T'ai chi ch'uan (Tai chi chuan) or Taijiquan, often shortened to t'ai chi, taiji or tai chi in English usage, is an internal Chinese martial art practiced for both its defense training and its health benefits. Today, t'ai chi ch'uan has spread worldwide for its benefit to health and health maintenance.
Tai Chi, as it is practiced in the west today, can perhaps best be thought of as a moving form of yoga and meditation combined. There are a number of so- called forms (sometimes also called 'sets') which consist of a sequence of movements. Many of these movements are originally derived from the martial arts (and perhaps even more ancestrally than that, from the natural movements of animals and birds) although the way they are performed in Tai Chi is slowly, softly and gracefully with smooth and even transitions between them.
Tai chi developed in ancient China. It started as a martial art and a means of self-defense. Over time, people began to use it for health purposes as well.
Accounts of the history of tai chi vary. A popular legend credits its origins to Chang San-Feng, a Taoist monk, who developed a set of 13 exercises that imitate the movements of animals. He also emphasized meditationand the concept of internal force.
Tai chi incorporates the Chinese concepts of Yin and Yang (opposing forces within the body) and qi (a vital energy or life force). Practicing tai chi is said to support a healthy balance of yin and yang, thereby aiding the flow of qi.
People practice tai chi by themselves or in groups. In the Chinese community, people commonly practice tai chi in nearby parks—often in early morning before going to work. There are many different styles, but all involve slow, relaxed, graceful movements, each flowing into the next. The body is in constant motion, and posture is important. The names of some of the movements evoke nature (e.g., "Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain"). Individuals practicing tai chi must also concentrate, putting aside distracting thoughts; and they must breathe in a deep and relaxed, but focused manner
Health: It is purported that focusing the mind solely on the movements of the form helps to bring about a state of mental calm and clarity. An unhealthy or otherwise uncomfortable person may find it difficult to meditate to a state of calmness or to use t'ai chi ch'uan as a martial art. T'ai chi ch'uan's health training, therefore, concentrates on relieving the physical effects of stress on the body and mind. For those focused on t'ai chi ch'uan'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 t'ai chi ch'uan is seen as necessary in maintaining optimum health (in the sense of relieving stress and maintaining homeostasis) and in application of the form as a soft style martial art.
Peole do Tai Chi for various health-related purposes:
*For benefits associated with low-impact, weight-bearing, aerobic exercise
*To improve physical condition, muscle strength, coordination, and flexibility
*To improve balance and decrease the risk of falls, especially in elderly people
*To ease pain and stiffness—for example, from osteoarthritis
*To improve sleep
*For overall wellness.
What to Wear:
In general, t'ai chi ch'uan schools do not require a uniform, but both traditional and modern teachers often advocate loose, comfortable clothing and flat-soled shoes.