IN the midst of Indonesia’s political turmoil, Indonesian athletes have recorded international achievements. This time, six Indonesian wushu and tai chi (tai ji quan) athletes succeeded in becoming champions at the 8th Hong Kong Wushu International Championship, sponsored by the Hong Kong Wushu International Festival Committee from March 12 to 14, 2010.
Indonesia participated for the first time in the championship and was represented by athletes from a club called Dong Yue Tai Ji Quan Indonesia chaired by Tjandra Herawati Widjaja.
The championship was conducted in the Asia World Arena, Hong Kong, and 28 countries participated. The six Indonesian athletes participated in groups with and without equipment, and as individuals using swords, sticks, in 24 and 42 movements. In the group category, Indonesia won Championship for Group Apparatus and Championship for Group Quanshu. In the individual tai chi category, the athletes won seven gold medals, three silver and one bronze.
One should be proud of such achievements. What is interesting is that wushu and tai chi are considered Indonesian martial arts even though they originated from China.
Chinese martial arts, such as tai chi, wushu and waitankung, have become a part of the healthy lifestyle here. While it is difficult to determine when these martial arts were first introduced here, one can easily find them practiced everywhere and many clubs have been created, such as Dong Yue Tai Ji Quan Indonesia.
Basically, the purpose of tai chi is maintaining one’s health. However, it is believed that tai chi, wushu and waitankung not only maintain health but can also cure some diseases. On a higher spiritual level, tai chi exercises are believed to make one more relaxed, patient and submissive to the Creator. The great teacher of waitankung, Chang Chih-tung, said that energy is the union of the sky and the earth.
To some people, such a statement may sound excessive. But not for those who have enjoyed the real benefits. Andreas Setiadi, for example, is living proof. The 65-year-old man suffered from diabetes and one day fell unconscious while taking a morning walk. Walking was the only exercise he could manage after he had stopped playing tennis and golf. However, after routinely practicing tai chi he now feels fresher and feels he is more resistant to disease.
Moreover, the medical trend is now back to nature and one can easily find jamu or local herbal powder sold at drugstores. So, the situation is conducive for such sports and spiritual activities. Indeed, nothing is wrong with regulating one’s breathing and doing physical movements that make one feel fresh.
Tai chi has a lot of benefits. For centuries the Chinese have maintained their health by doing tai chi, which is a combination of gymnastics, meditation, slow movements and regulating the breath.
Tai chi also strengthens the back, spinal cord and heart and increases flexibility. Part of tai chi’s appeal is that it does not feel like exercise. “It offers cardiovascular benefits similar to brisk walking or low-impact aerobics, but it’s much easier on the body,” says Ruth Taylor-Piliae, PhD, RN, a tai chi researcher and postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University School of Medicine.
“It’s good for people who might not be capable of strenuous activity.” The stances require you to shift your weight slowly from one foot to the other while maintaining control throughout. “This keeps your mind focused, improves balance, and strengthens your body,” Taylor-Piliae says.
Tai chi also offers a number of health benefits. In the 47 studies published in the Archives of Internal Medicine it is mentioned that tai chi can lower blood pressure, increase flexibility, strength and balance as well as lower levels of stress and depression.
The term tai chi literally means “the grand ultimate” and figuratively “the cosmos”. In the classical work Treatise on Tai Chi Chuan, author Wang Zong Yue writes “tai chi is born from the Void. It generates movement and stillness, and is the mother of yin and yang. When moved, it separates; when still, it unites”.
Tai chi is inseparable from the yin and yang principle, which are two different aspects that complement each other. Everything in this world contains yin and yang, while every yin has yang and yang has yin. Take a baby, for example, while it is weak (yin), it has a strong heartbeat (yang). Water may appear to be weak (yin), but it also has a powerful force (yang).
Similarly, tai chi contains yin and yang aspects, while the exercise consists of four elements: Form, energy, application and theory. The movements are very slow, elegant but authoritative and are different from Shaolin movements. But the application of tai chi is fast and powerful.
So, clearly there is yin (slow and authoritative), which is in harmony with yang (fast and powerful). The yang movement is circular and external, while the yin is regulation of breathing and visualization. If we only practice the form but not develop the energy it means that we only concentrate on yang and forget about yin. Peace of mind and skill is represented by yin, while body movement and physical energy are represented by yang. (Reyhan Fabiano)
The Jakarta Post, April 13, 2010