Tai chi is a form of martial arts that originated in China in the 1600s. Its name means “supreme ultimate,” and it is often called shadowboxing due to its soft, controlled nature.
There are five main tai chi styles; Chen, Yang, Wu/Hao, Wu, and Sun, all of which were refined by the Chen family in the 1800s. (1) While some of these styles may incorporate power and speed, all types emphasize slow, flowing movements at the beginning level.
Advanced practitioners move on from the gentle beginner routines and shift focus to tai chi as a form of self-defense. Because the emphasis is on defense, not offense, it is considered a “soft style” of martial arts. Instead of going on the attack, the goal is to use the least amount of force to turn an attacker’s momentum against them.
Tai chi theory relies on the concepts of yin and yang. This view sees all things as existing as opposites that complement and attract each other. (2) Yin is represented in the female, the moon, and softness. Yang is represented by the masculine, the sun, and action. Neither is good or bad, but a balance of each is required.
The guiding principles of yin and yang are the foundation of Tai chi’s focus on balance. Each movement needs to balance the body, mind, and spirit. Tai chi seeks to balance the opposites and create a state of harmony.