What is Tai Chi?

Tai Chi Chuan is a Chinese martial art often translated as “Supreme Ultimate Fist.”   

It is best known for its slow and flowing solo forms which are practiced emphasizing balance, posture and movements in which softness can overcome hardness.  Some styles also practice faster forms, as well as empty-handed and armed martial applications and the practice of ‘pushing hands.’

History of Tai Chi Chuan

The many styles of Tai Chi Chuan practiced today, both traditional and modern, can trace their roots back to Taoist philosophy in Chinese culture and the ideas of opposing yet complementary and balanced forces of Yin and Yang. Its name is derived from the well known Taijitu symbol.    

One legend has it that in the Song Dynasty (961-1279) a monk named Zhang Sanfeng mastered breathing exercises in the Taoist temples of the famous Wu Tang Mountains as well as martial arts in Buddhist Shaolin temples.  He then combined the internal breathing exercises with the various martial forms into the original 13 Movements which are found in all forms of Tai Chi Chuan. As the legend goes, Zhang then taught a Wang Zongyue who in turn taught others, leading over the next three centuries to five major classical family styles of Tai Chi Chuan:
    * Chen Style
    * Yang Style
    * Wu/Hao Style
    * Wu Style
    * Sun Style

Other stories have different and more legendary originations and even earlier dates of inception for this martial art, but all stories lead to the Chen family as the first recorded practitioners of Tai Chi Chuan.   

In addition to the five main classical styles of Tai Chi Chuan, there are also different derivative styles and schools both within China and around the world.  It is a testament to the incredible richness of Chinese history and of its martial arts history, in particular that of Tai Chi Chuan, which has flourished throughout the centuries.

Philosophy of Tai Chi Chuan

Tai Chi Chuan students are taught to never meet an incoming attack with a hard counterforce, but rather, to meet it or catch it with softness and move with it until it dissipates or can be safely redirected.

Thus Tai Chi takes its philosophy directly from the pages of the Taoist classic text, Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, Chapter 36: “The soft and the pliable will overcome the hard and the strong.”

Tai Chi Chuan as Self-Defense

Tai Chi may seem only a form of physical and mental training to promote general health and longevity, but when sped up, can be very effective as a form of self-defense.  Efficacy increases when you consider that the soft, redirecting and levering principles learned are first practiced in a very precise way with plenty of time for the mind to understand what is happening on a physical level.

Tai Chi Chuan for Kids

Tai Chi Chuan is a wonderful martial art for kids to learn.  It not only fosters excellent physical flexibility, agility and strength, but also promotes those qualities for the mind as well.

Tai Chi Associations & Resources:

Taoist Tai Chi Society of Canada
Canada World Tai Chi & Qigong (chi kung)

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