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Tai chi chuan
Yang Chengfu in a posture from the Yang style tai chi chuan solo form known as Single Whip c. 1931
Also known as t'ai chi ch'üan; taijiquan
Focus Hybrid
Hardness Forms competition, light-contact (pushing hands, no strikes), full contact (striking, kicking, throws, etc.)
Country of origin China
Creator Disputed
Famous practitioners Chen Wangting, Chen Changxing, Yang Lu-ch'an, Wu Yu-hsiang, Wu Ch'uan-yu, Wu Chien-ch'uan, Sun Lu-t'ang, Yang Chengfu, Chen Fake, Wang Pei-sheng
Parenthood Tao Yin
Olympic sport Demonstration only
Tai chi chuan
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Literal meaning supreme ultimate fist
Part of the series on
Chinese martial arts
List of Chinese martial arts
Historical places
Historical people

Tai chi chuan (simplified Chinese: 太极拳traditional Chinese: 太極拳pinyin: tàijíquánWade-Giles: t'ai4 chi2 ch'üan2) (literal translation "Supreme Ultimate Fist") is an internal Chinese martial art often practiced for health reasons. It is also typically practiced for a variety of other personal reasons: its hard and soft martial art technique, demonstration competitions, and longevity. Consequently, a multitude of training forms exist, both traditional and modern, which correspond to those aims. Some of tai chi chuan's training forms are well known to Westerners as the slow motion routines that groups of people practice together every morning in parks around the world, particularly in China.

Today, tai chi has spread worldwide. Most modern styles of tai chi trace their development to at least one of the five traditional schools: Chen, Yang, Wu/Hao, Wu and Sun.



The term t'ai chi ch'uan literally translates as "supreme ultimate fist", "boundless fist," "great extremes boxing", or simply "the ultimate" (note that 'chi' in this instance is the Wade-Giles version of the Pinyin , not to be confused with the use of ch'i / in the sense of "life-force" or "energy"). The concept of the Taiji "supreme ultimate" appears in both Taoist and Confucian Chinese philosophy where it represents the fusion or mother[1] of Yin and Yang into a single ultimate, represented by the Taijitu symbol. Thus, tai chi theory and practice evolved in agreement with many of the principles of Chinese philosophy including both Taoism and Confucianism. Tai chi training first and foremost involves learning solo routines, known as forms (套路 taolu). While the image of tai chi chuan in popular culture is typified by exceedingly slow movement, many tai chi styles (including the three most popular, Yang, Wu and Chen) have secondary forms of a faster pace. Some traditional schools of tai chi teach partner exercises known as pushing hands, and martial applications of the postures of the form.

The art received its name when Ong Tong He, a scholar in the Imperial Court, witnessed Yang Lu Chan ("Unbeatable Yang") demonstrate. Ong wrote: 'Hands holding Taiji shakes the whole world, a chest containing ultimate skill defeats a gathering of heroes.'

Tai chi chuan is generally classified as a form of traditional Chinese martial arts of the Neijia (soft or internal) branch. It is considered a soft style martial art — an art applied with internal power — to distinguish its theory and application from that of the hard martial art styles.[2]

Since the first widespread promotion of tai chi's health benefits by Yang Shaohou, Yang Chengfu, Wu Chien-ch'uan and Sun Lutang in the early twentieth century,[3] it has developed a worldwide following among people with little or no interest in martial training, for its benefit to health and health maintenance.[4] Medical studies of tai chi support its effectiveness as an alternative exercise and a form of martial arts therapy.

Focusing the mind solely on the movements of the form purportedly helps to bring about a state of mental calm and clarity.[citation needed] Besides general health benefits and stress management attributed to tai chi training, aspects of traditional Chinese medicine are taught to advanced tai chi students in some traditional schools.[5]

Some martial arts, especially the Japanese martial arts, require students to wear a uniform during practice. Tai chi chuan schools do not generally require a uniform, but both traditional and modern teachers often advocate loose, comfortable clothing and flat-soled shoes.[6][7]

The physical techniques of tai chi chuan are described in the tai chi classics, a set of writings by traditional masters, as being characterized by the use of leverage through the joints based on coordination and relaxation, rather than muscular tension, in order to neutralize or initiate attacks.[citation needed] The slow, repetitive work involved in the process of learning how that leverage is generated gently and measurably increases, opens the internal circulation (breath, body heat, blood, lymph, peristalsis, etc.)[citation needed]

The study of tai chi chuan primarily involves three aspects[citation needed]:

  • Health: An unhealthy or otherwise uncomfortable person may find it difficult to meditate to a state of calmness or to use tai chi as a martial art. Tai chi's health training therefore 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 maintaining optimum health (in the sense of relieving stress and maintaining homeostasis) and in application of the form as a soft style martial art.
  • 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. Martially, 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[8]. The use of tai chi as a martial art is quite challenging and requires a great deal of training.[9]

History and styles

A Chinese woman performs Yang style tai chi

There are five major styles of tai chi chuan, each named after the Chinese family from which it originated:

The order of verifiable age is as listed above. The order of popularity (in terms of number of practitioners) is Yang, Wu, Chen, Sun, and Wu/Hao.[2] The major family styles share much underlying theory, but differ in their approaches to training.

There are now dozens of new styles, hybrid styles, and offshoots of the main styles, but the five family schools are the groups recognized by the international community as being the orthodox styles. Other important styles are Zhaobao Tai Chi, a close cousin of Chen style, which has been newly recognized by Western practitioners as a distinct style, and the Fu style, created by Fu Chen Sung, which evolved from Chen, Sun and Yang styles, and also incorporates movements from Pa Kua Chang.

