What Is Tai Chi? A Deep Dive into Its Techniques and Styles

What Is Tai Chi? A Deep Dive into Its Techniques and Styles

Tai chi is a type of martial art that also offers physical and mental health benefits. Studies show that it can help reduce high blood pressure, manage stress, and improve physical strength and balance. People of all age groups and fitness levels can practice tai chi, making it a versatile and universally beneficial activity. The growing body of scientific evidence supports tai chi as a top-tier method for maintaining health and wellness worldwide.

History And Origin Of Tai Chi

Tai chi has its roots in ancient Chinese history and is connected with the teachings of Taoism and Confucianism. While its exact origins are uncertain, it is widely linked with Zhang Sanfeng, a 12th-century Taoist monk. According to legend, Zhang Sanfeng developed tai chi after he left his monastic life to become a hermit. He integrated the principle of softness or yielding into his fighting technique to create this martial art form.

Tai Chi And Yoga

Tai chi and yoga are meditation practices rooted in ancient Eastern traditions, but they differ in their approach and origins. Tai chi comes from Chinese culture and involves continuous, flowing movements that mimic the rhythmic patterns of nature. Yoga, on the other hand, originated in Northern India and typically involves static poses and the use of various props like meditation cushions, yoga blocks, yoga belts, and yoga bolsters for support and to enhance poses. You can shop these yoga props from our Basaho.

Despite their differences, Tai chi and yoga are known for their ability to alleviate stress, improve mood, and enhance sleep quality. Both practices focus on deep breathing and meditative focus, which help calm the mind and condition the body.

Exploring The Advantages Of Tai Chi

Tai Chi, a practice rooted in martial arts, offers extensive benefits that enhance mental and physical health. Tai Chi offers various benefits, including: 

Reduction of Stress and Anxiety: Tai Chi integrates meditative practices with physical activity; this combination not only soothes the mind but also stimulates the release of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that elevate mood and provide a sense of well-being.

Enhancement of Cognitive Function: Tai Chi is more than a physical exercise; it's a cognitive stimulator. The study highlighted Tai Chi as an ideal option for the elderly due to its low-impact nature and the cognitive challenge posed by its choreographic sequences.

Improvement in Flexibility and Agility: Similar to yoga, Tai Chi involves stretching and challenging the body, potentially increasing flexibility and agility. 

Increased Strength and Stamina: Regular participation in Tai Chi can strengthen the muscles and boost stamina. This enhancement in physical capacity can lead to more defined muscles and the ability to engage in more prolonged physical activity.

Learning And Practicing Tai Chi

Tai Chi may initially appear challenging, but numerous resources make it accessible to beginners. Around the world, fitness centers, community groups, and even online platforms offer Tai Chi classes. These can vary from face-to-face sessions in local clubs to digital lessons available through social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, which may offer live or recorded instructions.

Once you are familiar with the basic movements, Tai Chi can be practiced virtually anywhere, from the privacy of your bedroom to the openness of your backyard. This flexibility in practice settings further adds to the accessibility of Tai Chi, allowing individuals to integrate it smoothly into their daily routines.

Exploring The Different Types Of Tai Chi

Tai Chi, an ancient Chinese practice, blends meditation and martial arts into a unique form of exercise that has evolved into five primary styles. Each style, while rooted in the same philosophical principles, offers unique variations tailored to different needs and preferences.

Chen Style

Originating in the 17th century, the Chen style is recognized as the earliest form of Tai Chi, crafted by the Chen family in their village. This style is distinguished by its dynamic rhythm that intermixes slow, meditative movements with sudden bursts of speed involving jumps, kicks, and strikes. A key feature of Chen's style is the "silk reeling" technique, a smooth, spiral motion that flows from the feet to the hands, forming the core of its practice.

Yang Style

Developed by Yang Lu-Ch'an in the mid-19th century, the Yang style has grown to become the most prevalent form of Tai Chi worldwide. It evolved from Chen's style but emphasized large, sweeping movements performed with slow, graceful motions. This approach enhances flexibility and is accessible to practitioners of all ages and physical conditions, contributing to its global popularity.

Wu Style

The Wu style of Tai Chi, also highly popular, was developed by Wu Ch'uan-yu, a student of Yang Lu-Ch'an. It distinguishes itself by encouraging practitioners to lean slightly forward or backward, moving away from the upright stance typical of other styles. This focus on extended postures aims to enhance balance and stability.

Sun Style

Sun style is a form of Chinese martial arts developed by Sun Lutang. It combines gentle, flowing hand movements with extensive footwork. The style is known for its elegant and graceful movements, making it appear like a choreographed dance. 

Hao Style

Of all the Tai Chi styles, Hao is perhaps the least practiced, primarily due to its complexity and the high level of skill it demands. It emphasizes precise control over the movement of qi (internal energy), making it suitable for more advanced practitioners. This style is less recommended for beginners due to its intricate and refined nature.


Tai chi stands out as a multifaceted exercise that harmonizes the body, mind, and spirit. Its historical roots in Taoism underscore its profound philosophical and cultural significance. Tai chi is a low-impact exercise that offers many health benefits. It can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improve fitness, reduce inflammation, and tone the nervous system.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Tai Chi Suitable For The Elderly?

Tai Chi can reduce fall risk and injury in older adults. Studies show that practicing it for an hour once to three times a week can lower the chances of falling by 43% and cut the risk of injury in half! 

Do I Need Any Special Equipment To Practice Tai Chi?

No special equipment is needed to practice tai chi. It can be performed in any comfortable attire that allows for movement and in any spacious environment, either indoors or outdoors.