Tai Chi is not very similar to martial arts such as karate and judo (as I understand it) because you are not taught 'moves' and 'tricks' for fighting. Instead you are taught the 'form' (of which there are several, such as tai chi chuan). Each form is a series of movements which, when watched, is similar to a dance. All movements within the form are circular in nature (somewhat hard to avoid), and this emphasises a particular way of looking at movement, both yours and that of other people that lets you see how to take advantage of openings in other peoples defenses if they attack you. Of course, the form (which is normally enacted slowly) can be speeded up and 'hardened' to become seriously deadly to anyone who is standing in front of you (or behind you, or next to you, depending on how you do it).

The central focus of 'fighting tai chi' is to get the other guy off balance, and therefore onto the ground, following the (highly effective) logic that someone fallen flat on the floor in front of you is very easy to disable (can anyone say 'drop to your knees on them'?) so a basic tai chi response to someone trying to punch you is to deflect their blow and trip them.

Tai Chi has this emphasis of 'floor=death' because it is primarily a close quarters martial art. Any fighting method that always leaves a decent gap between fighters gives a fallen figher time to get up before they are killed. Because of the close combat philosophy behind Tai Chi it is very useful in any kind of mass combat (i.e a bar brawl or, say, any real fight).

As such it is to be considered a very bad idea to get into a fight with someone who is good at tai chi, as your chances of coming out of it without broken bones are very slim indeed.

Unlike aikido, which is completely a martial art, tai chi is at least as much a meditation.

When I was involved in poor theatre, we did some tai chi. The purpose, as with the other physical disciplines, was the focus, and centering, that it required, and developed.

This is not just a mental thing. The whole point about acting is to, well, act. And you want people to look at you. The quality of movement that comes to those who work at tai chi is the thing.

There is no partial movement. There is nothing, from the smallest flexing of the smallest finger, to the largest bending of the whole body, that doesn't come from the center--the solar plexis, the chi.

I regret not continuing this discipline, but, even today, I still feel the benefits.

In the 13th century A.D a Taoist monk named Chang Sang Feng invented what is now known to be Tai Chi. This soft martial art came to be associated with different Chinese families, whose family names now designate different forms and types of Tai Chi. The Yang style is the most commonly practiced form of Tai Chi used today.

Tai Chi is not only known to be a physical activity but by the Chinese people it is also considered to have psychological benefits. It’s a form of meditation , and meant to help you understand yourself there- for enabling one to deal with others more easily.

Tai Chi has health benefits as well. It may help you deal with tension and stress. It emphasizes force, and is characterized by soft, slow and flowing movements. Tai Chi is supposed to stop you from being easily confused or distracted , or “weak minded.” Tai Chi is said to help one be “centered.”

According to Chinese philosophy, one becomes ill if the flow of Chi through the body gets blocked off. “Chi” means literally breath, or something close to that.

The attitude in which this form of meditation wishes to cultivate is to understand change as a natural life process. The Tai Chi form is to enable yourself to bring the principles of Yin and Yang into their natural harmony.

The essence of Tai Chi is not to be talented in self-defense, or to learn a set of movements but to allow one the opportunity to become aware of the natural laws which govern change.

T'ai Chi is actually a shortend form of the full name T'ai Chi Ch'Uan. The Tai Chi that Americans are familiar with is the Yang style twenty-four posture short form that was founded by Yang, Lu-Ch'an (1799 - 1872). The forms mentioned in the other writeups are not unique to Tai Chi by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, most martial arts teach movements in this manner.

T'ai Chi Ch'Uan is generally taught in 24, 48, 72, 88 (rare), and 108 posture forms. The 24 posture form is also refereed to as the short, or simplified, form, the 48 as the simplified, and the 108 as the long form. There is also T'ai Chi Push Hands (sometimes refered to as "pushing hands"), T'ai Chi Palm, T'ai Chi Chin Na, Bagua T'ai Chi, Mu Lan Ch'Uan (a combination of T'ai Chi Ch'Uan and Chi Kung). There are also spefic weapons forms like T'ai Chi Saber (a completely different weapon from the european saber, it is more closely related to a scimitar), T'ai Chi Sword ( a stright medium width broadsword), T'ai Chi Staff, T'ai Chi Ball, T'ai Chi Fan (single and double), T'ai Chi short staff (jo)

T'ai Chi Lessons are frequently preceded by Chi Kung (energy training) temple exercise to get chi flowing. The art itself in very fluid but when compared to arts like Aikido not very circular. Many of the hand movements do, however, move as if you were colding a large ball in front of your hara. The path of the 24 posture form, which contains the essential elements of the 108 posture form but leaves out many of it's nuances and some of it's moves completely, describes a straight line with the exclusion of 2 movements which are each repeated towards the end of the form at 45 degree angles to the line. The form however, does not continue off on an angle at any point. The movements in the 24 posture form are concerned with attacking, or being attacked by, people in front of you or to your sides. It is extremely well suited to a small number of attackers but does not hold up as well as some other arts in situatioins with large numbers of simultaneous attackers from all directions, unless you are extremely advanced in its techniques.