All existing styles can be traced back to the Chen style, which had been passed down as a family secret for generations. The Chen family chronicles record Chen Wangting, of the family's 9th generation, as the inventor of what is known today as Tai Chi. Yang Lu-ch'an became the first person outside the family to learn Tai Chi. His success in fighting earned him the nickname "Unbeatable Yang", and his fame and efforts in teaching greatly contributed to the subsequent spreading of Tai Chi knowledge.

When tracing tai chi chuan's formative influences to Taoist and Buddhist monasteries, there seems little more to go on than legendary tales from a modern historical perspective, but tai chi chuan's practical connection to and dependence upon the theories of Sung dynasty Neo-Confucianism (a conscious synthesis of Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian traditions, especially the teachings of Mencius) is claimed by some traditional schools.[2] Tai chi's theories and practice are believed by these schools to have been formulated by the Taoist monk Zhang Sanfeng in the 12th century, at about the same time that the principles of the Neo-Confucian school were making themselves felt in Chinese intellectual life.[2] However, modern research casts serious doubts on the validity of those claims, pointing out that a 17th century piece called "Epitaph for Wang Zhengnan" (1669), composed by Huang Zongxi (1610-1695 A.D.) is the earliest reference indicating any connection between Zhang Sanfeng and martial arts whatsoever, and must not be taken literally but must be understood as a political metaphor instead. Claims of connections between Tai Chi and Zhang Sanfeng appear no earlier than the 19th century. [10]

Family trees

Wu style master Eddie Wu demonstrating Grasp The Bird's Tail at a tournament in Toronto, Canada

These family trees are not comprehensive. Names denoted by an asterisk are legendary or semi-legendary figures in the lineage; while their involvement in the lineage is accepted by most of the major schools, it is not independently verifiable from known historical records. The Cheng Man-ch'ing and Chinese Sports Commission short forms are derived from Yang family forms, but neither are recognized as Yang family tai chi chuan by standard-bearing Yang family teachers. The Chen, Yang and Wu families are now promoting their own shortened demonstration forms for competitive purposes.

Legendary figures

Zhang Sanfeng*
c. 12th century
Wang Zongyue*

Five major classical family styles

Chen Wangting
9th generation Chen
Chen Changxing
14th generation Chen
Chen Old Frame
Chen Youben
c. 1800s
14th generation Chen
Chen New Frame
Yang Lu-ch'an
Chen Qingping
Chen Small Frame, Zhaobao Frame
Yang Pan-hou
Yang Small Frame
Yang Chien-hou
Wu Yu-hsiang
Wu Ch'uan-yu
Wang Jaio-Yu
Original Yang
Yang Shao-hou
Yang Small Frame
Yang Ch'eng-fu
Yang Big Frame
Li I-yü
Wu Chien-ch'üan
108 Form
Kuo Lien Ying
Yang Shou-chung
Hao Wei-chen
Wu Kung-i
Sun Lu-t'ang
Wu Ta-k'uei
Sun Hsing-i

Modern forms

Yang Ch`eng-fu
Cheng Man-ch'ing
Short (37) Form
Chinese Sports Commission
Beijing 24 Form
42 Competition Form
(Wushu competition form combined from Sun, Wu, Chen, and Yang styles)

Training and techniques

Yang Chengfu utilizing one of the many possible applications of the Single Whip technique.

As the name "tai chi chuan" is held to be derived from the Taiji symbol (Taijitu or T'ai chi t'u, 太極圖), commonly known in the West as the "yin-yang" diagram, tai chi chuan is therefore said in literature preserved in its oldest schools to be a study of yin (receptive) and yang (active) principles, using terminology found in the Chinese classics, especially the Book of Changes and the Tao Te Ching.[2]

The core training involves two primary features: the first being the solo form (ch'üan or quán, 拳), 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 (tui shou, 推手) for training movement principles of the form in a more practical way.

The solo form should take the students through a complete, natural range of motion over their center of gravity. Accurate, repeated practice of the solo routine is said to retrain posture, encourage circulation throughout the students' bodies, maintain flexibility through their joints, and further familiarize students with the martial application sequences implied by the forms. The major traditional styles of tai chi have forms which differ somewhat cosmetically, but there are also many obvious similarities which point to their common origin. The solo forms, empty-hand and weapon, are catalogs of movements that are practiced individually in pushing hands and martial application scenarios to prepare students for self-defense training. In most traditional schools, different variations of the solo forms can be practiced: fast–slow, small circle–large circle, square–round (which are different expressions of leverage through the joints), low sitting/high sitting (the degree to which weight-bearing knees are kept bent throughout the form), for example.

Two Western students receive instruction in Pushing hands, one of the core training exercises of tai chi

The philosophy of Tai Chi Chuan is that if one uses hardness to resist violent force, then both sides are certain to be injured at least to some degree. Such injury, according to tai chi theory, is a natural consequence of meeting brute force with brute force. Instead, students are taught not to directly fight or resist an incoming force, but to meet it in softness and follow its motion while remaining in physical contact until the incoming force of attack exhausts itself or can be safely redirected, meeting yang with yin. Done correctly, this yin/yang or yang/yin balance in combat, or in a broader philosophical sense, is a primary goal of tai chi chuan training. Lao Tzu provided the archetype for this in the Tao Te Ching when he wrote, "The soft and the pliable will defeat the hard and strong."

