By Erle Montaigue (Founder of the World Tai Chi Boxing Association) March 27th 2010
Erle Montaigue is a British Citizen living in Wales. Formerly from Australia. He has been practicing Tai Chi since 1967 and has been teaching since 1976 when he opened his first school in London. Erle was the first ever Westerner to be given the degree of "Master" directly from China in 1985 when he became the first Westerner to be invited to the All China Wushu Tournament in China.
There has been some controversy recently about a Vicar from All Saints in Totley Yorkshire who recently banned a gentle exercise from his Church Hall saying that it was Anti-Christian! The exercise was simply Tai Chi, which is a relatively easy set of gentle movements to help with movement and health. Many doctors now advise their patients in fact to take up this gentle way of exercising as many older people are unable to do more rigorous exercise making Tai Chi the ideal way for them to gain much needed exercise.
Tai Chi was erroneously quoted by the Vicar as being "Taoist", a Chinese form of spiritualism that revolves around natural events. It is NOT a religion but rather a way of living and thinking.
However, Tai Chi is definitely NOT a religion and it is not even Taoist! It was back in the 60's when Tai Chi got to America that they put this tag onto it to make it seem more mystical than just an exercise.
The founders of Tai Chi go back some 400 years and they weren't Taoist but if anything Buddhist! However, Tai Chi, has nothing at all to do with religion as it was a way for the people in that era which was quite dangerous, to defend themselves! It is indeed a MARTIAL ART.
The health part comes with the slow moving set of movements that most people are today aware of to some degree. The founders had the idea that one should defend themselves not only against external physical attack but also from pathogenic internal attack from disease! And being Chinese doctors of acupuncture and other Chinese healing alternatives, they invented a set of movements that would enhance the flow of Qi (energy) throughout the body. Each movement and posture sends this life giving Qi (energy) to all of the main organs in the body via its specific meridian or "channel".
Back in 1981 I trained with the great grandson of the founder of Tai Chi, Yang Sau-chung in Causeway Bay Hong Kong. Yang had moved there in 1949 to escape the Cultural Revolution. his great grandfather, Yang Lu-ch'an invented the now famous Yang Style of Tai Chi.
The first thing that I noticed when I walked into Yang Sau-chung's flat was a huge wooden cross on his wall! They were all devout Catholics! Which puts pay to the notion that Tai Chi is in some way Anti-Christian!
Back in the early eighties, I was also ousted from a Presbyterian Church hall in my village in the Blue Mountains West of Sydney for the same reason with the Vicar saying that Tai Chi was not in keeping with Christian beliefs. So we approached the local Catholic Church and they were more than happy to accept our classes in their hall where they also had Yoga and other esoteric exercises. I asked the Vicar back then what was the reason for his decision and he said the same thing that the Vicar in Totley has stated, that Tai Chi was Taoist! I explained to him that it was only a gentle exercise but he was having none of it. I further pressed him and said that even if Tai Chi WAS Taoist, had he ever read the "Taoist Bible" The Tao Te-ching? He said no, it would be blasphemous to do so! I then went on to explain to him that what is expressed in that writing was much the same as what Jesus talked about!
My Son Ben Montaigue (pictured) now teaches this wonderful health art in Llandovery at the Catholic Church Hall. (See and advertisement in this magazine). Ben just loves to see those who he is teaching getting something real from this art, something that is helping with mobility and harmony of mind and body. Ben is a registered instructor for the World Taichi Boxing Association and has been training since he was 4 years of age! Our whole family has its culture based in Christianity and we certainly would never have anything to do with the so-called occult.
A Medical Assessment Of Taijiquan (T'ai Chi)
The following is a transcript of excerpts from a report compiled by Professor Qu Mianyu of
China. .... Forming an important part of the treatment often prescribed in hospitals and
sanatoriums, Tai Chi has proved its efficacy in treating chronic diseases such as high blood
pressure, neurasthenia and pulmonary tuberculosis.
The effects of Tai Chi have much to do with its characteristic features;
1/. The exercise requires a high degree of concentration, with a free mind.
2/. The movements are slow and uninterrupted like a flowing river.
3/. Breathing is natural, sometimes involving abdominal respiration and is performed in
rhythmic harmony with body movements.
The high degree of concentration required in Tai Chi or to use its full name taijiquan which means Supreme Ultimate Fist, also benefits the function of the central nervous system. Training the mind and the body at the same time, these exercises stimulate the cerebral cortex, causing excitation in certain regions and protective inhibition in others.
This enables the cerebrum to rest, and relieves the cerebral cortex of the pathological
excitation caused by ailments, thus helping to cure certain nervous and mental diseases.
