about TAI CHI
T’ai chi ch’uan or tàijíquán, often shortened to t’ai chi, taiji or tai chi in English usage, is an internal Chinese martial art practised for both its defense training and its health benefits. It is also typically practised for a variety of other personal reasons: its hard and soft martial art technique, demonstration competitions, and longevity. As a result, a multitude of training forms exist, both traditional and modern, which correspond to those aims. Some of t’ai chi ch’uan’s training forms are especially known for being practised with relatively slow movement.
Today, t’ai chi ch’uan has spread worldwide. Most modern styles of t’ai chi ch’uan trace their development to at least one of the five traditional schools: Chen, Yang, Wu (Hao), Wu, and Sun.
Medical research has found evidence that t’ai chi is helpful for improving balance and for general psychological health, and that it is associated with general health benefits in older people.
T’ai chi ch’uan as sport
In order to standardize t’ai chi ch’uan for wushu tournament judging, and because many t’ai chi ch’uan teachers have either moved out of China or had been forced to stop teaching after the Communist regime was established in 1949, the government sponsored the Chinese Sports Committee, who brought together four of their wushu teachers to truncate the Yang family hand form to 24 postures in 1956.
They wanted to retain the look of t’ai chi ch’uan, but create a routine that would be less difficult to teach and much less difficult to learn than longer (in general, 88 to 108 posture), classical, solo hand forms.
In 1976, they developed a slightly longer form also for the purposes of demonstration that still would not involve the complete memory, balance, and coordination requirements of the traditional forms.
This became the Combined 48 Forms that were created by three wushu coaches, headed by Men Hui Feng. The combined forms were created based on simplifying and combining some features of the classical forms from four of the original styles: Chen, Yang, Wu, and Sun. As t’ai chi ch’uan again became popular on the mainland, more competitive forms were developed to be completed within a six-minute time limit. In the late-1980s, the Chinese Sports Committee standardized many different competition forms.
They developed sets to represent the four major styles as well as combined forms. These five sets of forms were created by different teams, and later approved by a committee of wushu coaches in China. All sets of forms thus created were named after their style, e.g., the “Chen-style national competition form” is the 56 Forms, and so on.
The combined forms are The 42-Form or simply the Competition Form. Another modern form is the “97 movements combined t’ai chi ch’uan form”, created in the 1950s; it contains characteristics of the Yang, Wu, Sun, Chen, and Fu styles blended into a combined form. The wushu coach Bow Sim Mark is a notable exponent of the “67 combined form”.
These modern versions of t’ai chi ch’uan (often listed as the pinyin romanization “taijiquan” among practitioners, teachers and masters) have since become an integral part of international wushu tournament competition, and have been featured in popular movies, starring or choreographed by well-known wushu competitors, such as Jet Li and Donnie Yen.
In the 11th Asian Games of 1990, wushu was included as an item for competition for the first time with the 42-Form being chosen to represent t’ai chi ch’uan. The International Wushu Federation (IWUF) applied for wushu to be part of the Olympic games, but will not count medals.
Practitioners also test their practical martial skills against students from other schools and martial arts styles in tuishou (“pushing hands”) and sanshou competition.