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What is tai chai?

Updated: 9/28/2023
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14y ago

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Cosmology

Tai Chi (pinyin: taiji) is a concept from Daoist cosmology and has no one-to-one English equivalent. It derives from wuji, essentially everything that came before existence, or an undifferentiated void. The void began to expand or move in some way and this created the first distinction - two-ness from the indistinct oneness of the void.

These two distinctions are known as yin - roughly the quality of being near the origin - and yang - roughly the quality of being away from the origin. Everything exists between these two extremes and without them there would be no relativity and thus no universe. There would be only indistinction of the void. Taiji itself is the sum of all things, the active universe, and the underlying quality of twoness of yin and yang permeates its oneness. Taiji can be thought of as the active churning of the two primal forces within the cosmos to make a unified whole.

Martial Arts

Tai Chi in English also commonly refers to what is more properly known as Tai Chi boxing (or Taijiquan) which is a fighting system based around the taiji philosophy. It asserts that maintaining one's equilibrium is of the highest importance in fighting or combat and it utilizes a constantly revolving vortex of opposing movements around a stable, relatively un-moving center (mostly an, upright, un-crooked torso) to allow the Taijiquan player to successfully navigate through and around aggressive opponents. Most of its theoretical basis revolves around pairs of complementary qualities that must be developed in a combatant and observed in combat. The most notable of which is that to confront a direct force with another direct force damages one's body as well as that of one's opponent. If direct force is countered with indirect force it can easily be redirected away from a player's body with minimal effort and self-harm. This is the theory behind the "soft" aspect of Taijiquan.

Taijiquan is notably for having a Shaolin derived technique set and nomenclature but who's theoretical basis does not occur in normal Shaolin styles and is almost entirely Daoistic in habit. It's unclear how this came to be exactly, but the style's codifier Ming general Chen Wangting was known to be conversant with Daoist philosophy and it was not uncommon for high ranking officers of the Ming to go study higher level martial skills at the Shaolin Temple. Several old styles conserved within the walls of Shaolin Temple were actually Daoist in origin and would have lent themselves very well to the reapplication of Daoist martial theories. This is due to cross-pollination during the Temple's golden years as a famed hub of martial learning. Traveling Martial artists would stop by at Shaolin Temple and ask to measure their style against the gold standard of Shaolin kungfu. If the monks were sufficiently impressed with what they saw they would exchange information on their styles with their guests and in this way Shaolin Temple came to have many hundreds of styles recorded in its archives as well as the many dozens of different styles practiced within its halls. Which styles specifically influenced Taijiquan is unknown but Shaolin Rouquan (soft boxing) is said to fit rather neatly into the sequence and naming conventions of the basic Taijiquan techniques and Emperor Taizu's long-range boxing or Taizu Changquan (another Daoist martial art that arrived at Shaolin) has long been thought to be one of Taijiquan's precursors. Tongbeiquan (through the back boxing) is an ancient martial art with many parallels to Taijiquan and is likely the originator - or at least a very early offshoot - of one of the martial arts that led to Taijiquan. However the case, Taijiquan is a martial art with extremely deep roots going back much farther than the timeline of the originator would tell and has a storied if rather mysterious and obscure history.

Taijiquan is very commonly practiced today as both as a martial art and as health exercise since the rounded movements of its techniques and its even pace subtly articulate all the joints of the body throughout their full range of motion, directly stimulating the blood flow throughout all the limbs and the torso, the flow of lymph fluid through the body is encouraged by the same means (and thus stimulating the immune system), it exercises the respiratory system with deep even breathing, it excites the often underutilized peripheral nervous system, gently massages the internal organs of the torso through the many turnings of the waist, and promotes the secretion of synovial fluid in the joints through use, keeping them supple and pain free into ones old age. All of these qualities make Taijiquan excellent for treating and preventing conditions and diseases caused by the lack of a healthy lifestyle. In most cases it promotes recovery, healing, and increase in quality of life in those with chronic illnesses and conditions stemming from origins other than the lack of physical activity such as scoliosis and Arthritis. One is cautioned that the practice of Taijiquan is notably not a direct tool for curing cancers, infections, or for treating illnesses derived aberrations of the diet such as ingesting harmful substances or failing to ingest necessary and vital nutrients. These must be addressed by direct means with the help of some sort of a physician and, when expedient, a dietician.

