Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan)
Taijiquan as a Martial Art
Many people who practice Taijiquan, or Tai Chi Chuan, in the West may be surprised that it is actually an effective martial art. "Quan" (pronounced as "ch'uan") in the term "Taijiquan" is the short form for "quan fa", a Chinese term which corresponds to what westerners would call "kungfu". It is significant to note that "Shaolin Kungfu" is called "Shaolinquan" in Chinese, which is the short form for "Shaolin quan fa". "Taiji" means "the grand ultimate", which is the Chinese term for the cosmos. Hence, Taijiquan really means "Cosmos Kungfu".
Taijiquan or Taiji Dance
Even if your main objective of practicing Taijiquan is not for combat but for health, you still have to practice it as a martial art if you want to get value for your time and effort spent. If you practice it as a dance or some form of physical exercise, which will be inevitable if you miss its martial art aspects, the benefits you get from your Taiji dance or Taiji gymnastics are generally less than what you would get if you spend the same amount of time and effort on conventional dances and gymnastics typically found in the West.
Becoming Healthier or Fitter as You Grow
But if you practice Taijiquan as a martial art (although you may not be interested in fighting), your health benefits can be so remarkable that your dancing and gymnastics friends may find it hard to believe. While they may be panting for breath and often excitable after half an hour of active work-out, you can still be bouncing with energy yet relaxed after sparring for double the time.
More remarkable is that at 50 and beyond, while your peers longed for the health and fitness gone by, you actually feel healthier and fitter than when you were 25. The most remarkable is that while many people yearn for something missing but they do not exactly know what they are seeking, you have inner peace and spiritual purpose in life.
Taijiquan as Personal Cultivation
How does a martial art provide such benefits? Or why do we practice a martial art if our main purpose is not to fight? Herein lie the beauty and wonders of Taijiquan, an exquisite and ingenious art developed by Taoists for "cultivation in normal times, subduing assilants in times of exigencies".
Taoism, it may be significant to clarify, is not a religion as most westerners conceptualize what a religion is. "Tao" means the way, and in this context, the way to good health, longevity and spiritual joy. Explanation on how and why Taijiquan training is a process of such a cultivation is (and will be) found in other webpages; the purpose of this webpage is to illustrate some basic defence techniques of Taijiquan.
Great Arts are Rare
If you have been practicing Taijiquan (or what you think is Taijiquan) for many years, but find yourself no where near this Taoist cultivation, don't despair. Great arts in whatever times and places are rare, although their much diluted versions may be popular.
But at least now you know that Taijiquan is not a dance or gymnastics, but a comprehensive programme for physical, emotional, mental and spiritual cultivation, you would know what to aim for should you decide to continue in its pursue. It is very important to realize that attainment in any art is through dedicated practical training, and not merely through reading or wishful thinking.