HISTORY OF TAI CHI & QIGONG
Tai ch, or to give its full title Tai Chi Chuan, has been practised in China for over 300 years, possibly
longer, although its roots are shrouded in mystery, ambiguity, and myth. The name Tai Chi, which has
alternative spellings of T’ai Chi and Taiji, “translates as the Supreme Ultimate” reflecting its origins in
both Taoist and Confucian philosophies where it is seen as the fusion of Yin and Yang into a supreme
ultimate”, as represented by the Yin Yang symbol.
Tai Chi Chuan or Taiji Quan, translates as Supreme Ultimate defence/boxing/fist, reflecting its modern
origin as a Chinese martial practised for both self defence and health.
There are 300 styles of martial arts which are practised in China, but all fall into one of the main
group ins Wudang or Shaolin. Taui Chi falls under Wudang group, which comprises “internal styles”,
where as the Shaolin group covers “external styles” harder styles of martial arts
Tai Chi Chuan itself now embraces several different styles which have been developed over the past
three centuries. All are based on , and are off shoots of the original Chen style which is thought to
have been developed around 1670, You may hear of Chen, Sun, yang, ( both old and modern) Wu Wu,
(Hao) and Lee, Li styles. All of which differ in the way stances and movements are performed. Some
styles have very deep, wide stances; others have taller stances and less stretching . All styles focus on
developing internal strength using flows of QI (energy) whilst maintaining, or improving, the health
of the physical body.
Traditional training included “forms” which are a series of movements , or postures, which flow from
one to the next, rather like a dance. They are typically performed relatively slowly ( for a martial art),
and include forms using weapons such as swords, sticks and fans and silk sashes, these forms , or
routines, are collectively known as Taolu.
Additionally, partnered exercises often called “pushing hands” self defence, and the breathing and
meditation exercises of both Qigong and Neigong are also studied as part of traditional training.
In recent years , Tai Chi has spread outside of China into the rest of world, due to physical and mental
health benefits brought about by the focus on relieving stress on the body meditation, and
breathing whilst moving in complete relaxation and balance, it is now very popular in Western
Europe and the USA, particularly amongst those of the baby boom generation who, now in there 60s
and 70s , have embraced Tai Chi as an effective way of prolonging their ability to enjoy a healthy,
active lifestyle. Many people taking up Tai chi no interest in its martial arts, and are only concerned
with the health benefits which it can bring.
You should be aware, however, that Tai chi training a lifelong commitment, the breadth and
complexity of all the arts covered by Tai chi are best illustrated an old Chinese saying which translates
“it takes two and half lifetimes to understand Tai chi“