During the last decades, one can see in the media more and more pictures of a gentle, balanced way of exercise that originates from China. Sure, we have all seen such pictures from Beijing. However, we have seen such scenes also from parks of Western cities, where hundreds of people practice together, moving slowly, calmly and relaxed. This way of exercise is called Tai Chi Chuan, and it is widely considered priceless for the human physical, mental and spiritual health. This is obvious from the great promotion it received at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. Tai Chi was presented as one of China’s great gifts to humanity, along with the invention of gunpowder, paper, typography and the compass. During the ceremony, emphasis was given on the relationship of Tai Chi with the cycles of nature and ecological thinking.
Most people feel that Tai Chi Chuan is just a gentle, complementary exercise that promotes relaxation and good health. However, in actuality, Tai Chi Chuan is much more than just that. It is an art with vast applications, a complete Chinese system of exercise that benefits body and mind, as well as a complete and very sophisticated self-defense method. It is based on the theory of perpetual motion and alternation, and on the intercomplementary nature of the opposite natural forces.
Tai Chi Chuan belongs to the category of the so called Internal / Soft Martial Arts, along with Ba Gua Chang and Hsing Yi Chuan. However, the term “internal” has given rise to many misunderstandings and exploitation. Thus, many people believe that Tai Chi Chuan is something “mystical” and “mysterious”. The word “internal” does not imply any sort of esotericism or magic. It just means that during the practice of an internal martial art, the muscular system (considered “Exterior/Hard”) is responsible for the production of movement only, and not for the production of power. In Tai Chi Chuan, as well as in the other Internal / Soft Martial Arts, power is produced for the most part (although not exclusively) from the proper alignment of the skeletal system, the motion of the pelvis, the tendons, the ligaments and the joints, as well as the coordination and unification of all the above in the direction of production of the desired objective – all of which are considered “Internal / Soft”