Tai chi's martial aspect relies on sensitivity to the opponent's movements and center of gravity dictating appropriate responses. Effectively affecting or "capturing" the opponent's center of gravity immediately upon contact is trained as the primary goal of the martial tai chi student.[5] The sensitivity needed to capture the center is acquired over thousands of hours of first yin (slow, repetitive, meditative, low impact) and then later adding yang ("realistic," active, fast, high impact) martial training through forms, pushing hands, and sparring. Tai chi trains in three basic ranges: close, medium and long, and then everything in between. Pushes and open hand strikes are more common than punches, and kicks are usually to the legs and lower torso, never higher than the hip, depending on style. The fingers, fists, palms, sides of the hands, wrists, forearms, elbows, shoulders, back, hips, knees and feet are commonly used to strike, with strikes to the eyes, throat, heart, groin and other acupressure points trained by advanced students. Joint traps, locks and breaks (chin na) are also used. Most tai chi teachers expect their students to thoroughly learn defensive or neutralizing skills first, and a student will have to demonstrate proficiency with them before offensive skills will be extensively trained. There is also an emphasis in the traditional schools that one is expected to show wu te (武德), martial virtue or heroism, to protect the defenseless and show mercy to one's opponents.[3]

In addition to the physical form, martial tai chi chuan schools also focus on how the energy of a strike affects the other person. Palm strikes that physically look the same may be performed in such a way that it has a completely different effect on the target's body. A palm strike that could simply push the opponent backward, could instead be focused in such a way as to lift the opponent vertically off the ground breaking their center of gravity; or it could terminate the force of the strike within the other person's body with the intent of causing internal damage.

Other training exercises include:

  • Weapons training and fencing applications employing the straight sword known as the jian or chien or gim (jiàn 劍), a heavier curved sabre, sometimes called a broadsword or tao (dāo 刀, which is actually considered a big knife), folding fan also called san, wooden staff (2m. in length) known as kun (棍), 7 foot (2 m) spear and 13 foot (4 m) lance (both called qiāng 槍). More exotic weapons still used by some traditional styles are the large Dadao or Ta Tao (大刀) and Pudao or P'u Tao (撲刀) sabres, halberd (jǐ 戟), cane, rope-dart, three sectional staff, Wind and fire wheels, lasso, whip, chain whip and steel whip.
  • Two-person tournament sparring (as part of push hands competitions and/or sanshou 散手);
  • Breathing exercises; nei kung (內功 nèigōng) or, more commonly, ch'i kung (氣功 qìgōng) to develop ch'i (氣 qì) or "breath energy" in coordination with physical movement and post standing or combinations of the two. These were formerly taught only to disciples as a separate, complementary training system. In the last 60 years they have become better known to the general public.

Modern tai chi

Outdoor practice in Beijing's Temple of Heaven.

With purely a health emphasis, Tai chi classes have become popular in hospitals, clinics, community and senior centers in the last twenty years or so, as baby boomers age and the art's reputation as a low stress training for seniors became better known.[11][12]

As a result of this popularity, there has been some divergence between those who say they practice tai chi primarily for self-defense, those who practice it for its aesthetic appeal (see wushu below), and those who are more interested in its benefits to physical and mental health. The wushu aspect is primarily for show; the forms taught for those purposes are designed to earn points in competition and are mostly unconcerned with either health maintenance or martial ability. More traditional stylists believe the two aspects of health and martial arts are equally necessary: the yin and yang of tai chi chuan. The tai chi "family" schools therefore still present their teachings in a martial art context, whatever the intention of their students in studying the art.[13]

Along with Yoga, tai chi is one of the fastest growing fitness and health maintenance activities in the United States.[12]

Tai chi as sport

In order to standardize tai chi chuan for wushu tournament judging, and because many of the family tai chi chuan teachers had either moved out of China or had been forced to stop teaching after the Communist regime was established in 1949, the government sponsored the Chinese Sports Committee, who brought together four of their wushu teachers to truncate the Yang family hand form to 24 postures in 1956. They wanted to retain the look of tai chi chuan but create a routine that was less difficult to teach and much less difficult to learn than longer (generally 88 to 108 posture), classical, solo hand forms. In 1976, they developed a slightly longer form also for the purposes of demonstration that still didn't involve the complete memory, balance and coordination requirements of the traditional forms. This was the Combined 48 Forms that were created by three wushu coaches, headed by Professor Men Hui Feng. The combined forms were created based on simplifying and combining some features of the classical forms from four of the original styles; Chen, Yang, Wu, and Sun. As tai chi again became popular on the mainland, more competitive forms were developed to be completed within a six-minute time limit. In the late-1980s, the Chinese Sports Committee standardized many different competition forms. They developed sets to represent the four major styles as well as combined forms. These five sets of forms were created by different teams, and later approved by a committee of wushu coaches in China. All sets of forms thus created were named after their style, e.g., the Chen Style National Competition Form is the 56 Forms, and so on. The combined forms are The 42 Form or simply the Competition Form. Another modern form is the 67 movements Combined Tai-Chi Chuan form, created in the 1950s, it contains characteristics of the Yang, Wu, Sun, Chen and Fu styles blended into a combined form. The wushu coach Bow Sim Mark is a notable exponent of the 67 Combined.

These modern versions of tai chi chuan (sometimes listed using the pinyin romanization Tai ji quan) have since become an integral part of international wushu tournament competition, and have been featured in several popular Chinese movies starring or choreographed by well known wushu competitors, such as Jet Li and Donnie Yen.

In the 11th Asian Games of 1990, wushu was included as an item for competition for the first time with the 42 Form being chosen to represent tai chi. The International Wushu Federation (IWUF) applied for wushu to be part of the Olympic games, but will not count medals.[14]

Practitioners also test their practical martial skills against students from other schools and martial arts styles in pushing hands and sanshou competition.

