Tai Chi Chuan’s roots go back to several time periods because there are five styles of t’ai chi ch’uan. The five major styles practiced today are Chen-style, Yang-style, Wu or Wu (Hao) – style, Wu-Syle and Sun-style. There is a fair amount of debate about the exact origins of T’ai Chi and its founder. In English a rough translation comes out as “supreme ultimate fist”, “boundless fist” or “great extremes boxing”.
One prevailing theory is Taoist and Buddhist monasteries provided a number of the formative influence. There is little in the way of physical proof for this theory, but many old traditional schools claim a connection to it.
A second theory is the practice was developed and formulated by the Taoist monk Zhang Sanfeng in the 12th century. However the earliest recorded history regarding his teaching is recorded in a work called “Epitaph for Wang Zhengnan” in 1669 is the earliest piece connecting Zhang Sanfeng and t’ai chi.
Another theory is the one of Yang Luchan who trained with the Chen family for 18 years before he came to Beijing to teach there. It is believed his art was heavily influenced by the Chen family art. This was supposedly developed around the 17th century.
While the exact origins of this ancient martial art cannot be pinned down it has without a doubt existed for a centuries and has a rich history. Today the martial art is practiced throughout the world not only for its martial benefits but also for its health benefits.
In regards to its martial uses, it is about developing a self-defense that teaches a student how to change in response to outside forces. They also use it to then determine how much force to respond with, this all focuses around dealing with an attacker by yielding to their attacks and striking back with minimal efforts unlike other martial arts which try to meet oncoming attacks with opposing force.
When tai chi is practiced for health benefits it is done in a slow and graceful pattern. These movements are practiced along with proper breathing and stretching, when done correctly they bring relaxation to the body and help improve the flow of energy throughout the body. It can relieve stress both in the body and in the mind allowing the person to meditate and achieve optimum health. Practicing these movements has proven to be a healthy form of exercise that is not as rigorous on the body and it also improves the practitioner’s balance.
Regular practice of tai chi chuan in today’s hectic society can bring improved health, physical fitness and relaxation to our stressed out bodies.