The Ideal Exercise is the Tai Chi Exercise
By Erle Montaigue
Saturday, January 18, 1997

When one is young and or healthy, we don't really think about tai chi exercise or any exercise as a way to good health, in just the same way that we never think about the food that we eat as a way to good health. Most people take up aerobics for instance simply to lose weight so that they will look good and perhaps attract members of the opposite sex, or to re-gain some attention from their long term spouse etc.

It's when we become unhealthy and we go and see the so called experts for some help that we begin to think about doing some exercise, because the experts tell us that exercise, or 'doing work' with our body is the natural state to be in for optimum good health. People who work hard doing physical labour like those on the land etc., usually do not need any additional exercise as they are working from sun up to sun down. But even these people, with the advent of more modern labour saving land devices are losing their good health due to inactivity. So if someone who works on the land for hours on end is losing his health, think what sitting at a desk moving only the fingers is doing to millions of people worldwide.

Why Tai Chi Exercise

Our body needs to do work for a number of reasons. Firstly, we need to burn up excess sugar in the blood due to overeating, something that effects possible one third of the world's population! If we do not work, then this excess is stored as fat as the liver can only hold around 2000 calories.

The brain needs sucrose (sugar) in order to live and it takes this directly from the blood, it does not need the help of insulin for instance. But the rest of the cells in our body need the help of insulin to lock the sugars into them. Any excess is stored in the liver and then in the fat cells as fat for use later on. Should the body need extra energy at any given time, the liver will send out carbohydrate sugar into the blood, and if it rises too much, the pancreas will send out insulin to knock back the level of sugar in the blood.

We need work (exercise) to get at the stored energy in the fat cells, but this is no easy matter. At the immediate level, the body will use up its stored energy held in the liver, then it must call upon that which is held in the fat cells, .. if it can get to it! For instance, if the insulin level is too high, i.e.., too much insulin circulating, then this will inhibit the necessary glucagon, which is the hormone that unlocks the energy in stored fat.

In a 'normally' healthy person, the levels of both glucagon and insulin are balanced and the body's sugar mechanisms work fine, but in the case where someone has abused his or her body by eating all the wrong foods such as refined, concentrated sugars, then we get the problem of an imbalance between these two hormones.

Tai Chi Exercise: Aerobic Or Anaerobic

Aerobic simply means exercise in the presence of oxygen. When the aerobic 'craze' struck, just about everyone was hooked on going to aerobic classes as we were told that this was the best possible way to lose weight. They were correct of course, but for the wrong reasons. The main reason should be to balance the levels of the two main sugar balancing hormones in the body, in other words simply for good health and not simply to look good!

In aerobic exercises, we need to maintain a higher than normal heart rate, about 70% of the maximum heart rate for a particular age for around 30 minutes. A good approximation of your own maximum heart rate is the subtract your age from 220. So a brisk walk with some inclines is one of the most beneficial exercises, as is light jogging or swimming etc. The body takes fat from the adipose tissue and sends it to the muscles where it is turned into energy, but you have to be careful with that you do not overtax the body too much as this will prevent the body from getting at the stored fat, and only use the stored carbohydrate in the liver as in anaerobic exercise.

So if you work a little too hard at your aerobic exercise, you could end up getting enough energy to the muscles, but from the wrong place and actually not burn very much fat at all! To gain health benefits and longevity, we are told that we must burn up 2000 calories per week. Over that amount and there is not much benefit. Walking uses slightly more than 300 calories per hour, more if you walk up inclines etc. So walking for 6 hours per week will help you to live to a ripe old age in good health. If that's too long, then jogging will burn twice as much calories in half the time. So that's 3 hours of jogging per week! Not what the sports departments tell us at 30 minutes 3 times per week!

So why are we told that we also need high intensity aerobics? They are right, actually as this increases the response from the hormones, mainly insulin and glucagon. Reducing the circulating insulin and increasing the circulating glucagon. This will allow the body to get at the stored fat and burn it up as energy for the muscles rather than using the body's stored carbohydrates. Things like jogging, swimming, running, jumping rope etc., are all ways to increase the hormonal activity in the blood.

