Taiji Quan has gained a reputation both in Asia and in the West as martial and movement art.
The name Taiji Quan, also written Tai Chi Chuan, originates from Chinese cosmology and describes the harmonious interplay of the two complementary primal energies Yin and Yang. The three characters for the terms tai, ji and quan may be interpreted to mean “highest/consummate martial art”.
Taiji Quan is considered as a so-called “soft” martial art, in accordance with the principle that the soft overcomes the hard, as for instance water flows around a boulder and in time erodes it. In relation to combat it means to recognise the opponent’s structure and movement and to adapt to it, not to resist him directly, and to exploit his structural weaknesses to overcome him.
The characterisitics of practice are slow, flowing movements in harmony with the respiration and a relaxed body and mindset. Unlike other martial arts (Karate, Kung Fu, Tae Kwon Do, Kickboxing etc.), the focus lies on holistic or integrated awareness of the musculoskeletal system, the energy or qi, and the conscious intent. Through practice this awareness can be trained to an extremely refined level.
Although Taiji Quan was originally developed and taught as a martial art, nowadays the focus usually lies on relaxation, meditation and health. However, in order to tap the full potential of Taiji Quan, the martial art aspect must be considered. Only in this way can the practitioner really understand the movements and fill them with meaning and intention. The form (a sequence of many individual, short, tactical movement units strung together) becomes a stylised fight, in which one action seamlessly passes into the next, and the practitioner’s mind projects the intent of each movement. Body and mind become one and there are no “senseless” movements or gaps in awareness.
Practising Taiji Quan stimulates the production of synovial fluid and lymphatic fluid, and thus strengthens the joints and the immune system. Taiji Quan improves motor skills and coordination, the sense of equilibrium and respiration. Muscles and sinews are relaxed and toned together with the fascia. With regular practice and time, energy blockages in the body may be dissolved, and the nervous system becomes harmonised. Body and mind in unison generate a bio-electromagnetic radiation field and more bioplasma is produced, which promotes inter-cellular intelligence and communication.
In addition to the so-called hand form, tui shou (pushing hands), sword, sabre, and staff forms are traditionally taught, especially when the martial aspect is predominant.