I would argue that the central focus of T'ai Chi is not to get your opponent to the ground because T'ai Chi is not a grappling art. This means that there are no hard holds (you never try to grab on and not let go) or immobilization techniques for dealing with someone once you get them on the ground. This also means that its effectiveness begins to break down when you find yourself laying on the ground. Instead, I would argue that the main focus of T'ai Chi is to redirect your opponents chi and use it against them. Many of the the moves use this in combination with your own chi for attacks with dramatically powerful results.

The theory that someone on their knees is easier to disable only applies to untrained opponents. An Aikido practitioner on their knees can be at least as hard to disable as one standing. Many Aikido dojos make sure their students are comfortable performing a move from a kneeling position before they ever attempting it standing. A ju-jitsu or judo practitioner would also have the advantage, be they on their knees or flat on the ground, if the T'ai Chi practitioner who threw them did not use the time to distance themselves.

Some good writeups about Tai Chi, but they're still missing the essence. "Tai" means supreme. Chi has is often translated as breath or energy or spirit. In fact, Chi represents the Chinese concept of the "spiritual energy" that constitutes the universe. Instead of believing that the world was made of matter, they believed the world was made of Chi--energy that not only made up everything, but also flowed through everything. (Use The Force, Luke.) So Tai Chi can be translated "supreme power". And yes, as themusic noted, Tai Chi is in fact a martial art. It always was and always will be a way of fighting.

Masukomi is correct in most of his writeup except for the part about redirecting your opponent's chi to use it against him. The true nature of Tai Chi combat is to merge your chi with your opponent's, "helping him to go where he wanted to go." An example is when an opponent punches you help his arm go forward by adding your own energy (chi) to his, causing his head to whiplash. His natural reaction at this point will be to try to stop and go back, so you again merge your chi with his, sending him flying across the room. Thus Tai Chi is a soft martial art, to the practitioner, but to the one on the receiving end, Tai Chi is a very very hard martial art.

A common misconception about Tai Chi it is that is slow. True, it is often practiced slowly, but there is nothing slow about it. Energy is like a kitten, afraid of fast movements, but as kittens grow, they become less skittish and can tolerate sudden and fast movements. Thus to develop power and energy, Tai Chi must be practiced slowly, but as energy is developed and grows up, the Tai Chi master can move quickly and maintain his power.

Tai Chi is also not necessarily "round". The same form can be done square or round. Both have their purposes, and both should be practiced.

And finally for some Tai Chi in movies, see Jet Li's Tai Chi Master (distributed in the United States under the name Twin Warriors). It is about the founder of Tai Chi, Chang Sang Feng. Incidentally, Jet Li practices Wu Shu, which is a combination of most of the major Chinese Martial Arts.

Of course the best Tai Chi master in film today is Bolo Yeung who has bigger breasts than most women. He played the infamous Chong Li in Bloodsport and has acted in some fifty kung fu flicks, including Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon.

Wu style

Tai Chi Chuan may be translated as 'supreme ultimate fist'. The 'Chi' in 'Tai Chi' is often wrongly assumed to mean 'energy' (see qi). This is probably because 'Tai Chi Chuan' is a Wade-Giles rominization (chi pronounced as 'Ji'). Tai Chi is said to have originated when a monk, Chang San Feng observed a snake and a crane fighting.

Wu-style Tai Chi is a 'smaller' form than Yang-style and is often practiced specifically for health and energy benefits. However it remains rooted in martial practice and most teachers emphasize that focusing on an the practical aspect of an 'opponent'. One of the more experienced instructors awhile back jokingly said "if the energy is something you need to be sensitive to feel, there's probably not very much involved".

As with other meditation practices / martial arts, Tai Chi practice includes substantial work on breath and learning to breath from the center.

Push hands

Push hands is the martial practice of Tai Chi. The objective of push hands is to deflect an incoming attack while expending minimal energy. How is this accomplished? - The defensive and offensive applicatons use straight spine, and opening of the joints. People who have practiced Tai Chi for decades move energy directly from their core to the striking parts, and their shoulder, knee, hip and other joints become both flexible (soft) yet very strong.

The slow, deep movement of Tai Chi builds quite amazing strength and balance. One is almost always standing balanced on one leg/foot or the other and as you advance your practice, you learn to do this lower (which is not possible until the body becomes accustomed to it).

There are several ways to think about the nuances of tai chi push hands.

A key objective is to push (attack) the opponent/partner's center (spine) and to attain the openness (flexibility) and skill to simply turn away an attack on one's own center. Done 'right' this requires remarkably little 'strength' or expenditure of energy.

The 'form' practiced correctly will re-shape the body so that the shoulder, arm, elbow and hand become direct extensions of the spine.

In push hands practice the student learns early to cover / control the opponent/partner's elbow. This is because it's closer to the center than the hands and therefore more powerful (dangerous). That logic extends further in to the shoulder, which can deliver tremendously powerful blows.

At advanced levels the 'free' foot / leg becomes another striking tool; at all levels however, the unweighted leg, in contact with the floor is often being used to deliver and direct energy.

Progression to 'advanced' levels of practice involves changing from needing to use strength and tension to deflect an attack to being able to fully relax and to use 'internal' energy.

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