T'ai Chi Ch'uan, or Taijiquan (depending on which Chinese to English translation system is used) is also known in North America simply as Tai Chi. You may have seen someone practicing the "form" which usually consists of a series of slow continuous body movements.
Taijiquan evolved in China as a martial art fighting system and is often incorrectly translated as meaning "Supreme Ultimate Fist", leading some to think that means it is the "best" martial art. "T'ai Chi" or the "Supreme Ultimate" actually refers to the philosophy upon which this martial art system was developed. This philosophy includes the concepts of the "quintessence of the universe", and the opposites: "Yin-Yang", soft-hard, fast-slow, in addition to concepts from the "I Ching" and the meaning of the Tao.
The word "Ch'uan" (or "quan") is more correctly translated as meaning "fighting system", or as called in China "boxing". Note that the word boxing, as used in China, does not mean what we Westerners commonly use it to mean - two people in a ring punching at each other!
A more correct translation is to call Taijiquan a martial art or Chinese boxing system based on the concepts of the "Tai Ji".
Also note that the word "chi" in "T'ai Chi" is the Wade Gilles spelling of the Chinese word. The Pinyin spelling is "Ji" as used in "Tai Ji". The pronunciation and meaning is the same in both conversion systems. When talking about internal energy, it is correctly spelled "Ch'i" as in "Ch'i Kung" (not Chi Kung). In Pinyin, the spelling would be "Qi" as in "Qi Gong". "Ch'i Kung" and "Qi Gong" are the same thing, just different Chinese to English translation systems. From this you can see that the "Chi" in "T'ai Chi Ch'uan" is not the same word or meaning as the "Ch'i" in "Ch'i Kung". This is more easily seen in the Pinyin spellings which use "Tai Ji Quan" and "Qi Gong" ("Qi Gong" means "energy work" - or working to develop ones internal energy).
Due to the great amount of time and effort that must be put into learning Taijiquan to reach a high level of skill, there are not that many people in North America that are capable of correctly teaching the complete T'ai Chi Boxing system. You can find a description on the order of learning Taijiquan in Levels of Progression in T'ai Chi Ch'uan (Taijiquan) (updated 27 Oct 2000) . Today, Taijiquan is usually only found taught as an exercise we know as T'ai Chi.
No matter how it is taught, T'ai Chi Ch'uan is an effective "whole
body" training and exercise system. Practicing the movements (the
"form") puts the major joints of the body (such as the hips and
shoulders) through their full range of motion. Muscles that have become
shortened due to injury or a sedentary life style are gradually lengthened,
improving body flexibility. Balance is greatly improved, a major benefit to the
elderly, as this and improved flexibility reduces the risk of falls. Focusing on
the movements with the mind has a positive effect on ones ability to
concentrate. Stress levels are reduced and overall - T'ai Chi Ch'uan makes
one feel both physically and mentally alert and "well".
Reading list - Books I have found useful (updated 19 Aug 2002)
My Journey in Learning Taijiquan (updated 12 May 2003)
Notes on Executing Yang's 113 Long Form (updated Jan 2009)
The Yang Style 40 Form (Sep 2002)
Basics - The Foundation of Taijiquan (Mar 2003)
Some Acupuncture Points Relating to Taijiquan (Nov 2002)
The three straight lines (May 2003)
You can download a Microsoft Word version of "The Development of
Taijiquan Styles". This file contains (unconfirmed) lineage information
gleaned from books, magazines and the internet:
Styles.doc (updated 25 Mar 2002)
Make your own inexpensive wooden practice sword (updated 31 Aug 2002)
Make your own Taiji Ruler (updated Nov 2002)
Make your own wooden practice broadsword (updated 31 Aug 2002)
Link to my teacher's web page:
Taijiquan Group® in Toronto
For instruction on T'ai Chi Ch'uan in
the Barrie area, contact Judith MacKay-Kowalski at Chenoa Studio
Here are Some Links to Web Pages about Taijiquan and Other Internal Martial Arts
"Taiji" the Quintessence of the Universe - Listen to a discussion on China Radio International "Something about Taiji Boxing" (mp3 file).
Huan Zhong Taijiquan Group®
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