What is Tai Chi?

Tai Chi Chuan (meaning ‘Great Ultimate Fist’) is a holistic martial art that claims to use sophisticated ancient knowledge to harness and express subtle forms of natural energy ('Qi/Chi') for good health, self-development and self-defence.  It is difficult to talk about Tai Chi without first mentioning Qigong, which is the basis of the art and emerged long before.   


First recorded in ancient China over 4000 years ago, original Qigong practices (such as Neidan, Zhan Zhuang and Dao Yin) probably owe much to the dissemination of knowledge from India via wandering monks / sages.  

It is a discipline which works on integrating the body, mind and breathing for health, wellbeing and spiritual development. Qigong is now an integral part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and is widely used in hospitals in China as a method of rehabilitation, although there have been restrictions put in place on the types of Qigong that are officially ‘permitted’ by the Chinese authorities. Authentic, fully potent Qigong (something of a rarity, even in China) is a practice which is based on a deep understanding of how to harness the forces of nature.  This in turn helps the body to function more efficiently and effectively.    

Tai Chi

Tai Chi takes the work of Qigong further by helping to gain a deeper understanding of how to apply and express the fruits of Qigong training.  Because it is a martial art, learning authentic Tai Chi relies on human interaction through touch, which is the only way to appreciate the subtlety of the training and to test your skill more objectively.  What most teachers claim to be Tai Chi (i.e. learning forms) is in fact Qigong, because there is no partner work involved.  

Partner work in traditional Tai Chi involves posture testing and Tui Shou (pushing hands), Dynamic Tui Shou (power training focused on fascia), Ta Lu / San Sau (choreographed fighting sets) and various methods of sparring. These methods should only involve using minimal amounts of ‘muscular’ or ‘hard physical’ force and develop awareness (of body/mind/energy), sensitivity and profound 'internal' power, via unique methods to train the fascia (connective tissue e.g. ligaments, tendons).  This leads to what the Chinese call Neigong (Internal Skill).  

In other words:

Qigong + Neigong = Tai Chi Chuan  

The skills and abilities acquired through Tai Chi training can be used in many different areas including healing, personal development and of course for self-defence.  

Tai Chi is renowned as a stress-buster: a way to harmonise mind, body and spirit; rebuild core mental and physical strength; and learn a strong, centred approach to life. Those busy with the daily pressures of work and home find that regular practice creates the balance, strength and robustness to enjoy

the moment and relax within what seems to be an ever more complex and

demanding life. Studies have found that even moderate amounts of Tai Chi

practice can, amongst other things, reduce blood pressure, increase bone

density, increase strength and range of motion in joints, improve immune function, improve many muscle/joint disorders, aid recovery from injury and lighten your mood.

At more advanced levels the training can be quite vigorous and, should you want, martial. So as you deepen your experience you can broaden your skill base. As it is a practical, grounded tool for investigating how Chi works we find interest from practitioners of disciplines such as Yoga, Shiatsu, Reflexology, Acupuncture, or Reiki who seek a deeper understanding of their own arts. It is for these same reasons that we find many external martial artists looking into a study of internal energy in order to take the next step of their particular journeys as well.

To help realise the famous soft power of internal energy, the initial training concentrates on slow, relaxed, flowing movements.

Gu Dang Tai Chi Chuan

London & SE England

t:  07812 469133

e: alex@guildfordtaichi.co.uk