Health benefits

Tai chi is promoted as a method for the elderly or infirm to reclaim the natural vigor of youth.

Before tai chi's introduction to Western students, the health benefits of tai chi chuan were largely explained through the lens of traditional Chinese medicine, which is based on a view of the body and healing mechanisms not always studied or supported by modern science. Today, tai chi is in the process of being subjected to rigorous scientific studies in the West.[15] Now that the majority of health studies have displayed a tangible benefit in some areas to the practice of tai chi, health professionals have called for more in-depth studies to determine mitigating factors such as the most beneficial style, suggested duration of practice to show the best results, and whether tai chi is as effective as other forms of exercise.[15]

Chronic conditions

Researchers have found that intensive tai chi practice shows some favorable effects on the promotion of balance control, flexibility, cardiovascular fitness and reduced the risk of falls in both healthy elderly patients,[16] and those recovering from chronic stroke,[17], heart failure, high blood pressure, heart attacks, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's. Tai chi's gentle, low impact movements burn more calories than surfing and nearly as many as downhill skiing.[18]

Tai chi, along with yoga, has reduced levels of LDLs 20–26 milligrams when practiced for 12–14 weeks.[19] A thorough review of most of these studies showed limitations or biases that made it difficult to draw firm conclusions on the benefits of tai chi.[15] A later study led by the same researchers conducting the review found that tai chi (compared to regular stretching) showed the ability to greatly reduce pain and improve overall physical and mental health in people over 60 with severe osteoarthritis of the knee.[20] In addition, a pilot study, which has not been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, has found preliminary evidence that tai chi and related qigong may reduce the severity of diabetes.[21]

A recent study evaluated the effects of two types of behavioral intervention, tai chi and health education, on healthy adults, who after 16 weeks of the intervention, were vaccinated with VARIVAX, a live attenuated Oka/Merck Varicella zoster virus vaccine. The tai chi group showed higher and more significant levels of cell-mediated immunity to varicella zoster virus than the control group which received only health education. It appears that tai chi augments resting levels of varicella zoster virus-specific cell-mediated immunity and boosts the efficacy of the varicella vaccine. Tai chi alone does not lessen the effects or probability of a shingles attack, but it does improve the effects of the varicella zoster virus vaccine.[22]

Stress and mental health

There have also been indications that tai chi might have some effect on noradrenaline and cortisol production with an effect on mood and heart rate. However, the effect may be no different than those derived from other types of physical exercise.[23] In one study, tai chi has also been shown to reduce the symptoms of Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in 13 adolescents. The improvement in symptoms seem to persist after the tai chi sessions were terminated.[24]

In June, 2007 the United States National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine published an independent, peer-reviewed, meta-analysis of the state of meditation research, conducted by researchers at the University of Alberta Evidence-based Practice Center. The report reviewed 813 studies (88 involving Tai Chi) of five broad categories of meditation: mantra meditation, mindfulness meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, and Qi Gong. The report concluded that "[t]he therapeutic effects of meditation practices cannot be established based on the current literature," and "[f]irm conclusions on the effects of meditation practices in healthcare cannot be drawn based on the available evidence.[25]

The Online Tai Chi & Health Information Center funded by the U.S. Government

In 2003, the National Library of Medicine, the largest medical library in the world and subdivision of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, awarded a grant to build a website titled "The Tai Chi & Consumer Health Information Center". The information center was officially released in 2004 and has since then been providing scientific, reliable and comprehensive information about various health benefits of Tai Chi - for arthritis, diabetes, fall prevention, pain reduction, mental health, cardiovascular diseases, fitness and general well being.[26]

Tai chi chuan in fiction

A Yang style teacher corrects his student's form
  • Tai chi and neijia in general play a large role in many wuxia novels, films, and television series; among which are Yuen Wo Ping's Tai Chi Master starring Jet Li, and the popular Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. A movie that features a traditional tai chi chuan teacher as the lead character is Pushing Hands, Ang Lee's first western film. Internal concepts may even be the subject of parody, such as in Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle. Fictional portrayals often refer to Zhang Sanfeng and the Taoist monasteries on Wudangshan.
  • Tai chi plays a role in the book series the Five Ancestors as a Chinese Workout that many people do, especially elderly citizens.
  • Tai Chi is the basis for the art of Waterbending in the animated television series Avatar: The Last Airbender.
  • Tres Navarre the detective in the popular mystery novels by Rick Riordan is a Tai chi master.

Tai chi chuan in modern idiom

Mainly in China, Taiwan and Singapore, and perhaps in other parts of the world where there are large communities of various ethnic Chinese groups, the idiomatic expression 'to play taiji', is used to refer to people trying to politely push or divert responsibility away from themselves.


