Tai Chi, in the West, is often thought of as a series of slow gentle movements that old Chinese people do in the park. It is often recommended for people who need some sort of stress relief, low impact exercise or who have trouble with balance.
In reality, there is no such thing as “Tai Chi”. What falls under the umbrella of Tai Chi is a wide range of exercises and techniques, based more or less on a Chinese martial art. The real name is Tai Chi Chuan, or Taijiquan, depending on which translation one uses.
“Tai Chi”, the term, is often translated to Grand Ultimate, the underlying reality of our physical existence. “Chuan” roughly means “Fist”. So Tai Chi Chuan means Grand Ultimate Fist, or “Method of punching someone in accordance with the divine laws of the Universe”. Roughly.
The important piece of information here is that Tai Chi Chuan is both a martial art and a method of acting in accordance with the laws of the universe. In Taoist terms, acting in sync with the universe is synonymous with enlightenment, with reaching our full potential and becoming “Truly Human”.
Both aspects need to be developed in order to obtain the full benefits of tai Chi Chuan.
In addition, Tai Chi Chuan is further broken down into “families” or styles. The original styles were developed within families, so the Chen style of Tai Chi Chuan was first created by the Chen family. As Tai Chi Chuan progressed, the art became more widespread and more of a sport. It lost its connection to families and instead grew within the Chinese sports association.
Today the most common Tai Chi Chuan style is the Yang Style, as well as the more modern versions which are referred to simply by the number of moves in them. Hence now people talk of the 24 Forms, the 48 Forms, etc…
The more traditional Tai Chi Chuan forms are still referred to by the family names. The core ones are the Chen style (the oldest), the Yang style, Sun style, and a few other variations as sons and students branched off and developed their own versions.
On this blog we will mostly talk about the Hidden Tradition of the Yang Family style of Tai Chi Chuan, or the Michuan Style (from the full Chinese name, Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan). This is supposedly the original Yang Family style, which was never taught to the greater public. I found it to be closer to its martial art roots than any other Tai Chi style I have studied. It also correlates very strongly with the writings found in the Tai Chi Classics, the collection of 18th and 19th Century texts on Tai Chi.
But all forms of Tai Chi are based on the same principles. The details vary, but the core teachings remain the same.