A brief history of tai chi

Tai chi is a part of Wu Shu (Kung Fu). As a means of keeping fit and preventing and curing diseases, it has been widely practiced among the Chinese people since the 16th century. Before this, these exercises had a different name, for example, The 13 Forms, Long Form, Shadow Boxing, etc. About 200 years ago, the name tai chi was given to this kind of exercise because the movements were slow, flowing and balanced like Yin and Yang, a small part of a large universe, always moving.

The words tai chi come from classical Chinese literature, the I Ching, which is 3000 years old. ‘Tai’ means ‘the greatest’ and ‘Chi’ means ‘polar, no end to the whole universe’. We are told in the I Ching of a state of harmony that exists in all of nature. It is the starting point of life.

The tai chi symbol shows a circle divided equally into a light and a dark sector, Yin and Yang. The division between Yin and Yang is not just a straight line, it is a graceful curve, suggesting movement and interplay of opposites. Light (Yang) changes into darkness (Yin) and then back again. Tai chi embraces all aspects of nature and her processes, visible and invisible, positive and negative, physical and spiritual, negative power (yielding) and positive power (action). These two powers, Yin and Yang, oppose and yet complement each other. This theory can be used to explain everything in the world.

The effects of tai chi have much to do with its characteristic features:

– Exercises require a high degree of concentration with the mind free of distractions.

– The movements are slow and uninterrupted, like a flowing stream.

– Breathing is natural and performed in rhythmic harmony with body movements. From the point of view of sports medicine, these characteristics are important factors contributing to the prevention and treatment of diseases.

Tai chi exercises have a 400 year history handed down from one family to another. This created many different styles, even within the same style. The five most popular styles are Chen, Yang, Wu, Woo and Sun. The Yang is the most popular and in 1956 the Chinese authorities decided to create a National Chinese Standard Form, making it easier and more popular for everyone to learn and maintain their health.