  1. ^ Cheng Man-ch'ing (1993). Cheng-Tzu's Thirteen Treatises on T'ai Chi Ch'uan. North Atlantic Books. p. 21. ISBN 978-0938190455. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Wile, Douglas (2007). "Taijiquan and Taoism from Religion to Martial Art and Martial Art to Religion". Journal of Asian Martial Arts (Via Media Publishing) 16 (4). ISSN 1057-8358. 
  3. ^ a b Wile, Douglas (1995). Lost T'ai-chi Classics from the Late Ch'ing Dynasty (Chinese Philosophy and Culture). State University of New York Press. ISBN 978-0791426548. 
  4. ^ "T'ai Chi gently reduces blood pressure in elderly" (required registration). The Lancet. Retrieved 2007-07-02. 
  5. ^ a b Wu, Kung-tsao (2006). Wu Family T'ai Chi Ch'uan (吳家太極拳). Chien-ch’uan T’ai-chi Ch’uan Association. ISBN 0-9780499-0-X. 
  6. ^ Lam, Dr. Paul. "What should I wear to practice Tai Chi?". Tai Chi Productions. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  7. ^ Fu, Zhongwen (2006-06-09). Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan. Berkeley, California: Blue Snake Books. ISBN 1583941525. 
  8. ^ Wong Kiew Kit (November 1996). The Complete Book of Tai Chi Chuan: A Comprehensive Guide to the Principles. Element Books Ltd. ISBN 978-1852307929. 
  9. ^ Jeff Patterson, Understanding Tai Chi Push Hands[1]
  10. ^ Henning, Stanley (1994). "Ignorance, Legend and Taijiquan". Journal of the Chen Style Taijiquan Research Association of Hawaii 2 (3). 
  11. ^ Yip, Y. L. (Autumn 2002). "Pivot – Qi". The Journal of Traditional Eastern Health and Fitness (Insight Graphics Publishers) 12 (3). ISSN 1056-4004. 
  12. ^ a b "SGMA 2007 Sports & Fitness Participation Report From the USA Sports Participation Study". SGMA. p. 2. Retrieved 2007-08-18. 
  13. ^ Woolidge, Doug (June 1997). "T’AI CHI". The International Magazine of T’ai Chi Ch’uan (Wayfarer Publications) 21 (3). ISSN 0730-1049. 
  14. ^ "Wushu likely to be a "specially-set" sport at Olympics". Chinese Olympic Committee. 2006. Retrieved 2007-04-13. 
  15. ^ a b c Wang, C; Collet JP & Lau J (2004). "The effect of Tai Chi on health outcomes in patients with chronic conditions: a systematic review". Archives of Internal Medicine 164 (5): 493–501. doi:10.1001/archinte.164.5.493. PMID 15006825. Retrieved 2007-04-13. 
  16. ^ Wolf, SL; Sattin RW & Kutner M (2003). "Intense tai chi exercise training and fall occurrences in older, transitionally frail adults: a randomized, controlled trial". Journal of the American Geriatric Society 51 (12): 1693–701. doi:10.1046/j.1532-5415.2003.51552.x. Retrieved 2007-04-13. 
  17. ^ Au-Yeung, PhD, Stephanie S. Y.; Christina W. Y. Hui-Chan, PhD, and Jervis C. S. Tang, MSW (January 7, 2009). "Short-form Tai Chi Improves Standing Balance of People With Chronic Stroke". Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair. doi:10.1177/1545968308326425. 
  18. ^ "Calories burned during exercise". NutriStrategy. Retrieved 2007-04-13. 
  19. ^ Brody, Jane E. (2007-08-21). "Cutting Cholesterol, an Uphill Battle". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  20. ^ "Tai chi helps cut pain of knee arthritis: study". Reuters. October 25, 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-26. "Those who did tai chi experienced greater pain reduction, less depression and improvements in physical function and overall health, researchers led by Dr. Chenchen Wang of Tufts Medical Center in Boston reported..." 
  21. ^ Pennington, LD (2006). "Tai chi: an effective alternative exercise". DiabetesHealth. Retrieved 2007-04-13. 
  22. ^ Irwin, MR; Olmstead, R & Oxman, MN (2007). "Augmenting Immune Responses to Varicella Zoster Virus in Older Adults: A Randomized, Controlled Trial of Tai Chi". Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 55 (4): 511–517. doi:10.1111/j.1532-5415.2007.01109.x. Retrieved 2007-04-08. 
  23. ^ Jin, P (1989). "Changes in Heart Rate, Noradrenaline, Cortisol and Mood During Tai Chi". Journal of Psychosomatic Research 33 (2): 197–206. doi:10.1016/0022-3999(89)90047-0. Retrieved 2007-04-13. 
  24. ^ Hernandez-Reif, M; Field, TM & Thimas, E (2001). "Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: benefits from Tai Chi". Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies 5 (2): 120–123. doi:10.1054/jbmt.2000.0219. Retrieved 2007-04-13. 
  25. ^ Ospina MB, Bond TK, Karkhaneh M, Tjosvold L, Vandermeer B, Liang Y, Bialy L, Hooton N,Buscemi N, Dryden DM, Klassen TP (June 2007). "Meditation Practices for Health: State of the Research (Prepared by the University of Alberta Evidence-based Practice Center under Contract No. 290-02-0023)". Evidence Report/Technology Assessment No. 155 (Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality) (AHRQ Publication No. 07-E010): 6. 
  26. ^ "The Online Tai Chi and Health Information Center funded by the U.S. government". American Tai Chi and Qigong Association. Retrieved 2009-10-03. 

Further reading

  • Davis, Barbara (2004). Taijiquan Classics: An Annotated Translation. North Atlantic Books. ISBN 978-1556434310. 
  • Eberhard, Wolfram (1986). A Dictionary of Chinese Symbols: Hidden Symbols in Chinese Life and Thought. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London. ISBN 0415002281. 
  • Jou, Tsung-Hwa (1998). Tao of Tai Chi Chuan, 3rd ed.. Tuttle. ISBN 978-0804813570. 
  • T'ai Chi Magazine bimonthly. Wayfarer Publications. 2008. ISSN 0730-1049. 
  • Taijiquan Journal. Taijiquan Journal. 2008. ISSN 1528-6290. 
  • Wile, Douglas (1983). Tai Chi Touchstones: Yang Family Secret Transmissions. Sweet Ch'i Press. ISBN 978-0912059013. 
  • Yang, Yang (2008). Taijiquan: The Art of Nurturing, The Science of Power. Zhenwu Publication; 2nd edition. ISBN 978-0974099019. 
  • Carradine, David; Nakahara, David (1995) (Paperback). David Carradine's Tai Chi Workout: The Beginner's Program for a Healthier Mind and Body. Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 0-8050-3767-5. 

