T’ai Chi Ch’uan and the Five Elements of Human Performance

September 17, 2017 Joe Brady

We can all become better at everything we do, in addition to performing tasks better doing your best makes everything more interesting and can make even tedious tasks enjoyable. In addition to the form itself, T’ai Chi Ch’uan and the Five Elements of Human Performance form the basis for the development of skill in T’ai chi and also in everything we do in sports as well as in daily life. The basic principles for improving human performancefrom both eastern and western sports coaching can be grouped into five major categories corresponding to the five elements theory of Chinese medicine.


Five Elements of Human Performance.

The T’ai Chi training sequence recommended by Professor Kan Gui Xiang, Beijing Institute of Physical Education.

Students must strive to demonstrate the following mental and physical characteristics in each movement.

Essential Training Skills

Earth Element

1. Correct posture, Strength and flexibility can be determined by the amplitude of movements and by the altitude of center of mass above the floor.
2. Stability, Balance can be demonstrated by slow motion movements without signs of imbalance or discomfort.

Water Element

3. Relaxation, (ease and fluidity of motion) The relaxation response in motion is what adds a fluid component to your movements. The relaxation response also boosts immune function and so acts as a door to many of the health benefits of T’ai Chi.
4. Gentleness, Movements should be soft, round as soft as cotton according to the classics. Yet cotton that has the strength of a dagger hidden inside.


Wood Element

1. Continuity, rhythm
2. Circular, spiral
3. Coordination of strength and flexibility
4. Internal force and Intrinsic meaning of applications (how to apply force)

Fire Element

1. Application of internal strength, Awareness (saccade time, reaction time)
2. Mental concentration , directing all movements with the mind

Metal Element

1. Distinguish solid and empty, hard and soft
2. Qi breathing and internal force should be perfectly integrated Cardiopulmonary (heart rate, respiratory rate, vital capacity and forced expiratory volume are reflected in the rhythm and pacing of the exercise) labored breathing may be a sign that the anaerobic threshold has been reached.


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