Symbolism

As a side-note, the Taijitu is the proper name for the diagram known as the yin-yang symbol which is a visual representation of the concept of Taiji. There are many variations of the diagram, subtly implying different things. The most common, the taijitu with "eyes" implies that yin and yang necessarily exist and lead into one another, each having the seed of the other and needing one another to exist. In martial arts, there are often paired taijitu depicted together, one spiraling clockwise and the other spiraling anti-clockwise. This represent techniques that start near the center of the body and exert force away from it as well as techniques that go away from the center of the body first and exert force coming back into it. In these techniques one generally breathes in on the first phase and then breathes out and exerts force in the second phase. Another common variant in martial arts is that of the taijitu cyclone, with the calm eye of the storm representing wuji, stillness or equilibrium in the center of the body with the complementary yin and yang forces of the limbs whirling about in all directions, but all remain contained within the harmonious, balanced whole of taiji, or the picture of an effective combatant.

"Chi"

Another note, the chi in Tai Chi is not the energetic chi. The difference is more apparent in pinyin as they resolve to ji and qi. Tai is a superlative and means the greatest, or too much. Ji literal means an extreme or extremity. Taiji literally means the greatest extremes and refers to the two primordial forces combined together as previously stated. Wuji literally means without extremes and refers to either to something outside of the universe that the universe exists within or a state of the universe that came before existence as we know it. It's impossible to accurately define in a positive sense and can only be defined accurately in the negative in the sense of "that which is not taiji".

Qi literally means spirit and like the word spirit in English it originally referred to the breath. Its meaning expanded early on to more broadly mean any sort of animating force and translates roughly as energy, force, or power. It is a very general and imprecise term and therefore there is a mismatch as the English equivalent of spirit can refer either to one's spiritual body or their emotional body, much closer to the Chinese concept of shen in the three treasures model of understanding the human body - which in turn is related to the Daoist concept of the immortal body or fetus, which arrived in western world by a long circuitous route - from Chinese internal alchemy, passing through and blending with several Mesopotamian spiritual traditions before finally arriving in European alchemy, in a slightly altered form- as the concept of the humunculus.

Qi in humans more closely means vitality or vital energy and can often be functionally reduced to meaning the sum-total state of one's metabolism or the combined health of one's circulatory systems. A person with good qi has great circulation. A person with weak qi has terrible circulation and one or more of their circulatory systems aren't functioning properly. Qi - as vitality - can be said to be felt but cannot be readily interacted with.

Manipulating qi involves becoming cognizant of internal going-ons in one's body and - since one can't consciously control the smooth tissues of our body - one uses visualization, relaxation and focus to try and "feel" qi moving about. Qi as a definite thing is said to be the bio-electric system of the body - essentially the human nervous system + the other electro-chemical processes of the human body - and the visuals are meant to make your nervous system fire off the correct signals to elicit the desired response in the body, essentially control of the autonomic functions of the body. These manipulation techniques are generally referred to as qigong (meaning qi work) and may be practiced while moving or standing still but generally involve some sort of breathing exercise as the lungs are the only organs that are both autonomic as well as voluntary and can be generally said to hold the keys to accessing the deeper functions of the body.

Qi in a martial arts context can also refer to the structural power of the body - or indeed any sort of power, force, energy, or sensation - and many of the exercises designed to increase a human's sensitivity to the structure of their body and their ability to maintain it deal with muscular relaxation and becoming aware of, and controlling, the breath and air within the body to provide stability or exert force which leads very naturally into the deeply physiological types of qigong. Considering the complementary nature of these practices qi in a martial arts context is deeply intertwined with both the practical aspects of combat as well as those of the health enhancing sort.