External links

Videos of the major styles

See also

Main Taolu Events
ChangquanDaoQiangJianGun Sanda
TaijiquanTaijijian International Wushu Federation
World Wushu Championships


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

"Every movement of tai chi chuan is based on circles, just like the shape of a tai chi symbol; therefore, it is called tai chi chuan"

Tai chi chuan, also spelled t'ai chi ch'uan, taijiquan or simply called tai chi, is a traditional Chinese martial art often practiced for its health benefits.



  • Too much talk about tai chi chuan is not good. It is much better to spend one's time practicing the form. It is through practicing the form that one actually comes to understand the sayings about tai chi.
    • Chen Xiaoxing, head teacher in Chenjiagou village, China (the birthplace of Chen style tai chi) - T’ai Chi The International Magazine of T’ai Chi Ch'uan Vol.24 No.2, April 2000
  • Between the first and second level, the requirement is to get rid of the stiffness in the body. Only when one has completely gotten rid of that tension does one pass through to the second skill level. Passing through to the third skill level is the time a person passes through the "tai chi gate". Without going through this process a person could never go through the gate because it is not easy. That is why you have ten thousand people and maybe one or two are really good.
    • Chen Zhenglei, Chenjiagou instructor - T’ai Chi The International Magazine of T’ai Chi Ch'uan Vol.21 No.5, October 1997
"It is like the full moon of the seventh month, whose light illuminates the whole world"
  • Everything in the universe is forever changing. Tai chi chuan may appear slow and unhurried to an observer, but the movements flow together continuously, without pause. Architecturally speaking, a curved line can support much more weight than a straight line. Likewise, in tai chi chuan, speed is not the main objective. Balance and stability are more important. Push Hands practice is extremely important because it requires an acute ability to sense and become aware of mistakes and flaws in the opponent's moves. If he is making no mistakes, then create an opportunity for them to occur. It is imperative that your own moves be executed flawlessly. As long as the opponent intends to knock me over or attack me, then his weakness will be exposed. "Preserve gains and maintain stability. Modesty brings gain, arrogance yields loss." This is an essential aspect of the political and personal philosophy of Chinese people. It is much more important to be spared defeat than to defeat the other. As long as I myself am not defeated, it does not really matter if my opponent loses. If he does not handle himself well, he will eventually be defeated. If he does handle himself well, that is also fine.
    • Wuxia author Jin Yong, in his preface to the 1980 reissue of Wu Gongzao's Wu Family T'ai Chi Ch'uan (吳家太極拳), Hong Kong, 1980 (originally published in Changsha, 1935)
  • Our founder has handed down a truly marvelous art; hard, soft, full and empty change with the situation. Diligently seek the truth in the teachings and deeply examine the internal, external, gross and fine. When the opponent approaches I draw him in; when he retreats I pursue him. If your emptiness does not conceal fullness, it is not effective emptiness. If your fullness does not contain emptiness, it is foolish risk taking. Within emptiness, adapt to changing situations; seek perfection in the principle of roundness. When the opponent uses "press", neutralize him with "roll-back". When he closes with you, use "split". "Pull-down" and "push" alternate with each other, and offense and defense all have their principles. The whole body is as one unbroken , as unified as a tai chi sphere. I can draw the opponent in from every point; my entire body is hands. However, if offense and defense are not clearly distinguished, full and empty will have no basis. It is like the full moon of the seventh month, whose light illuminates the whole world. When your training has reached the level of emptiness, then the distinction of offense and defense no longer exists.
"Although the three styles have different postures, they share the very same philosophy" Sun Lutang demonstrating a baguazhang posture
  • Master Hao Weizhen has researched the art for many decades and has a deep understanding of the true method of it. I was taught by master Hao and have been practicing the art day and night for many years. Now I have gained some understanding of the essential philosophy. Taking these findings further afield to compare my studies of xingyiquan and baguazhang, I find that the three belong to one family and this family divides into three different styles of forms. Although the three styles have different postures, they share the very same philosophy.
    • Sun Lutang in his book Taijiquan Xue, 1919 - quoted in T’ai Chi The International Magazine of T’ai Chi Ch'uan Vol.22 No.2, April 1998
  • Wu Gongyi had great technique, body art, and internal jīng (power). He had many, many techniques. Ma developed (intent) and (breath) force, not moving outside, not having many techniques but having strong zhōng dìng (central equilibrium).
    • Wang Haoda, disciple of Ma Yueliang - quoted in T’ai Chi The International Magazine of T’ai Chi Ch'uan Vol.21 No.4, August 1997
  • The aim of tai chi chuan is to improve health, prevent disease and to achieve longevity.
    Tai chi chuan has basic principles. Put very simply it has direction, location, light and heavy, empty and full, long and short, timing, etc. It also considers the body reaction, i.e. huà (neutralizing attacks), (joint locking and breaking), (hitting to uproot) and (discharging energy). All depend on the opponent's reaction in determining how one should move.
    • Wu Gongyi, elder son of Wu Jianquan - quoted in Qi The Journal of Traditional Eastern Health and Fitness Vol.12 No.3, Autumn 2002
  • There are three levels of skill in pushing hands: non-awareness, awareness after the fact, and awareness before the fact.
    • Wu Gongzao, second son of Wu Jianquan - quoted in T’ai Chi The International Magazine of T’ai Chi Ch'uan Vol.19 No.2, April 1995
  • Various people have offered different explanations for the name tai chi chuan. Some have said: 'In terms of self-cultivation, one must train from a state of movement towards a state of stillness. Tai chi comes about through the balance of yīn and yáng. In terms of the art of attack and defense then, in the context of the changes of full and empty, one is constantly internally latent, not outwardly expressive, as if the yīn and yáng of tai chi have not yet divided apart.' Others say: 'Every movement of tai chi chuan is based on circles, just like the shape of a taijitu. Therefore, it is called tai chi chuan.' Both explanations are quite reasonable, especially the second, which is more complete.
    Those who practice shaolinquan leap about with strength and force; people not proficient at this kind of training soon lose their breath and are exhausted. Tai chi chuan is unlike this. Strive for quiescence of body, mind and intention.
    Scientific principles could apply to every aspect of tai chi chuan skills. Even more, the ways that empty and full transform are unfathomable. When practicing the form, the entire body feels comfortable; when pushing hands, the entire body feels lively. Therefore, after a long period of constant practice one not only avoids being tired, but actually feels more spirited after doing tai chi chuan. This indicates great intensity of delight. However, beginners, who have not yet grasped the fundamentals, must go through a period of forbearance. Then, eventually, they will spontaneously enter the most enjoyable stages.
    • Wu Jianquan, son of Wu Quanyou - quoted in T’ai Chi The International Magazine of T’ai Chi Ch'uan Vol.21 No.3, June 1997
  • Two hands rise, separating into yīn and yáng
    Left and right like a yīn and yáng fish