Continuing Prof. Qu's report: . . . The results of recently completed testing and examination
of taijiquan practitioners is of particular interest to medical and sport personnel. In this
project healthy subjects aged between 50 & 89 were divided into two groups and given a
battery of tests. Group A contained 32 people who practised taijiquan regularly, while group
B (the control group) was composed of 56 individuals who did not engage in taijiquan
training. In general, those in group A were found to have stronger physiques characterised by more efficiently functioning cardiovascular, respiratory, osseous and metabolic systems.
About cardiovascular efficiency, the two groups underwent a functional test of stepping up
and down a 40cm. high step I5 times within a minute. All but one person in the A group
could bear this workload with normal type responses in blood pressure and pulse. In the
control group, capability of bearing this workload decreased, and abnormal responses (such
as type of step reaction and dystonia reaction) increased with age. The difference was also
evident in electrocardiograms. (Prof. Qu then gives these scientific findings but would bear
meaning only to medical practitioners).
These findings suggest that regular practise of taijiquan results in an increased supply of
blood to the coronary arteries, more forceful heart contractions and improved emodynamic
processes. Moreover, taijiquan may enhance the regulatory function of the central nervous
system, improve the co-ordination of the various organs in the human body, increase the
tension of the vagus nerves, ensure adequate supplies of blood and oxygen to the tissues of
the various organs and facilitate substance metabolism. All of which contribute to a lower
rate of incidence of hypertension and arteriosclerosis. The average blood pressure for group
A was 134/80.8 while in group B it was l54/82.7 mmHg. The rate of incidence of arteriosclerosis was 39.5 and 46.4 respectively.
Regular practise of taijiquan can increase the elasticity of the lung tissues, the respiratory
magnitude of the chest (which helps to retard the ossification of the rib cartilages),
ventilatory capacity of the lungs and improves the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide.
Experiments showed group A superior in both the respiratory discrepancy of the chest and
vital capacity. The greater vital capacity results from a stronger diaphragm and muscles of
the thoracic walls, greater lung tissue elasticity and a lower rate of ossification of rib
cartilage. For those whose breathing is severely limited by ossification of rib cartilage,
abdominal respiration accompanying taijiquan exercises will help ventilation of the lungs,
and through rhythmic change of abdominal pressure, speed up blood flow and gas exchange
in the alveoli pulmonum. This explains why, when completing the functional test, group A
subjects breathed more easily and recovered more quickly than those in the control group do.
Taijiquan can also strengthen the bones, muscles and joints. For instance the spine. Since
many taijiquan movements hinge on the waist and involve a great deal of lumbar movements, systematic exercise can be beneficial to the form and structure of the lumbar vertebral and indeed the spinal column as a whole. Researchers noted that only 25.8 % of the subjects in group A suffered from spinal column deformities, whereas in the control group the percentage was 47.2. Furthermore, fewer group A subjects were victims of common, age related hunchback deformities. Individuals in this group had more flexible spines as evidenced by the fact that 77.4% were able to touch their toes, as against 16.6 in the control group. X-ray examination indicated that the rate of incidence of senile osteoporosis was 36.6% for group A and 63.8 for the control group. Senile osteoporosis, which leads to deformity and inflexibility of joints, is a degenerative affliction mainly caused by inactivity of the osteoblasts, resulting in their inability to produce sufficient matrices so that more bone is resorbed than formed. It may also be caused by such factors as reduced blood supply to bones owing to arteriosclerosis and poor absorption of calcium and potassium from food due to a lack of hydrochloric acid in the gastric juices. In so far as taijiquan can prevent or lessen such disorders, its role in retarding the ageing process is noteworthy.
Limited data were uncovered relative to the effects of taijiquan exercises on substance
metabolism in the human body. However, judging from the difference between the two
groups of oldsters in skeletal changes and in the incidence of arteriosclerosis, the beneficial
effects of exercise appear to be significant as far as the metabolism of fats, proteins and
calcium and potassium salts is concerned. In recent years, several researchers in other
countries have studied the role of physical exercise in delaying senescence. Cholesterol levels have dropped substantially for those engaged in regular exercise. Experiments conducted on elderly people inflicted with arteriosclerosis reveal that after five or six months training there has been an increase of albumin and a decrease of globulin and cholesterol in their blood, while symptoms of arteriosclerosis have greatly diminished.
Professor Qu concluded that a regular program of taijiquan exercises can be beneficial to
one's physical wellbeing.
There have been many other experiments done in other countries with regard to taijiquan and these are well documented. For my own experience, I have seen one student of mine who was a diabetic placed onto tablets instead of two daily injections of insulin. I have seen chronic ulcers heal up after the doctors had given up, and I have personally treated R.S.I (repetitive strain injury) and seen it healed due to the practise of taijiquan. I have also seen students whole attitude towards life strengthen almost overnight. It is a truly amazing exercise especially when combined with the correct diet and breathing exercises. The younger you are the better taijiquan will work to keep you young and healthy, it is not an old person's exercise, it is for everyone.