have the maximum effect with the least amount of effort.

Kung Fu training has its origins in China's primitive period even before writing and the other civilized arts had been developed. In order to deal with wild animals and the incursions of barbarian tribes from the North the Taoists soon learned to apply their knowledge of internal medicine and physical culture to self defence. They developed a series of practical exercises which not only improved the flow of the internal energy through the body but refined the sensitivity and helped to focus the mind as well. In this way self defence training could be an integrated part of peoples lives yielding health benefits as well as practical skills.

In modern China Wu Shu is practised in much the same way as sport or gymnastics in the west, to improve balance, flexibility and co-ordination, and to learn self discipline and control. Feng Shou kung fu also includes weapons training using a Chinese broadsword which is a curved single edged sword and a staff.

Chee Soo wrote an extensive training manual which details all of the most important aspects of Feng Shou hand of the wind training. This book is of particular interest to beginners who may wish to practice some of the exercises they have learned in a class at home. It is also of great interest to more advanced students because it has detailed explanations about the more advanced aspects of kung fu training including the process of developing inner power or chi energy. Each chapter contains detailed and practical step by step exercises which develop the skills necessary to learn kung fu including illustrations. At 240 pages this is the largest of Chee Soo's training manuals. If you want to read more then you can click on the image to order a copy.


Chee Soo Biography

Chee Soo was born of a Chinese father and an English mother, and as they died when he was only a very young child, he was brought up in a Barnardo's home, which was and still is a charitable orphanage. He started his first job as a page boy in a nursing home in Earls Court, West London, and in his spare time he used to go to Hyde Park to enjoy the fresh air, watch the horse riders exercising their animals, and to play with his ball.

However, something happened that was to alter the whole course of his future life. One Sunday afternoon, he went to the park to play with his ball, when suddenly it bounced rather erratically, and accidentally hit the back of an elderly gentleman who was sitting on a park bench. Having recovered his ball, he went up to the gentleman to offer his apologies, only to see that the man was also Chinese. As it was a very rare thing to see another Chinese in London in those days, they began to talk together, and even arranged to meet again. So the two began to meet fairly regularly - whenever the opportunity and the weather permitted, and a very strong friendship developed between Chee Soo and the gentleman, who was Chan Kam Lee.

In the summer of 1934, Chee Soo was invited to Chan Lee's class and that was the beginning of the training that he has maintained ever since, and it was surely the ordained way of the Tao that enabled Chee Soo to start his learning of the vast range of the Taoist martial, philosophical, healing and cultural arts in this way. It gave great happiness to Chan Lee for he had no family of his own, and as he earnestly desired to keep the Taoist arts alive, he adopted Chee Soo as his nephew, and taught him the arts whenever his work and time permitted. For Chee Soo it meant that he had someone on whom he could rely, and to advise him, and to teach him the fundamentals of the Taoist philosophical attitude to life and all that it meant.

In 1939 the Second World War broke out, and Chee Soo did his share of the fighting as a Tank Commander in the Second Battalion of the Royal Tank Corps, in France, in North Africa - where he won the Military Medal, and in Burma where, after a hectic battle, he was finally taken prisoner by the Japanese. He went through many periods of beatings, torture, starvation and very hard work as a member of a working party in the mountains between India and Burma. Finally, three years later, as the Japanese started to retreat from the advancing Allies, he managed to escape into the Shan mountains of West Burma and made his way over very rugged terrain and through many jungles, till finally one month afterwards he was able to make contact with the Allies again. Three months after recuperation and treatment (for he then weighed only 84 lbs), he was flown back to England, where he was able to enjoy a long leave with his wife. After that, he was discharged from the forces and took a course in book-keeping, stock control, commercial history and sales promotion.

He managed to make contact with Chan Lee again after the war was finished, and the class in Holborn was restarted. In 1950, Chee Soo, with Chan Lee's permission, formed his own class in Manor Road School, West Ham, East London.


In the winter of 1953-4, Chan Lee died, off the coast of China, near Canton, when the ship that he was travelling in sank in a severe storm, and so Chee Soo was asked to take over the leadership of the Association that has been set up to bind the practitioners of the Lee style together. However, in deference to the memory of Chan Lee, Chee Soo declined to accept any title within the Association at that particular time. By 1959, groups and clubs were being formed all over the world and they were asking for leadership. For this reason, Chee Soo decided to accept the post of President of the Association. Since then the Association has grown from strength to strength in the British Isles, Australia, South Africa, France, Germany, Holland, Mauritius and New Zealand.

In 1982 Chee Soo moved to Coventry in the West Midlands where he set about training the next generation of Taoist teachers to continue his work. He devoted a great deal more time to writing and completed the publication of his series of five books about Taoism and The Lee style. Here he was remarried to Marilyn Perkin who was to become the Honorary Secretary of the Association. For many years they taught classes in the local area which are still running today, as well as many courses throughout the country and also overseas. Eventually they moved to Ebbw Vale in South Wales to be near Marilyn's elderly mother where Chee Soo sadly passed away in August 1994.

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