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Tai chi chuan, also known as Tai chi, is a traditional Chinese martial art practiced for both defense training and for its numerous health benefits. The literal translation of the Chinese name is the “supreme ultimate fist”. Tai chi is very popular today, all over the world, for at least 20 years. It is mostly used for its wide range of health benefits. People practice tai chi today in hospitals, clinics, and community and senior centers. It is also commonly used as a method of stress relief and other benefits on mental health.
What is Tai chi?
Tai chi practice was probably developed in the second millennium B.C., along with the practice of yoga in ancient India. It is estimated that classic Tai chi was first developed in the 13th century A.D., by a Taoist monk known as Chang Sang Feng. Tai chi was always associated with different families in China, and family names normally designate the different styles of the Tai chi. Tai chi chen, developed by the Chen family, is the style from which all of the current Tai chi styles developed. The Chen style was later modified by the man called Yang, evolving into the Yang style of Tai Chi Chuan. This is the most common traditional style of Tai chi chuan.
The theory of Tai chi
The chi, or qi, is a term widely used in Chinese culture to designate the active principle in all living things. The chi is usually translated as the energy flow, meaning vital life or energy. According to the principles of Tai chi, the life energy flows through the body, but it sometimes becomes blocked. The main purpose of Tai chi training is to release the energy and let it flow through the body undisturbed. This is supposed to create immense physical benefits, strengthen the self-control and sooth the mind, bringing the whole person into a perfect harmony of body and mind.
Benefits of Tai chi
Tai chi is a completely noncompetitive and self-paced system of light physical exercises and series of stretching. The body should be in a constant motion during the training, which consists of alternating slow postures. Different styles of Tai chi address different health issues. Some variations may focus on physical health while the others stress martial arts aspect or psychological benefits. All of the movements are coordinated with breathing, in order to bring a sense of inner calm. Everybody can practice Tai chi, despite the age and health condition. It is a low impact exercise that requires no special equipment and can be done indoors or out, alone or in a group. However, pregnant women and people with problems with joints, spine or heart, should first consult their health care providers.

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