Tai Chi is a Chinese form of martial arts that focuses on meditation and overall heath benefits for the body. It can be practiced as a series of slow movements and postures, emphasizing the relaxation benefits of the art, or it can be practiced using a rapid succession of the same Tai Chi moves and postures, designed to be used as a fighting style. Within Tai Chi, which is short for the formal name Tai Chi Chuan, there are five basic types of moves, each named for the respective family that created the variation. These are Sun, Chen, Wu/Hao, Yang and Wu, with the latter two types of Tai Chi moves being the most commonly practiced.
Tai Chi moves consist of a series of postures, also referred to as Tai Chi positions. Each series of postures is defined by the various movements involved when moving from one posture to another. There are several group of movements and postures which, when combined, create a form. The various forms can incorporate anywhere from four steps to more than 100 steps.
Each individual posture, given a colorful name such as "snake creeps down," is designed to stretch specific muscles of the body. Similar to a standard fitness routine, the combination of various Tai Chi poses work together to provide a total body experience. In order to simplify the variety of Tai Chi moves for the average person wanting to learn Tai Chi, the Simplified 24 was developed.
The Simplified 24, also known as the Bejing 24, was created in 1956 by professor Li Tian Ji and derived from the Yang style. This form of practical Tai Chi has become one of the most common sets of Tai Chi movements. The Simplified 24 can be done in less than 10 minutes, even though most of the 24 moves are comprised of several individual movements and postures.
Professor Li also created a number of other simplified styles that incorporate Tai Chi basics, including a 32-form style of sword Tai Chi. There are other groups of Tai Chi moves that are designed for specific uses. Aside from sword Tai Chi, there also are sets of movements that focus on relaxation, fitness, self defense and health issues.
The link between Tai Chi and health continues to be reinforced by the many practitioners of the art, encouraging a growing number of people to discover the physical and emotional benefits of Tai Chi for themselves. Tai Chi fitness classes are extremely popular and are offered at many gyms and local recreation centers. Private Tai Chi instructors also are available for individuals seeking one-on-one instruction, and they can design different series of moves to address specific health issues. A custom course of Tai Chi moves can be created to suit any individual's needs.