Two martial arts that are gaining popularity are Tai Chi Chuan, “Grand Ultimate Fist” and Muay Thai, “The science of the eight limbs”. Why Study Tai Chi or Muay Thai?
The night was dark and a group stood ominously in a circle. Collin was only there to help his fiancé pick up her mail when they were suddenly surrounded. Six figures had quickly gathered about and a sixth joined Collin in the center. Collins fiancé had managed to get away quietly while he distracted them, but now it was just him in the ring with a large drunken homeless man with whom Collin had met a small handful of times. Collin was worried about what would happen next. Standing among those homeless people and wannabe gang members, he felt some real fear. It might be strange, but the fear he felt wasn’t for himself but for his loved one. On his attackers belt was a large sheathed knife, but it hadn’t yet been drawn. Collin wasn’t there to fight, he knew that his fiancé had left her roommate on bad terms but this was unexpected. His main goal was to act as a distraction so his fiancé would have enough time to get away. He cared about her and would protect her at any cost, and he wished he was better prepared.
Situations like this occur more often than one might think, and even though there isn’t really a way to know when situations like this are going to occur, it is still important for a person to be prepared to be able to defend themselves when they do. The number one suggestion is taking a Martial Art. Every style is very formidable and unique in its own way. Whether you are practicing to destroy your opponent or just keeping yourself in shape, they can build confidence and condition the body. Two martial arts that are gaining popularity are Tai Chi Chuan (A.K.A. “Taijiquan”) which translates to “Grand Ultimate Fist”(Lim 27) or Muay Thai, which is known as “The science of the eight limbs”(Batuman 58-67).
A very soft, but effective style based on the movements of the snake and the crane, Tai Chi is one of the oldest martial arts and has been practiced for over 2,000 years. Originating in the eastern society and developed by Taoist monks to increase internal energy (Brancato 78), it is not only a form that teaches you to make your opponent into dance partners but it is also a very highly regarded and influential philosophy that is now taught worldwide. Many Tai Chi masters teach of yin and yang explaining that they are a “Continuous interplay of opposing yet complimentary forces” (Lim 27). The main forces in Tai Chi are referred to as soft forces and hard forces, and are related to the way a softer force such as water can overtake a hard force such as rock. Tai Chi is often practiced as an alternative form of healing for patients who are dealing with the burdens of stress, rheumatoid arthritis, heart related illnesses, back problems and even psychological problems. Even though it started out as more of a fighting style, it has progressed and grown to be a very slow set of motions that can be practiced by members of any age group. Many elderly people, adults and even children practice its forms, and many find that it is very beneficial for them.
Muay Thai is a Martial Art that teaches you to use not just punches and kicks but to use knees and elbows as well, which is why it is called, “The Science of the eight limbs.” (Batuman 58-67). Many championship tournaments ban the use of these particular moves because of its tendency to severely injure the opponent leaving deep gashes in the face. “Muay Thai is a ring sport, and low on philosophical rhetoric. The point is not to achieve Zen but to knock out your opponent” (Batuman 58-67). The earliest known reference to Muay Thai dates back to 1411 when many believe it was invented by monks so they could defend their temples from marauders. Originally Muay Thai tournaments started out as approximate timed matches where the two boxers were allowed to gouge eyes, bite and some would even go as far as to dip their hand wraps into a sticky resin and shattered glass shards. The matches usually ended when one of the two boxers was unconscious, and many people died in those rings (Batuman 58-67). Recent studies showed that Muay Thai fighters with approximately ten years or more experience had better physical health than students who were majoring in physical fitness and who also had approximately ten years of experience or more (Krick 156). NFL outside linebacker, defensive rookie of the year Shawne Merriman decided to practice Muay Thai and said “Three minutes in the ring is one of the hardest things to do in the world,” and concluded saying, “it’s a full body workout. It’s not just the punching. You’re moving around and your legs get tired. That’s why a lot of boxers get knocked out.” (Bell 13c) Muay Thai began to gain popularity in America in the 70’s and 80’s and is practiced by members of the CIA as well as the FBI. “Today, there are four or five hundred fighters on the professional Muay Thai circuit in the United States–about ten percent of them women–and thousands of amateurs.”(Batuman 58-67)
Another reason people practice these martial arts is not necessarily for the fighting aspect, but for the potential health benefits as well. Although being knocked unconscious and bleeding doesn’t sound too healthy there is a very good source of exercise in just practicing the forms in both styles. A lot of focus is placed on balance, form, strength, agility, pace, focus, breathing and stance.
When learning any martial art it is very strongly advised that you find a teacher in the art who is a master and has at least ten years of training. Many martial arts forms can be quite complex, from making sure you have the right amount of weight balanced in your knees and feet, to making sure you have correct posture in your neck and spine. If you are not practicing the stances under proper guidance you may cause yourself injury or even exacerbate pre-existing injuries, but when practiced with the proper guidance many martial arts are even known to help heal physical and psychological ailments.
Batumin,Elif, Cool Heart “The Sporting Scene: The lethal art of muay thai.” The New Yorker, Vol. 81, Issue 44, Pages 58-67.
Bell, Jarrett; “Merriman boxes his way to fitness.”USA Today. 08/18/2006; Pg,13c
Brancato, Fred; Going with the flow: “Tai Chi Chuan and Aging Gracefully.”
- LLI Review. Fall2009,Vol. 4, P78-83. 6p
Krick, Christoph and Raschka, Christoph; “Sports Anthropological Comparison Between Male
- Martial Arts Fighters and the Students Majoring in Physical Education.”Papers On
- Anthropology. 2012, Vol. 21, P155-162. 8p.
Lim, SiFu; “Tai Chi Chuan-Doing a Form of Tai Chi Chuan” Tai Chi Master, Sing Ong Tai Chi.
- American Acupuncturist. Summer 2006, Vol. 36, Page27. Database: Alt HealthWatch