Tai Chi Chuan (literally “Supreme Ultimate Fist”), often shortened to Taichi or Tai Chi in the West, is a type of internal Chinese martial art practiced for both its defense training and its health benefits. It is also believed that focusing the mind solely on the movements of the form helps to bring about a state of mental calm and clarity.
There are five major styles of tai chi chuan, each named after the Chinese family from which it originated. Most modern styles of Tai chi chuan trace their development to at least one of the five traditional schools: Chen, Yang, Wu/Hao, Wu, and Sun. Later dozens of new styles, hybrid styles, and offshoots of the main styles appear, but the five family schools are the groups recognized by the international community as being the orthodox styles.
Chen-style tai chi
Yang-style tai chi
Training and Techniques
The core training involves two primary features: the first being the solo form, a slow sequence of movements which emphasize a straight spine, abdominal breathing and a natural range of motion; the second being different styles of pushing hands with a partner and in a more practical manner.
Study of Tai Chi Chuan
The study of tai chi chuan primarily involves three aspects:
Health: Tai chi’s health training concentrates on relieving the physical effects of stress on the body and mind. For those focused on tai chi’s martial application, good physical fitness is an important step towards effective self-defense.
Meditation: The focus and calmness cultivated by the meditative aspect of tai chi is seen as necessary in relieving stress and maintaining homeostasis.
Martial art: The ability to use tai chi as a form of self-defense in combat is the test of a student’s understanding of the art. Tai chi chuan is the study of appropriate change in response to outside forces, the study of yielding and “sticking” to an incoming attack rather than attempting to meet it with opposing force. The use of tai chi as a martial art is quite challenging and requires a great deal of training.
Modern Tai chi
Outdoor practice in Beijing
With purely a health emphasis, tai chi classes have become popular in hospitals, clinics, and community and senior centers in the last twenty years and the art’s reputation as a low-stress training for seniors became better known.
Tai chi chuan in popular culture
Tai chi chuan plays an important role in many martial arts and fighting action films and series, novels, as well as video games, trading cards games, etc. For example, Tai chi chuan have been featured in popular movies starring or choreographed by well-known martial arts competitors, such as Jet Li and Donnie Yen. Fictional portrayals often refer to Zhang San Feng, who is believed by these schools that Tai chi’s theories and practice was formulated by the Taoist monk in the 12th century.