Great Dragon Tai Chi - Kung Fu Academy

xWhat is Tai Chi? xx

By Professor Xichuan Zhang

Tai Chi, otherwise known as Tai Chi Chuan or Taiji Quan, is one of the most famous internal styles of Chinese martial arts. Tai Chi, literally means “the greatest” and “the ultimate”. In Chinese philosophy, Tai Chi comes from Wuji, a state where there is absolutely nothing, not even a point. Tai Chi is the essence of motion and stillness. It is the parent of Yin-Yang. Thus, Tai Chi also refers to the origin of everything. It seems everything has its own way. When every way comes natural, it is called Tai Chi.

Tai Chi focuses on the use of vital energy --- the Qi in Chinese. Through slow, relaxed and continuous motion of the body, we improve awareness of the Qi flow in the body, strengthening and expanding it to obtain health, martial, and spiritual benefits. As we learn to quiet our thoughts and balance the intention in each of our movements, we gain a valuable ability for its use in our daily life.

Qi (Chinese), ki (Japanese), prana (Indian) or neuma (Ancient Greek) is energy without shape, exhibiting continuous life and movement. Taiji Quan has its origins in Taoism, the oldest philosophical system in China, which is most famous for its Yin-Yang theory. The Yin-Yang symbol expresses a continuous flow of Qi in a circular direction as it generates the two opposing forces of Yin and Yang --- positive and negative, darkness and light, heaven and earth, man and woman. These forces interact to balance each other's excesses and to bring into existence of the physical and metaphysical realms.

Through extensive research, martial arts experts in the 1930’s determined that Tai Chi was devised in the mid-17 th century by Master Chen Wangting of Chenjiagou Village, Wen County, Henan Province, China.

There are six main styles of Tai Chi in China today. They are Chen Style, Yang Style, Wu Style, a second type of Wu Style, and Zhaobao Tai Chi. Chen Style is the origin of all other styles of Tai Chi. Of those six main styles of Tai Chi, all were named after the family names except the last one, which was named after the village name --- the Zhaobao village.

Chen style is based on "silk reeling energy" and is known for using many fast movements and obvious power. Yang style was created by Yang "the Invincible" Luchan and is the most popular of all branches. It is characterized by slow, flowing movements. Wu (Yuxiang) style is often called "scholar's style" and uses small, compact movements. Wu (Jianquan) style is based on small frame Yang style. Sun style combines Xingyi and Bagua movements using Taijiquan frame. Zhaobao Taijiquan is by some considered an offshoot of Chen style Tai Chi.

The various forms of Tai Chi, though different in characteristics and styles, have the same training principles: the execution of relaxed actions to create a state of softness, which is gradually developed into a complementary state of firmness.

With the advent of firearms, the use of boxing skills on the battlefield gradually diminished, prompting Tai Chi/Kung Fu masters to reconsider the goals and direction of Chinese martial arts. “What is the ultimate goal of Tai Chi? It is to keep fit and prolong life.”

Evidently, this idea initiated the process by which Tai Chi turned gradually from a fighting art into a method of personal fitness. By the time of 1911 Revolution in China, Tai Chi was enjoying great fame in Beijing for its remarkable curative effects.

The principle in practice of Tai Chi is “a serene heart plus a concentrated mind.” This allows the nerve centers to rest, relaxing the whole body and improving the ability to coordinate the functions of its various organs. Deep and natural breathing, smooth arc-like actions centering on the waist and a training method which conveys one’s inner force to the tips of the limbs by mental exertion result in a harmony of the inside and outside body.

At this point, Tai Chi practitioners enjoy unimpeded circulation in their blood and lymph systems as well as in their Jingluo (the channels for vital energy and the basis for acupuncture treatment). This, in return, also improves the function of the skeletal, muscular and digestive systems.

Thus, Tai Chi is most suitable for both physical training and physical fitness.   As proven by its social application over dozens of years, Tai Chi has certain curative effects for such chronic ailments as neuralgia, high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, heart trouble, and TB. Tai Chi is a great exercise for relaxation, concentration, memory retention, energy replenishment, flexibility and blood circulation.

Tai Chi is now becoming more popular in the world outside of China wherein it is taught in hospitals, schools, government and civic organizations, factories, parks, city neighborhoods and communities as well as national martial arts teams. And it has greatly benefitted the physical well-being of the people who practice it.

April, 2006