    Movement springs from extreme stillness, opening then closing
    Relax the shoulders and sit on the leg as if embracing the moon

    Two hands form into yīn and yáng palms
    Two palms crossed over for locking joints

    Wait for opportunity before moving, watch for changes
    Create opportunity by following the opponent's force

    • Wu Jianquan, son of Wu Quanyou - from a didactic poem quoted by his son Wu Gongzao in Wu Family T'ai Chi Ch'uan (吳家太極拳), Hong Kong, 1980 (originally published in Changsha, 1935)
"The mind has to be relaxed in order to be joyful and make progress to the other levels" Wu Yanxia demonstrating the posture Grasp Bird's Tail
  • When you do the forms, you relax. The mind has to be relaxed in order to be joyful and make progress to the other levels. To complete the moves of the form with a continuous flow is the hardest to achieve, even at the senior level. The form's continuous coordinated motion is beautiful. Coordination deteriorates with age, but with the practice of tai chi chuan, this won't happen.
    on the differentiation of tai chi chuan taught at the Beijing Sports Association into different styles, Yang and Wu after 1914: It was the students who began to define what they were learning from the instructors who taught it to them while they studied with the masters from both families. We didn't say the styles were different; the students said they were different because of the form instruction.
    • Wu Yanxia, daughter of Wu Gongyi - quoted in T’ai Chi The International Magazine of T’ai Chi Ch'uan Vol.19 No.3, June 1995
  • It is very sad that the elders in the tai chi family have passed. They devoted their lives to the development of tai chi chuan in China and everywhere. To the whole world.
    • Wu Yanxia, daughter of Wu Gongyi - quoted in T’ai Chi The International Magazine of T’ai Chi Ch'uan Vol.22 No.2, April 1998
  • The postures or form differ considerably between different schools of tai chi chuan, although their fundamentals and principles are basically the same. This may even occur between learners of the same style and is related to what one has learned from one's teacher, the level of understanding and how early and late one learned the exercise. Spontaneous evolution and development is often the rule as time passes on regardless of the art. The matter has also been compared with one's handwriting, which may be considerably different from another's.
    on the application of the form Turn Body Double Kick: If the enemy attacks with a punch, you meet it with your upper hand, and kick him with your right foot. If the enemy takes advantage of your movement to launch a second attack, you can dodge it by turning your body, divert the oncoming fist with your right hand using the "plucking force" and kick at his abdomen or the side of his body with your right foot. The manoeuvre is called "diverting the oncoming force into emptiness".
    • Wu Yinghua, daughter of Wu Jianquan - Wu Style T'ai Chi Ch'uan – Forms, Concepts and Applications of the Original Style, 1988
Yang Chengfu demonstrating the tai chi chuan posture Single Whip
  • 1. Straighten the Head. Hold the head and neck naturally erect with the mind concentrated on top.

    2. Keep the chest slightly inward to help sink the breath to the dāntián. Sinking the chest also helps to round the back.

    3. Relax the waist. All movements depend on the waist. A relaxed waist makes the two feet able to form a strong base.

    4. Distinguish between solid and empty in stances. This gives stability and flexibility in movement.

    5. Sink the elbows and shoulders.

    6. Use the mind instead of force.

    7. Coordinate all movements of the upper and lower parts of the body.

    8. Create a harmony between the internal and external parts.

    9. Maintain continuity. All movements are continuous in an endless circle.

    10. Tranquillity in movement. Movement occurs while there is stillness inward.

    • Yang Chengfu, son of Yang Jianhou, known as Chengfu's Ten Essential Points - quoted in T’ai Chi The International Magazine of T’ai Chi Ch'uan Vol.22 No.1, February 1998
"Some people go too far and they can get into trouble. They may suddenly see angels in the sky, or immortals coming to visit them. There can be a lot of imaginary brain activities. But you have qigong which is naturally embodied in tai chi chuan. It is a more natural aspect of qigong and not a special kind of study that brings you into another sphere."
  • In tai chi chuan you want to be calm and collected, so you have focused attention to observe what the opponent is doing to you. Within that quietness, you are ready to spring, you are ready to move. So the quiescence and movement go hand in hand, working together.