Anaerobic exercises seem like a bad way to exercise as they tend to use the stored carbohydrates in the liver rather than burn up fat from the fat cells. A lack of oxygen in the muscle causes this. (Anaerobic) Or that's what we are normally told. However, this is also quite incorrect. Anaerobic exercises have a way to access excess fat. If the intensity of the exercise is great enough, it causes the body to release human growth hormone. Growth hormone is used to repair tissue after anaerobic exercises and this uses a lot of energy, which is taken from the fat cells! The human growth hormone is in fact the most powerful fat burning hormone in the body. This release of growth hormone from the pituitary gland is the crucial hormone change that occurs with anaerobic exercises. ("The Zone" by Barry Sears PH.D .. Regan Books).

So we need both aerobic and anaerobic exercise to maintain both a healthy body and a healthy internal body, hormonal activity etc. And guess what, Tai Chi exercise has it all!

Being a diabetic, I have enough testing equipment to form my own laboratory! Well almost. In any case, I test myself on a daily basis for things like blood sugar level, sugar in the urine and ketones in the urine etc. These tests are essential for people who have diabetes. So I am able to test the effectiveness of various forms of tai chi exercise which is greatly important to diabetics in maintaining a sugar level that is within an acceptable range. I am able to measure levels before and after different types of exercises and so far tai chi exercise has been the best sugar level lowering exercise that I have done.

Tai Chi exercise has both aerobic and anaerobic parts. It is one of the best aerobic exercises known, as it maintains the correct heart rate for the required amount of time, and at the same time is an extremely gentle exercise, gently stretching every muscle and tendon in the body. The Tai Chi form can be done slowly and in aerobic or quickly with explosive movements to gain the anaerobic part. And what's more, it's interesting, unlike walking or jogging.

If we take the other parts of Tai Chi exercise such as the Qi disruptive katas or the Pauchui forms etc., then we indeed have the ideal Tai Chi exercise of aerobic and anaerobic. And I have, through experimentation, come across what I believe is the best possible way in which to mix the various Tai Chi forms to gain the maximum health benefits. It's sort of a formula that I use to keep my blood sugar levels normal. Now, of course, 'normal' people, those who do not have diabetes, do not have to worry about such things, .. or do they? Perhaps if I had someone telling me about the dangers of eating sugar, ANY cane sugar, and over indulgence in sex and other bad eating habits, perhaps I would not have this insidious disease now. In fact, I know I would not have. But it is my belief, that what is good for diabetics, all people should also take heed of.

I am currently writing a book called, "Thank God It's Only Diabetes". The reason for this is that diabetics, apart from watching their sugar levels must also embark upon a regime of excellent eating, and this sometimes involves changing habits that have been there for 40 or more years! Following this 'excellent eating' combined with correct Tai Chi exercise, you will never even look like getting diabetes, the fourth highest killer disease in the western world!

Tai Chi Exercise: The Daily Practice

Most people learn Tai Chi exercise, once, and then practice that way for ever more. However, there are many ways that we are able to practice Tai Chi exercises to gain optimum health. The way you were taught the Tai Chi exercises, was the basic way, the beginner's way. What your instructor should have told you is that there are other ways to practice tai chi exercises, like the speed at which you practice your Tai Chi. There are three speeds that you must do Tai Chi exercises. Fast, slow and tortoise pace.

Tai Chi Exercise: Faster Tai Chi

Firstly, I would like to warn you about doing faster Tai Chi forms. It is really easy to do ANY forms quickly, the wrong way! Which is the reason for our doing Tai Chi exercises slowly in the beginning. For instance, if you are performing one of the kicking type movements slowly, and you recover from that kick quickly, you have obviously lost your balance. So you know that you have done it incorrectly. But when you do fast forms, you might not be aware that you are not in balance as you will be bringing your foot back quickly anyway! So doing fast forms there is always the danger of not sticking to the Tai Chi principles, as for when we do it slowly. Be aware of what you are doing, and when you are not in balance, even simply placing your foot down after taking a simple step, can be done incorrectly, by placing the weight onto that foot too soon when you do it quickly. Be really hard on yourself, and stop and do it again if you are doing it incorrectly. The main posture where this will occur is going into 'single whip', where you step out with your left foot. You MUST hold that standing on one leg posture until the very moment when your left heel touches the ground, and only then should there be any weight transference to that leg.

