Tai Chi Exercises
What's in a Name?

in the Tai Chi exercises - what's in a name area: questions on this page
questions in the tai chi answer areas index of the questions answered |  different types of tai chi |  individual abilities and limitations |  about the tai chi exercises |  benefits of tai chi |  how to get started |  finding lessons and what to expect
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One of the biggest difficulties for newcomers to Tai Chi exercises is that there seems to be a lot of different names associated with them.

We've tried to explain the most common names we've met while exploring the Tai Chi world and highlight what we see as the main differences between them.

We'd just like to mention that we have yet to meet any group of 4 or more Tai Chi folk - also called players - that can agree on what the names mean. You're just going to have to make your own mind up.

Tai Chi, tai chi, tai chi chuan, taiji - so good they named it more than twice ......

What about all the different Tai Chi names

Tai Chi names index

Just take me to the tai chi exercises

What is Tai Chi?

Many people associate Tai Chi (pronounced tie gee) with the typical image of a large group of people in a park moving slowly in unison through a series of "dance like" movements. And it is probably fair to say that more people use Tai Chi exercises for health and relaxation than Tai Chi as a Martial Art

The slow and fluid movements of Tai Chi require concentration, co-ordination and balance. This combination of mental and physical activity works to harmonise the mind, body and spirit and promotes feelings of wellbeing.

This makes Tai Chi an excellent choice for people who are bored by the repetitive nature of many other exercise systems.

Tai Chi exercises make an ideal complement to other sports such as golf, or other martial arts training as a warm up or warm down technique.

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What is Qi Gong / Chi Kung?

Qi Gong is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine and is used as a preventative measure as well as a remedy for specific conditions.

Qi Gong (pronounced chee gung)and sometimes spelt Chi Kung comes from the words Qi = "energy" and Gong = "cultivation" or "work". The various translations include "energy cultivation", "energy work" or even "breath work". At it simplest, the aim of Qi Gong is to promote personal energy for self healing and wellbeing.

People often get "Chi" from Tai Chi confused with the "Chi" from Chi Kung which is one of the main reasons we have chosen to use Qi Gong all the time.

Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on the premise that there is a bio energy system in the body. The bio energy or Qi gets carried round the body in energy channels called meridians - a bit like the way the veins carry blood around the body.

There are 12 main meridians and 8 secondary meridians carrying Qi throughout the body and through the major organs. In this system of medicine illness is the result of interrupted, weak or blocked flow of Qi.

Qi Gong has hundreds (more like thousands) of individual exercises each having the purpose of massaging a specific meridian and improve the flow of Qi - very much the way western doctors would have a specific exercise to use on sprained wrist.

The advice not to judge a book by its cover really does apply to Qi Gong exercises. They can have unusual names like 'wild goose looks for food' - which is no help in deciding what the exercise is designed to do!

Unlike Tai Chi some exercises are done at different speeds and there is an element of repetition as you perform each of the exercises to the right and then to the left.

The exercises can also be grouped together in patterns like the 'ShiBaShi' or 'Swimming Dragon'. ShiBaShi is for general health maintenance and Swimming Dragon is specifically designed to lose weight and develop beautiful skin. No, we don't know if swimming dragon works but we've bought the book and we'll let you know.

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What’s the difference between Tai Chi and Qi Gong?

Qi Gong is a health exercise based on Traditional Chinese Medicine theory. Its prime focus is to heal and promote health and long life.

On the other hand, Tai Chi and Tai Chi Chuan or tiaji origins are as a fighting system and its moves were originally designed to maim and kill. Modern training tends to concentrate on the self defence aspects.

The other difference is how the exercises are put together.

Tai Chi is practised in forms - sequences of moves of varying lengths. Examples are the 24 Beijing, the 37 Short Yang the 96 Sun style - not to mention all the Tai Chi Chuan weapons forms.

Qi Gong has sequences of moves called patterns or sets. A pattern can range from 4 exercises to 20 exercises. And you can vary these depending on how you are feeling - if you have a sore arm you can skip the arm exercises and move on.

Qi Gong offers a lot of flexibility to design a pattern that suits your life style.

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What is Tai Chi Chuan?

Tai Chi literally means "Supreme Ultimate" and encompasses the belief that everything in the universe depends on the interaction between the polar opposites of Yin and Yang. Where Yin is represented by night, negative, soft, earth, intellectual and Yang by day, positive, hard, sky, physical.

Chuan can be translated as "fist" or "boxing" and represents the martial art.

Add the two together and you have Tai Chi Chuan – a martial art using Yin and Yang to counteract each other. For example, hard blocking moves are countered with soft evasive ones.

Tai Chi Chuan uses a number of different techniques including low kicks, Push Hands and striking to improve breathing, co-ordination, footwork, balance and flexibility.

Spears, swords, sticks and sabres can also be used as part of specialised Tai Chi Chuan. And before you ask, we haven’t tried any of these, nor are we likely to! But these forms are all very popular.

Acquiring and developing enough skill to be able to use Tai Chi Chuan in self defense requires dedication and persistence. And cannot be done without a teacher. Men and woman can be equally skilful because the skill is not dependent on size or speed but on internal awareness and power.

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What's the difference between Tai Chi and Tai Chi Chuan?

This is a really tricky question. There is no hard and fast answer - it very much depends on who you talk to!

For some, the difference is that Tai Chi Chuan is the fighting art and Tai Chi is what people do for health and relaxation with no fighting element.

For others Tai Chi is the fighting art and everything else is a pale imitation - nothing else counts.

If you join a Tai Chi list on the internet - read the past posts to find out what definition the group uses - you could end up starting an email 'flame war' … Nasty..

On this site we will only use Tai Chi Chuan when we talk about the martial art.

When we talk about Tai Chi we never mean the martial art.

When we use Tai Chi we are talking about the Tai Chi forms practised for health and relaxation and the Qi Gong patterns.

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What about all the other types of Tai Chi?

As well as the traditional Tai Chi styles modern styles are being created all the time.

New Tai Chi styles that spring to mind are, ChiFusion™, Easy Tai Chi™,

and there have been other styles developed for seniors or for health and relaxation. Tai Chi Chih®, Spring Forest and Dr Paul Lam's Tai Chi for Arthritis programs are all examples.

We've only tried two 'modern' forms and we have no hesitation in recommending both of them.

Dr Keith Jeffery's Easy Tai Chi™- it comes on video - great fun and we love it. If you want to see for yourself go to Dr Jeffrey's Site

We've also tried ChiFusion™ Level 1 which is a downloadable ebook featuring the 8 Brocades (also called the 8 Treasures) a solid strong grounding in Qi Gong basics. If you want to see what this looks like go to Cloudwater Qi Gong site

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