    In qigong practice, you become very, very quiet. You are so quiet, you actually tuck yourself away from the normal world into another state. Some people go too far and they can get into trouble. They may suddenly see angels in the sky, or immortals coming to visit them. There can be a lot of imaginary brain activities.

    But you have qigong which is naturally embodied in tai chi chuan. It is a more natural aspect of qigong and not a special kind of study that brings you into another sphere.

    • Yang Zhenduo, third son of Yang Chengfu - T’ai Chi The International Magazine of T’ai Chi Ch'uan Vol.20 No.6, December 1996
  • The basic requirements and essentials we have talked about are very important points. But it is like many things. You can know it but sometimes you cannot carry it out. You may not be able to do it. You may need a long time to train yourself, slowly, slowly accumulating experience. The basic method behind all of this is very, very simple. It is just to loosen the whole body. Within the loosening of the body, you have to address two issues. One is that you have to loosen your mind, the other is to loosen the body. But the looseness is not just soft or a limp kind of looseness. Instead it is a lengthening, extending, opening up looseness. So you must understand all these things when you practice. Many people say: "Oh, I know all about that." But knowing doesn't mean you know how to do it. Many people do not know how to practice.
    • Yang Zhenduo, third son of Yang Chengfu - T’ai Chi The International Magazine of T’ai Chi Ch'uan Vol.22 No.1, February 1998


  • on three levels of development: 1) Practice in order to learn what tai chi is and make sure all the movements and and ideas are clear. 2) Reach the point where one understands tai chi in one's practice. 3) Use it freely and experience it at a mysterious and wonderful level.
    • Attributed to Chen Changxing - Chen Zhenglei quoted in T’ai Chi The International Magazine of T’ai Chi Ch'uan Vol.21 No.5, October 1997
  • We have to pay attention to the relaxation of our chest. ...If our chest is stiff, it will be filled up with our . Once our chest is full of it cannot coordinate the movements of the whole body, and then we will certainly be beaten in any contest.
    • Attributed to Chen Zhaokui - Ma Hong quoted in T’ai Chi The International Magazine of T’ai Chi Ch'uan Vol.21 No.4, August 1997
  • Whenever one moves, the entire body is light and nimble, and each part of the body is connected together like a string of pearls. resonates like a drum, the spirit internalizes.
    If there is above, there must be below, if there is a front, there must be a back, if there is a left, there must be a right. As intent rises it also descends.
  • If we see a solid opportunity and fail to take advantage of it, how can it be said that our art is complete? If we do not practice according to the applications of the principles, we can work forever without developing a superior art.
"This was handed down to me
Through Xu Xuanping
The elixir of long life is within the body
That we may restore our primal purity
Spiritual cultivation brings great virtue"
"The Three Teachings are not separate schools,
But all speak of one Great Ultimate,
Whose greatness fills the universe,
One standard fixed for all eternity"
  • As a martial art, tai chi chuan is externally a soft exercise, but internally hard, even as it seeks softness. If we are externally soft, after a long time we will naturally develop internal hardness. It’s not that we consciously cultivate hardness, for in reality our mind is on softness. What is difficult is to remain internally reserved, to possess hardness without expressing it, always externally meeting the opponent with softness. Meeting hardness with softness causes the opponent’s hardness to be transformed and disappear into nothingness. How can we acquire this skill? When we have mastered sticking, adhering, connecting and following, we will naturally progress from conscious movement to interpreting energy and finally spiritual illumination and the realm of absolute transcendence. If our skill has not reached absolute transcendence, how could we manifest the miracle of “four ounces moving a thousand pounds”? It is simply a matter of “understanding sticky movement” to the point of perfecting the subtlety of seeing and hearing.
    The highest truths
    Were passed to Confucius and Mencius.
    The spiritual practices for cultivating body and mind
    Were exemplified in the seventy-two disciples, Emperors Wen and Wu.
    This was handed down to me
    Through Xu Xuanping.
    The elixir of long life is within the body
    That we may restore our primal purity.
    Spiritual cultivation brings great virtue;
    Regulate it well and the qi and body will be whole.
    For ten thousand years chant the praises of eternal spring;
    Truly the mind is the genuine article.
    The Three Teachings are not separate schools,
    But all speak of one Great Ultimate,
    Whose greatness fills the universe,
    One standard fixed for all eternity.
    The teachings of the ancient sages are a lasting heritage,
    Opening the way for truth seekers down through the ages...

See also

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Simple English

Tai chi chuan ((Chinese)) (also known as "Supreme Ultimate Fist") is an internal Chinese martial art which practiced for both its defense training and health benefits.

See also

  • Asahi Health
  • Centered riding
  • Chi Kung
  • Chinese martial arts - Kung fu
  • International Kung Fu Federation
  • Kinesiotherapy
  • Lee style Tai Chi Chuan
  • List of Tai Chi Chuan forms
  • Liuhebafa
  • T'ai chi ch'uan philosophy
  • Taijijian
  • Taoist Tai Chi
  • Tchoung Ta-chen
  • World Tai Chi and Qigong Day
  • Wudang Sect
  • Wudang Tai Chi Chuan
  • Wudangquan


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