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6y ago
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6y ago

Tai Chi (More properly Tai Chi Chuan or Taijiquan) is a martial art in the tradition of northern Chinese kung-fu. It's famous for it's slow motion training routines (what most people refer to when asserting that they practice "Tai Chi") as popularized by masters in the tradition of Yang Chenfu. These routines are popular internationally as an easy exercise routine widely considered suitable for the old and the infirm as they emphasize an upright posture, keeping both feet on the floor, and moving in one plane of motion (so very little to no bouncing, leaning, bending, squatting, jumping or planking). The gentle motions that practicing the routines puts one through are esteemed for their ability improve mobility in the joints, suppleness in the limbs and improved balance.

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14y ago

Tai Chi Chuan is basically Chi Kung with Kung Fu moves woven into it; the Chinese practice a form of "Yoga" they call "Chi Kung," a series of movements, usually circular, that is coordinated with the breath in order to promote health and the flow of vital energy that they call "chi." Tai Chi Chuan, combines the martial arts techniques of Shaolin Kung Fu, with Chi Kung exercises from the Daoist temple of Wudang mountain. The reason, for example, the Yang style is seemingly useless for fighting, is because it emphasizes the Chi Kung aspects of Tai Chi rather than the martial art aspects. The Yang style is more Chi Kung than Kung Fu, while it could be argued the Chen is more Kung Fu than Chi Kung. When it comes to building up Chi, the Chen style is superior to the Yang, because its "complete." The Chen style is divided into three separate routines, all of them very difficult to learn, you need total body flexibility to be able to execute them; 1) The Pao Chui or "cannon fist" form 2) The "softer" Chen large frame, which is "slow motion" like the Yang style, however the moves are completely different. 3) Finally the most advanced; the Chen small frame, from which the Hao Wei Zheng style of Tai Chi Chuan is derived. Although the moves in the Chen small frame are, well, small, do not be deceived; in terms of chi circulation, it is the frame that most powerfully circulates the Chi in the body. Hao Wei Zheng, the man who invented Hao Wei Zheng Tai Chi Chuan studed under a Chen family master, who was well known for having achieved total mastery of the Chen small frame. He taught Hao Wei Zheng the small frame, and Wei Zhen in turn created a new style. Later on Sun Lu Tang invented the Sun style of Tai Chi Chuan, which combines Hao Wei Zheng Tai Chi, Xsing Yi, and Bagua Zhang. The Sun style of Tai Chi, is the most powerful, because it is derived from the Chen small frame, which already circulates chi powerfully, however, it also borrows from Xsing Yi and Bagua Zhang. I don't think the Chinese themselves have realized, just how powerful the Sun style of Tai Chi actually is. Additionally the martial art's creator was a genius, a highly intelligent man, one of the last Chinese people to complete a classical Chinese education. Believe me when I tell you, that is quite a feat; a Classical Chinese education is not at all easy. Sun Lu Tang was also a well trained Daoist mystic, who spent practically the entire day meditating in his old age. According to the Tim Cartmell translation of "A Study of Taijiquan," it is a translation from the Chinese textbook written by Sun Lu Tang, anywya according to that book, the day Sun Lu Tang died, Sun Lu Tang's son was visited by a young man in his early 20's. According to the story, the young man gave Sun Lu Tang's son a letter telling him not to open it, until a full week after his father's burial. Sun Lu Tang's son did not listen, tore up the letter, and angrily told the young man to leave. Who the young man was, is still a mystery, however Daoist religionist Chinese believe Sun Lu Tang became an immortal, and that the young man in his early 20's was in fact none other than Sun Lu Tang himself. Because Sun's son was accustomed to seeing only the old version of his father, when he saw the rejuvenated version he didn't recognize him. When doing the Sun style you will feel like your body has been lit on fire; the feeling, is surreal.

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12y ago

Tai chi is an internal martial art and health exercise based on the ancient Chinese Tao philosophy.

Today, it is helping millions of people all over the world to become physically fit, mentally relaxed and yet alert to guard against possible attack.

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14y ago

it's boxing from tai land dum tit and it's not tai is THAI F#CK

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13y ago

T'ai chi chuan, also called t'ai chi, consists of a sequence of flowing movements performed very slowly. These movements emphasize posture and the flow of the body's energy (qi).

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12y ago

symbol for action

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12y ago

a sort of Chinese kongfu

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