What is Thai Chi?
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Tai Chi (also written as T'ai Chi, Taiji, Tai
Chi Chuan, among others) is a slow-motion, moving meditative exercise for
relaxation, health and self-defense. Originally from China, Tai Chi has gained
enormous popularity in America and throughout the rest of the world for its
Tai Chi, literally means "Supreme Ultimate", in reference to a concept in Taoist philosophy. Its symbol is the swirling "Yin-Yang", which represents the complimentary opposites, such as day and night, male and female, sky and earth, but not conflicting, such as good and evil.
Usually, people are referring to "Tai Chi Chuan" (Supreme Ultimate Hand/Fist), the Chinese practice of specific, slow moving exercises that promote health by improving and adjusting the circulation of breath (Chi / Ch'i) as a whole body experience.
Absolutely. Stereotypically it is practiced throughout the world by the elderly for fitness and longevity, but the defensive abilities contained in both the movement and overall practice are real. In fact, some schools stress the martial applications, and after some years of training it proves itself to be one of the most effective martial arts ever developed.
Not at all. There are many styles and sub-styles, the most common being Chen, Yang, and Wu. Even within a style, the exact movements have changed from generation to generation. Some variations are more suited to particular body types, or even personalities.
However, all styles share common movements that appear recognizable as similar, such as ward off, single whip, repulse monkey, etc.. If you take two styles and cannot see the similarities, at least one of them is not authentic Tai Chi.
Tai Chi can be much more beneficial than many other exercises, mainly because body alignment and motion works with the body and not against it. You can not get "worn out" doing Tai Chi. In fact, the movements relax the cardiovascular system while giving it exercise. Stress is placed on the muscles (which get stronger) in stead of the joints (which wear out).
Chi Kung, often described as energetics by Oriental Medical Doctors, translates as "breath" (Chi) "practice" (Kung, as in Kung Fu, which means excellence through long-term practice). Chi Kung is to China what Yoga is to India.
Breath is understood as a whole-body experience, which creates and influences balance (of the organs and the whole body itself), focus, strength, and awareness. There are countless forms and exercises, some sitting, some standing. The best-historically known sets of exercises are Five Animals Play, and 8 Pieces of Brocade.
All but the most basic Chi Kung can be practiced safely without a qualified, experienced teacher or doctor (OMD). However, simple exercises, even if not done perfectly, are relatively harmless. If you ever experience vertigo, lightheadedness, trembles, or stomach upset, stop immediately and determine what you may be doing wrong. If this persists, see your teacher or doctor.
( Courtesy: http://www.buffalotaichi.com/tai_chi_faq.htm )