What is Tai Chi?

Tai Chi Boxing or Taijiquan (太極拳) is a martial art that developed in Chen Village (陳家溝) in Henan Province (河南省). It is characterised by its relaxed method and it's spiralling motions. Since the 1980's people have become more interested in Tai Chi for it's health benefits than for its martial capabilities. Tai Chi has been described as 'Moving Meditation'.



There are many stories regarding the origin of the martial art of Tai Chi. The first written record of the martial art is that practised by Chen Wangting (陈王庭) of Chen Village (陳家溝) in Henan Province (河南省). It remained a family style (i.e. it was only taught to family members within the village) until the 1800's when Chén Chángxīng (陳長興) taught Yang Luchan (楊露禪). Yang Luchan was the founder of Yang style Taichi.
Today, there are 5 main styles of Tai Chi:

  • Chen-style (陳氏) of Chen Wangting (1580–1660)
  • Yang-style (楊氏) of Yang Luchan (1799–1872)
  • Wu or Wu (Hao)-style (武氏) of Wu Yuxiang (1812–1880)
  • Wu-style (吳氏) of Wu Quanyou (1834–1902)
  • Sun-style (孫氏) of Sun Lutang (1861–1932)

They can all trace there origins back to Chen style.

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What Does TAI CHI Mean?

'Tai Chi Chuan' is the Wade-Giles rendering of the Chinese 太極拳. In China it is now more common to use the Pinying rendering, 'Taijiquan'.
You will often see a literal translation of 'Taijiquan' as 'Supreme Ultimate Fist'. This can be a bit misleading. 'Taiji' is, what we might call, 'Yin Yang' (the principle of opposites). 'Quan' does mean 'fist' but can also mean 'fighting style'. A more accurate translation might be 'Yin Yang Boxing'. This is probably because the advanced practitioner can appear to deflect a forceful strike using very little energy. 
The style didn't receive the name Taijiquan until the 1800's, when it was used to describe the Yang style Taijiquan of Yang Luchan (楊露禪). The name was then adopted to cover all of the different styles.



Our name is taken from the Chinese idiom, "生龍活虎" (Shēng lóng huó hǔ). It's always difficult to get an exact translation but it's something along the lines of:

  • "Lively dragon, real tiger"
  • "Doughty as a dragon, lively as a tiger"
  • "Active dragon, lively tiger"

In speech it's used in the same way the we might use the expression "full of vim and vigor". So if someone is lively you could say, "He is active dragon, lively tiger."