Tai Chi or Tai Chi Chuan as it is popularly known is a form of traditional Chinese “Soft” Martial arts. The word Tai Chi Chuan in Chinese means “Supreme Ultimate Force”. The notion of “Supreme Ultimate” is often associated with the Chinese concept of the “Ying” and the “Yang” (the positive and the negative energies ) which speaks about a dynamic duality in all the things that we see around us.
Tai Chi, as it is practiced in the west today, can perhaps best the 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.
In Chinese philosophy and medicine there exists the concept of “chi”, a vital force that animates the body. One of the avowed aims of Tai Chi is to foster the circulation of this ‘chi’ within the body, the belief being that by doing so the health and vitality of the person are enhanced. This ‘chi’ circulates in patterns that are closely related to the nervous and vascular system and thus the notion is closely connected with that of the practice of acupuncture and other oriental healing arts.
Another aim of Tai Chi is to foster a calm and tranquil mind, focused on the precise execution of these exercises. Learning to do them correctly provides a practical avenue for learning about such things as balance, alignment, fine scale motor control, rhythm of movement, the genesis of movement from the body’s vital center, and so on.
As it closely resembles dance movements, Tai Chi is often referred to as the ultimate “Dance of Life”