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Top 10 Basic Questions about Tai Chi

January 7th, 2009 · 3 Comments ·


I remember Tai Chi was very popular about twenty years ago when my parents used to attend the classes as much as three times a week. When time goes by, the craze has gone too. Not saying that no one is doing Tai Chi nowadays, but just that it is no longer as popular as olden days.

I had this perception that Tai Chi is an exclusive exercise for elderly. I always laughed at my grandpa whenever I saw him “playing with the air”. But, seeing modern gyms are making Tai Chi as one of the class offerings and some younger folks are taking it up, I am probably wrong.  I have spent some time compiling the top 10 questions about Tai Chi and their respective answers:

1) What is Tai Chi?
Tai Chi consists of soft and relaxed slow movements. It is recognized as being good to relieve stress and for general health. Tai Ji Quan is one of the three Chinese Internal martial arts. The other two being Xing I Quan and Ba Gua Zhang.

Tai Chi requires relaxation of the mind and body. Its effectiveness is based on the concept of “yin and yang” which represents a balance. The set of Tai Chi movements can be practised slowly as a form of meditation or be adapted for self defense training.

Many people associate Tai Chi with the typical image of a large group of people in a park moving slowly in unison through a series of “dance like” movements. Tai Chi training is based on slow, continuous, gentle and flowing wave-like movements of the whole body and a calm, focused, and centered state of mind. Over the centuries, Tai Chi, like other martial arts, has divided into various styles, such as Chen, Yang, Wu, and Temple. All the Tai Chi styles are somewhat similar and utilize the same principles. However, even within a style, the exact movements have changed from generation to generation. Some variations are more suited to particular body types or even personalities.


2) Any difference between T’ai Chi Ch’uan, Tai Chi and Taijiquan?
These three terms referring to the same thing. They are different spellings and shortened versions of the same term.

3) What do the words Tai Chi Chuan literally mean?

It has been translated as ‘Supreme Ultimate Martial Art’ or ‘Martial Art Using the Principle of Yin and Yang’. Tai Chi is in reference to a concept in Taoist philosophy.

4) What are the benefits of practicing Tai Chi?
Through the slow movements of the forms, the Tai Chi practitioner focuses on correct posture, rooting, breath, flexibility, relaxation, mind with body connection. With consistent practice over time, this training results in energized and focused mind and body.

Tai Chi can improve strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination. Some research also suggests that tai chi may help to improve heart function and decrease blood pressure.

Because Tai Chi is low impact, experts say, it is a good choice for overweight people, who often have knee and hip limitations. Tai Chi may be gentle enough to get you moving. Because Tai Chi often involves shifting weight from one leg to the other, it can increase both balance and leg strength in older adults. Stress is placed on the muscles (which get stronger) in stead of the joints (which wear out).


5) Who can practise Tai Chi?
Because Tai Chi does not rely on muscle power, it can be practiced by most people. However, Tai Chi is not common for children as the training is a too slow for their tastes. Generally, adults who are above 50 enjoy learning Tai Chi.

6) Do you have to be fit to start doing Tai Chi?
Not really. However, check with your doctor if you are in any doubt before starting any physical exercise. Also let your instructor know of any disability you may have that may restrict your ability to perform certain movements.

7) What do I wear for Tai Chi?
Any clothing in which you can move freely is suitable. For example, tracksuit bottoms, T-shirts and gym shoes.

8) Is Tai Chi a health exercise or a martial art?
It is actually an exercise and it is also a martial art. However, nowadays, most people starting Tai Chi because of their health. Not many go on to embrace the complete art. The defensive abilities contained in both the movement and overall practice are real.

9) Are classes suitable for men and women?
Generally there is a mix of men and women in a class. It is generally beneficial to have a mix of Yin (female) and Yang (male) energy within a class.


10) Does Tai Chi has general principles ?
Yes, the general principles of Tai Chi are:

  • Relax the waist and hips
  • Sink the shoulders and drop the elbows
  • Move your body as a single unit
  • Blend your mind and body together
  • Move like a cat about to pounce
  • Keep a calm mind

Related books and DVD which you may want to check out at Amazon:



Category: Fitness Classes

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3 responses so far ↓
  • Tom Parker // Jan 8, 2009 at 5:42 AM

    Good summary Mun. I used to do karate when I was younger. My instructor also did Tai Chi so sometimes showed us a few basic movements but I never knew there was such a rich history behind it.

  • foongpc // Jan 10, 2009 at 12:16 AM

    I’ve gone for Tai Chi classes before not in the gym, but outside in the parks. I do believe it is beneficial for health but I somehow I never really practise it properly. Maybe I’m more for other forms of exercise : )

  • Jim // Jan 12, 2009 at 6:22 PM

    I’ve heard extraordinary stories of people practising tai chi and qigong. Some are just so amazing – they literally recovered from their death bed. Your post is a good reminder – maybe I should space out some time and practise it.

    By the way I stumbled upon your blog and liked it, so I’m linking your blog to mine. Wonder if you could do the same? :D

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