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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 health benefits.

Tai Chi has actually been around forever by Western and Aussie standards. It's an ancient form of Asian martial art. The easiest way to describe Tai Chi (if you havenít seen it before) is that it looks kind of like a cross between kung fu and dancing.

That makes Tai Chi look more like a dance than a fight. Everythingís smooth. While doing Tai Chi, you go through the motions smoothly and slowly, so that (if you do it right), itís impossible for someone to tell when one pose ends and another begins. Thatís makes it arguably the most beautiful martial art.

About 200 million Chinese people (give or take a few million) do Tai Chi each day. Theyíre not worried about using it for self-defense, though. For them, itís a sport, an exercise, and/or a way of life. It turns out that doing Tai Chi is VERY good for you. It strengthens your muscles and helps you stay flexible. It develops your ability to balance. It moves you blood around in your body to distribute oxygen, hormones, and other goodies to where theyíre needed. And Tai Chi strengthens the immune system.

Yet itís not hard for most people to do. Even very old people or very overweight people can usually do Tai Chi. (But ask your doctor first if itís okay.) It doesnít require you to exert yourself. You donít have to move fast. You donít have to bend far. Itís low-impact and easy on your joints. You donít have to wear fancy clothes or buy any fancy equipment to do it. And if you do it right, itís very hard to hurt yourself while doing Tai Chi.

What is Tai Chi?

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.

Is Tai Chi a martial art?

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.

Is all Tai Chi the same?

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.

Is it any better than other forms of exercise?

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).

What is Chi Kung?

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.

Can Chi Kung be dangerous?

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 )

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