Doing Tai Chi exercises faster, is much more difficult than doing them slowly, provided that you are doing them correctly and that simply involves doing your forms EXACTLY the same way that you do them slowly. You can also perform the Baguazhang kata in place of doing Tai Chi exercise, or you might like to alternate bagwa and Taiji every other day.

Tai Chi Exercise: How to Train Each Morning

I will tell you how I train each morning, it's pretty exact, so have a watch with you so that you are able to time yourself.

Firstly, walk around a little after rising, do things like washing, cleaning teeth etc. Just before you go out to train, you should take the juice of one lemon, drink it. If you are not working outside, and do not have to walk anywhere to your training area, walk slowly around for three minutes. The reason for the lemon juice is to activate your hormones, to balance them so that you will gain the optimum benefit from your training, and if your blood sugar level is a little too high in the mornings (fasting sugar level), then this will bring it down to an acceptable level. Most people should have no problem with this. Remember, we are not only trying to exercise to lose weight or to look good, or even to get healthy, we are trying to optimise our hormone balance. It is my idea that this is part of what is meant by "balancing the Qi". If your hormones are out of balance, you are really ill! Hormones are the most powerful drugs known to man! And we have them all, right there inside of us, so we can make good use of them, if they are in their correct balance.

Stand in a normal qigong standing posture for five minutes exactly. (This is only provided that you have risen above the beginner level of qigong standing and are able to gain the great benefits from a lesser amount of time. If not, then you must do your 15 minutes of qigong).

Immediately after completing your qigong, begin your Taiji form, either Yang Lu-ch'an or Yang Cheng-fu, it doesn't matter which. You must perform the whole form in no more than 15 minutes, time yourself. Or put on some music that runs exactly 15 minutes, you can do this by taping some soft music for 15 minutes.

You will notice that you have done things for over 20 minutes, and because you have done a faster form, it can be regarded as intensive aerobic tai chi exercise.

Now, here's the important part. After you finish the tai chi exercise of your form, begin walking quickly, not at power walking level, just quickly as if you have to do something urgently. I usually walk around and around my training area. Walk this way for no more than 2 minutes. This has the effect of raising your heart beat to a slightly higher level ready for the anaerobic part of your morning training. You will know when you have done your Tai Chi training correctly as this walking will feel like you are invincible, all of your hormones will be in balance and you will feel like as if you could walk forever. But do not walk too quickly, we do not want the heart rate to increase too much just yet.

Tai Chi Exercise: The Anaerobic Part

I prefer to perform the "Qi Disruptive Katas". If you do not know what these are, then you really should begin learning them as they are just amazing for their healing properties. For instance, one of our instructors gets really bad migraines regularly. So bad that she has to lie down. Now, she simply performs what she knows of the Qi disruptive katas and the migraine goes!

These katas were taught to me, firstly by my main teacher Chang Yiu-chun from whom I learnt the first four, and the last five later from Liang Shih-khan at The village in China at the base of the Wudang peak, (one of many peaks of the Wudang Shan mountain range) that is said to be the keeper of the system. They DO NOT perform Taijiquan here, only the nine original forms as handed down from Chang San-feng, the founder of dim-mak and eventually Taijiquan. From these nine, come all of the internal martial arts and hence most of the so-called 'external arts'.

Each form/kata is related to an internal organ and all of these katas are devastating in their application of dim-mak. I have some of them on tape, the main ones that you will need for self healing, mainly, Spleen, Spleen, Kidneys, Kidneys and Lungs.

