Tai chi (taijiquan in pinyin or tai chi ch´uan in Wade-Giles) dates back to the time of the Daoist monks in China some thousands of years ago. The sequence of motions developed from a self-defence technique; modified to become a series of calm, flowing, meditative movements in a predetermined sequence between the different positions. The body's chi (qi), life energy, is supposed to flow in a seamless manner, with no bursts of energy.
There are many different forms of Tai chi. I practice the short Yang method, developed by Cheng Man-Ching (Zheng Manqing in pinyin) and which has 60 basic positions. He brought this method to western countries via Taiwan and New York after the Cultural Revolution in China, where under communist rule it was forbidden. This method of Tai chi is now widely practiced in the West, whereas in China today they mostly practice a shorter form with 24 positions.
Tai chi is physical exercise which strengthens the muscles, joints, heart, lungs and other organs, as the body's energy system is stimulated. The effects of Tai chi are recognised to be healing for the human body.
Tai chi is still also used as a self defence technique, as the different positions are dated back to self defence. The method is then called 'push hands'.
Tai chi is also a 'meditation in motion'. The practitioner must be totally concentrated, 'here and now' to be able to fulfil the movements in a totally relaxed and grounded way.
The ancient Daoist diagram for yin and yang, where the feminine and masculine energies are united in balance and total harmony, is used as the symbol for Tai chi. These contraries represent the negative and positive aspects of the total energy in the Universe. The practitioner aims to achieve physical and mental balance as a method of living in harmony with the world's many overwhelming energies.