The History and Evolution of Tai Chi
Tai Chi is a result of the Chinese Taoists. The Taoists in their observation of nature found nothing was entirely still. If prey stayed in one place, the beasts of the forest would take advantage. They also found that this principle applied to humans as well and that if they remain stagnant, it opened the door for disease and old age. From this revelation, the Taoists began creating martial art forms, as well as using yoga introduced from India, to be active. It is believed that this is where Tai Chi has its roots.
During the 13th century and the Sung Dynasty (960-1279 CE) Cheung San Fung (Zhang Sanfeng) was a member of the Wudang sect of Taoism under the branch of the School of Neidan or Internal Alchemy. This schooling believed in the return to origin or Tao, spiritual health and being at harmony with the Tao. It has been said that Cheung observed many animals which lived long lives including the turtle and crane and that he used these observations in conjunction with the principles of the Tao Te Ching and I Ching to derive the movements of Tai Chi.
There is some controversy over who started Tai Chi because the written record was not perfect. However most of the places which I have researched and the information received from my instructor follow what I have mentioned.
But what is Tai Chi? Tai Chi actually has 3 functions: Health; Meditation and Protection.
Tai Chi is a series of movements which are slow, controlled and methodically placed.
Tai Chi for health is based on the chi of a person. Chi literally translated stands for "breath", yet it is more commonly referred to as life force or energy. It is believed that the chi flows through a person freely and that illness occurs due to a blockage of this energy. The Chinese believe there are many methods to releasing these blockages; Tai Chi and acupuncture are among them.
Tai Chi for Meditation is done in conjunction with deliberate breathing techniques; this is termed "meditation in motion." These exercises are designed to allow a person to search for a better understanding of them self by balancing the yin and yang within them or harmony of the physical and spiritual beings. These exercises promote a person's emotional or spiritual connection but they also promote physical conditioning such as balance, flexibility, coordination and stamina.
Lastly, Tai Chi for protection involves nothing more than the exercises used in the form. There is a theory that states "4 ounces of strength against a ton of force". The methodology around the Chinese defense is incredible as can be found with the correlations between the concepts of Tai Chi and the Tao Te Ching preaching.
The following are excerpts from the Tao Te Ching and lend support to the bases of Tai Chi.
Therefore the ancients say,...