If you do not know the Qi disruptive katas, you can perform any of the explosive katas, and they MUST be done at their fa-jing level, explosively! This is one of the great secrets to good health. The fa-jing seems to begin some kind of chemical reaction in the body not unlike being chased by a wild animal way back when we WOULD have been! This in turn activates all of our self defence mechanisms, not only for self healing but also for external attack. You can do the Pauchui forms either the small san-sau or the large san-sau. You can do the 12 deadliest dim-mak katas or the nine beginning dim-mak katas, it really doesn't matter, just as long as you are doing fa-jing for a period of no less than five minutes. The first five Qi disruptive katas take around five minutes to perform at top fa-jing pace. And if they do not, then perform the Spleen and Kidney katas again, i.e.. the first four katas. I have tried the Baguazhang explosive katas at this time and they work just as well. The Bagwa slower katas also work in place of the Taijiquan katas just the same.

This will raise your heart rate sufficiently to take you into anaerobic exercises so that your pituitary gland will send out the growth hormone, thus taking energy from your fat cells.

Again, when this has been done, walk around for no more than 2 minutes at the same pace as before. Again this should feel great. This has the effect of bringing your heart rate lower ready for the final stage of your morning training.

Tai Chi Exercise: The Final Stage

The final stage involves only performing Yang Cheng-fu's form. I have tried other forms and have found this form to have the greatest benefit at this stage.

The slower bagwa form is also beneficial at this stage. Even if you are doing bagwa for your training, you can still do Taijiquan at this stage.

I have found the greatest benefit doing Yang Cheng-fu's form in the reverse direction. My thoughts on this is that we have to use more brain power to do this as the 'other side' is never up to the initial side on which we learnt Taijiquan. And using brain power, also uses energy. In fact, in a healthy person, you will burn more fat watching TV for 2 hours per week, than exercising for 1.5 hours doing aerobics. So how much more work do we do actually thinking about something?

You must now do Yang Cheng-fu's form at the normal level, about 20 to 30 minutes. This will take you again into the mild aerobic area to finish.

When you complete this form, do not walk, just stand there in the 'closing gate position' (on one leg) for one minute breathing deeply, then place your other foot down.

We must close the Qi gates after training. We opened the gates so that Qi will be activated during the form upon our first movement, so we must close the gates. There are three ways to do this. The best way however, is that when you come up to the posture (the final one), of 'apparent close up', you will bring your right foot in this case as you are performing on the reverse side, up to your left foot, touching the whole foot onto the side of your other foot, only one inch off the ground. Which means that you are now standing on one leg. Your wrists are crossed in front of you, shorting out the lung and heart meridians. After one minute, your palms will turn and push downwards as you push up on your left leg (stand up), then your right foot is slowly placed onto the ground at the normal shoulder width distance and you place 50% of your weight onto it.

There are of course other speeds at which you must train in Tai Chi, for instance at the slowest speed of between 40 minutes and four hours! You will be cleansing the body of not only physical gunk, but also emotional gunk left there and stored.

We perform Tai Chi at the three speeds (two of which we perform in our morning training as above), for the following: Fast for the bones sinews and muscles, hormonal balance and internal Qi balance. At the middle speed for the mind, and the slowest speed for the spirit.

The above method of training is really only pertinent to the morning training. Although I often train three times in this way per day as I have a disease which benefits greatly from this way of training. If you wish to practice more than just the mornings, then you might like to try for instance the slower speed at other times during the day. And we haven't even covered the healing benefits of things like push hands yet! More about that later.

You have now completed your morning's exercise and it has been interesting, nice to do and it hasn't taken much time. You can now go and have breakfast. However, if you are a diabetic and you wish to test, after this exercise, wait one hour before testing and do not eat anything as this will cause your blood sugar to raise. The reason for waiting, is that during the exercise, your body and brain needed carbohydrates, so the liver would have send some out for this purpose. So you have to wait until the level goes back down to test. And you will find, as I have that your level will be between two and three whole units lower than when you started. Hence your feeling so bloody (excuse the pun) good afterwards.