The Martial Art of Tai Chi
The words “martial arts” conjure up all kinds of imagery – and it’s usually Hollywood-style, over-the-top fight scenes that just barely jive with the laws of physics. But the truth is, the disciplines of different martial arts cover a wide range of activities and goals, and many of them are not focused on fighting. In fact, some of them have historically prioritized form, meditation, focus, balance, and other “inner” qualities. Tai chi quan, meaning “supreme ultimate boxing” and simply known as tai chi in most of pop culture, is one of them.
The History Of Tai Chi
There is actually quite a bit of controversy around the actual origin of tai chi, with claims of its beginnings ranging anywhere from the 12th century to the 19th. The most common beliefs place its first forms in the middle, around the early 1600s in China. From there, the style grew and was adapted and changed by its practitioners, ultimately spreading around the world and earning its reputation as a highly-focused martial art.
Styles Of Tai Chi
There are five main offshoots of the original art form, named after the Chinese families that developed them over the centuries. The most popular is Yang, which came to prominence in the mid-1800s, followed by Wu around the same time, and Chen, which is the oldest verifiable form from the 1600s. Finally, there is Sun style, created around the turn of the 20th century, and Wu/Hao, which is slightly older but less popular.
Each of these styles is based on the same underlying forms and theory of solo forms, “pushing hands”, and one-on-one practice, but take different approaches in their execution. And within these major styles there are dozens of hybrids and new sub-styles as well (there is even a seated version!), though they are not yet recognized in an official capacity.
Tai chi is considered a “soft” style of martial art, meaning that it generally moves slower and more methodically than harder fighting styles. For this reason, many older or impaired people find it useful for staying in shape and building their physical abilities alongside their mental ones.
Practicing Tai Chi
While martial arts like karate, tae kwon do, or kickboxing have a high focus on fighting opponents and self-defense, those roles in tai chi are less important. Instead, most of the trainings prioritizes balance, breathing, repetition, attention, control, and other, similarly internal practices. There are three main aspects to tai chi, which inform every offshoot style in some way:
Here’s a fun fact, too: even though the martial aspect of tai chi is not as common as the meditative one, it is possible to use weapons in the sport as well! These include forms of swords, fans, staffs, spears, canes, whips, and several others.
Getting Started With Martial Arts
If you’re interested in learning more about how all aspects of martial arts can improve your life, we’re happy to guide you along in your journey! Our spacious facilities and expert instructors are here to help you develop a lifelong love of motion and meditation. Give us a call or visit us today!