Tai Chi, a Complex Subject with Many Ways to Describe it

Tai Chi Ch’uan, often referred to as Tai Chi, is a martial art that originated in China and is characterized by slow, rhythmic movements. All the movements in Tai Chi have a martial art application so it’s sometimes referred to as “shadow boxing” because you can imagine an opponent while you’re performing the movements. This is called moving with “intention.”

So what is the appeal of Tai Chi that makes study so interesting and beneficial?

The master teachers say you practice with a “quiet mind” and seek “stillness in the movement.” You simultaneously exercise your body while you relax your mind. It’s sometimes called the “Perfect Exercise” because it can be done by all ages and fitness levels and the rate of injury is low while the potential health benefits are high.

With external or hard martial arts, like karate, there is less emphasis on quieting the mind. More emphasis is placed on developing external strength and directing that power outwardly toward the opponent. There are positive aspects to both internal and external martial arts, but those seeking long-term health, exercise and stress relief benefits often turn to Tai Chi.

The Tai Chi is an example of an internal martial art because it emphasizes the development of internal strength. It’s a meditative exercise sometimes called a “moving meditation,” helping one to focus on being present in the moment.

Yin-Yang and Chi

The Chinese concept of yin-yang is represented by a black and white symbol. The yin-yang symbol is properly called Tai Chi. It represents the balance of opposite energies that Taoist philosophers and Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners believe exist in all living things.

It’s thought that practicing Tai Chi promotes the free flow of your life force energy, or Chi, and that it can balance and harmonize your mental, physical and spiritual being.

black and white yin yang symbol of duality

Yin Yang Symbol

This symbol has a number of meanings.  It can represent how apparently opposite forces may be complementary or interdependent and how they relate to each other in nature.  For example, the duality of male/female, light/dark, hot/cold, etc.  It is said that “a shadow cannot exist without light.”