Taijiquan (太极拳) is an internal Chinese martial art practiced for both its defense training, its health benefits and meditation. The term taiji is a Chinese cosmological concept for the flux of yin and yang, and 'quan' means fist. So, etymologically, Taijiquan is a fist system based on the dynamic relationship between polarities (Yin and Yang). Though originally conceived as a martial art, it is also typically practiced for a variety of other personal reasons: competitive wrestling in the format of pushing hands (tui shou), demonstration competitions and achieving greater longevity.
The study of tai chi primarily involves three aspects:
· Health: An unhealthy or otherwise uncomfortable person may find it difficult to meditate to a state of calmness or to use tai chi as a martial art. Tai chi's health training, therefore, concentrates on relieving the physical effects of stress on the body and mind. For those focused on tai chi's martial application, good physical fitness is an important step towards effective self-defense.
· Meditation: The focus and calmness cultivated by the meditative aspect of tai chi is seen as necessary in maintaining optimum health (in the sense of relieving stress and maintaining homeostasis) and in application of the form as a soft style martial art.
· Martial art: The ability to use tai chi as a form of self-defense in combat is the test of a student's understanding of the art. Tai chi is the study of appropriate change in response to outside forces, the study of yielding and sticking to an incoming attack rather than attempting to meet it with opposing force. The use of tai chi as a martial art is quite challenging and requires a great deal of training.