There has always been, and there will always be, the man who will want to know what lies beyond the veil of illusions: he, who will stand up, willing to start the journey. To know about one's strength is to willingly seem weak, to know about one's light is to seem obscure, to know about one's height is to seem small. This is the foundation. Thirty spokes unite into the hub, but the emptiness of the hub is the essence in a wheel; vases are made of clay, but it is the emptiness inside which makes the essence of the vase. In general: being serves as a useful means but it is in not-being, in the void that the essence lies.

 

Lao-Tse

 

 

If interpreted as a soft art, Tai Chi Ch'uan is a self-relaxation exercise. Its slow movements are co-ordinated with breath and aimed at a serene state of mind, resulting in improved physical and spiritual health. The term "Tai Chi" is derived from the ancient name "Mien Chuan", which means "Cotton fist"; beyond its literal meaning, behind the image of the hardness of a fist and the softness of cotton, this definition is intended to convey the principle of thesis and antithesis. Over the course of years, the term "Mien Chuan" changed to "Tai Chi Ch'uan", which better expressed the idea of two alternating, complementary principles. In oriental cosmogony, thesis and antithesis are expressed with the terms of "Yin" and "Yang". Taoist philosophy affirms that the Universe can be considered as a series of transformations undergone by a sole principle, which manifests through two complementary and interdependent states. These two states unfold in a continuous relationship, as one eternally arises from the other.

This incessant movement is defined as "Tai Chi". The two states are infinitely ambiguous, because Yang cannot exist without Yin, nor can Yin exist without any trace of Yang. Yin Yang is a philosophical concept which forms the foundations of Chinese culture and is intended to explain the mutations that take place in the universe. They represent the two principles of the universe and they both arise from the One, or the Great Principle. The journey undertaken by a disciple in order to achieve the ability to channel the energy of the "Great Principle" was defined as Tao, the Path! This the importance of Tai Chi: harmonizing the two opposites in our being through correct practice and the right development of energy. Through correct practice, the conscious mind concentrates on Qi; this increases the awareness of the energy flow through the entire body, thus improving its circulation and recharging  energy: "Use your mind to direct Qi...Use Qi to infuse energy into your body". The universe is constituted by five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water; each of these elements is of paramount importance in moulding a  martial artist. He will have to go through these five stages before achieving perfect technique. Energy, or QI, circulates everywhere and, in man, flows through preferential channels called meridians. These are energy channels circulating throughout the body, and various important points are located along their course. Through these points, one can affect energy flow. We could compare an acupunturist or a massage therapist to a traffic policeman, whose work is to ensure proper traffic flow. Studying the complex relationships existing among meridians, one can easily understand how it is possible to cure a disorder by stimulating points that are far from the sick organ. Tai Chi allows to work on these meridians by restoring correct energy flow and is enormously beneficial to human health. 

 

If interpreted as combat art, Tai Chi Ch'uan can become a deadly defence. By changing the intention and the breath flow, the same healing energy can also destroy. A martial arts practitioner must therefore have in-depth knowledge of Vital Points (how they work, and how they can affect internal organs). Attacking one ore more points for self-defence purposes will break the energy flow in our opponent's body, thus causing serious damage to his health. For a proper state of health, it is important that energy should flow in a right and effective way. When a block occurs (trauma, climate variations, internal agents) pain and disease crop up - in extreme cases, even death.

It is therefore very i