Tai Chi Chuan means “Grand Ultimate Boxing”. It is a fighting style that uses the philosophy of the grand ultimate, or Tai Chi the Yin Yang symbol. It is based on duality. This ancient Taoist martial art in the beginning stages uses slow, flowing movements to develop relaxation, leg strength, and inner power chi/qi. Tai Chi Chuan is an introspective art that makes you spiritually and physically aware, improving your physical and mental balance. This form eventually develops into a superior fighting art that loses preconception and exists in the now. One reacts fluidly with speed and agility, being able to adapt to any situation.
The orthodox internal martial arts, namely Xing Yi Quan, Tai Chi Chuan and Ba Gua Zhang , have all incorporated Taoist techniques of breathing, meditation and medical theory into their methods of power, development nei kung and fighting movements. Although the resultant arts are superior as systems of health cultivation and physical development, health was not the primary concern of the developers of these styles. The primary focus of any martial art is, by definition, martial. The wedding of Taoist practices and martial technique came about because the masters felt movement in accordance with natural principles performed in a meditative state of mind was the quickest way of realizing the goal of absolute potential as a martial artist fighter.
The basic postural requirements for Tai Chi Chuan practice (head floating up, shoulders sunk, chest lifted) are the physical prerequisites of unified body power. As in the other internal styles, the student begins by standing in static postures for a considerable length of time to cultivate the body’s peng jing body before singular postures are practiced and mastered one at a time. Single technique practice and issuing power are practiced until all the various postures of Tai Chi Chuan can be executed with whole body power. Finally, the student is taught to link the postures into a continuous sequence that trains sensitivity to postural changes and the ability to flow from one technique to the next without disconnecting the body. One of the fundamental reasons most Tai Chi Chuan forms are practiced slowly is ‘so the student can constantly adjust and monitor the body to make sure it is always moving in a unit. This is much easier to feel moving slowly than quickly.
Eventually, the student develops the body into a strong, supple unit which allows the frame to act as a spring against the ground enabling the boxer to absorb incoming energy and rebound it into the opponent This type of power is impossible unless the body is always maintained in a unit, just as a spring is one continuous thread of steel
The major difference between the internal and external martial arts is in how they are applied to a live opponent, as well as the various methods of training martial application. The students of both schools first develop their power, balance, feeling and body mechanics from solo training. The next step is to bridge the gap between form and function. This type of training will be determined mainly by a particular school’s theories of combat. The internal schools stress sticking to, following and going with the opponent’s power, borrowing energy, the avoidance of force against force directly, and the issuing of power only after one has “the right opportunity and advantageous position.” External styles vary greatly in theory (some following principles almost identical to the internal), but in general, whereas an external stylist may punch through his opponent’s defenses, the internal stylist never fully issues his power until he has the opponent in an unbalanced position either physically or spatially.
Most internal styles also have some variation of “push hands” practice. The primary purpose of pushing bands is to develop “listening energy” (ting jing) or become sensitive to outside pressure from the opponent in relation to one’s own balance. Finally, both internal and external martial artists practice footwork drills, repeated single-technique practice, issuing power on a live opponent, and eventually free sparring to develop practical fighting skill.