T’ai chi ch’uan, or tai chi for short, is a Chinese martial art with roots in Taoist, Confucian, and Buddhist beliefs. Modern-day tai chi has many styles and forms, though there are only five orthodox styles. People around the world practice tai chi for many reasons. Some practitioners use it to improve their health, while others use it in competitive formats or exhibitions. Unlike many other martial arts, several styles of tai chi are low impact and put little strain on the muscles. This, along with tai chi’s purported health benefits, has made the martial art popular among older adults.
The English transcriptions of the original Chinese characters can be t’ai chi ch’uan or taijiquan, though most professionals use the latter. Its name is a reference to taiji, a complex Chinese principle that focuses on the “supreme ultimate” state from which all existence flows. Movement and activity create yang. When the movement reaches its limit, it calms. This tranquility creates yin. When the calm reaches its limit, it becomes movement. This cycle of yin and yang represents the observable duality of existence. It is also a central principle in the practice of tai chi.
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