What Does Tai Chi Mean? Yin And Yang Explained
Tai Chi means yin and yang or yin yang and has a far broader meaning than a sequence of martial arts movements preformed in slow motion. Tai Chi, yin yang is at the heart of Chinese culture, everything from Chinese medicine to principles of warfare are based on the philosophy of Tai Chi.
Yin Yang fist.
The full name of the slow motion martial exercise that millions of people practice for health is Tai Chi Ch’uan, which means “yin yang fist”. It is also known as “supreme ultimate fist”, “boundless fist”, “supreme ultimate boxing” or “great extremes boxing”. Yin yang fist is an expression of Tai Chi philosophy applied to martial arts, Tai Chi philosophy is also applied to Chinese cooking and many other aspects of life!
Yin Yang philosophy.
Yin yang is seeing and explaining the visible world as consisting of opposite but supporting forces that are constantly interchanging. If this dynamic balanced expressed in nature is reflected in our lives we are in harmony with the way however if we loose this natural balance we have lost our way.
As clear as night and day.
We can all see that everything has an opposite and without its compliment couldn’t be distinguished or even exist. We know hot because of cold and night because of day the list could go on and on. The interplay of these opposites gives rise to everything that makes up the visible world including ourselves and is called change, to understand how things change is called wisdom.
The only thing that does not change is that everything changes
~ Bruce Lee
What is yin?
Yin is the half of duality expressed as soft expanding black cold light empty and female. Nothing can ever exist and be completely yin or completely yang each contains some of the other. If something was for instance totally soft it would have no structure and if something kept expanding it would be spread so thin as not to exist.
What is yang?
Yang covers the expressions in the world of the masculine energy. Hardness contraction white hot heavy and full are all aspects of the masculine. Take the human body, it is the yang qualities of the white bones that give us a solid structure, without this structure we would be a pile of jelly on the floor! The other side of this is that we are made up of mainly fluids and without the more pliant tendons and soft tissue, the yin element,we could not move.
It is human nature to reject one side of the coin and cling to the other, we tend to think in terms of cops and robbers, good guys and bad guys, rather than seeing ever fresh situations, which calls for giving up preconceived fixed ideas.
Nobody is as good or as bad as you think they are!
~ Old saying
One example of clinging to only one side of the coin is wishing for good health.
We can only have health because of sickness, often an illness is telling you to rest, it’s a warning that we have lost balance and need to slow down.
Never sick early death.
~ Chinese proverb
Life is this dynamic balance of shifting circumstances that we have to adapt to on a daily basis. Nothing stays the same and it is our ability to manage change, to go with the flow and make the best of it that gives us peace of mind.
Truths are universal
In our own folk wisdom little expressions such as “every cloud has a silver lining” are reminding us that there is always a bit of good in the bad, this is the same universal truth, nothing is ever totally yin or purely yang. The darkest hour is before the dawn is another way to remind someone that tough, or good times don’t last. The higher that you go, the harder that you fall is a well known truth in Western culture. Seeing the big picture and another point of view clearly, staying centred and moderate is the wise way.
Sometimes by stepping out of our own cultural background by studying something of another tradition we are able to see things in our own tradition more clearly and appreciate them even more than we did previously.
The full circle.
When we are very young we lack teeth and hair and are vulnerable. When we are very old we again lack teeth and if you are male you will probably have little or no hair left and once again we are weak and vulnerable. At both the opposite ends of life we have similar characteristics as we start and complete the circle of life. The very young and the very old are free of the rat race and worrying about the opposite sex, it can be a time of great learning and discovery.
When we are in our youth we have energy to burn off and waste, the exercise that we need is about eighty percent vigorous with far less of the slow gentle cool down stuff. As we get older the opposite is true, plenty of regular slow stretching and balance training. This way when we do occasionally burst into strenuous activity our well oiled and still as supple as we can keep it body can cope with the sudden extra demand. This change in how we exercise is a gradual one and only we feel the right balance but it will gradually be less of the explosive stuff.
Bend and be straight.
When walking the dogs today on the moor I noticed the first strong winds of autumn blowing the reeds over at an angle but with no damage done because of their yielding yin like suppleness. Strong winds cannot snap that which yields ready to spring up again when they pass. Illness and old age are best dealt with as the reeds cope with the wind, there is a lot in the yin yang symbol if you know what it is saying.