Chinese Practices > Taiji Chuan

List ISHAR Online Sources: Chinese Practices > Tai Chi 


Functional Summary


  • Mind/Body

Entails slow movement of the body, gently, and with awareness, while breathing deeply.


  • Restoration
  • Optimization

Supports healthy balance of yin and yang, aiding flow of qi. Also known to improve muscle strength, coordination, and flexibility; improve balance; ease pain and stiffness; and improve sleep.


  • Chinese

Originated in ancient China as a martial art.


Topic Summary

“T’ai chi ch’uan,” commonly called Tai Chi, translates as “supreme ultimate fist.” There is little accurate information about its origins, except that it is from ancient China. Many believe it may have originated in the 12th century, though it did not get its modern name until the mid-19th.

Training in Tai Chi involves five elements: hand and weapons routines/forms, breathing and meditation, response drills, and self-defense techniques. It may be generally thought of as slow moving, but some styles have faster paced secondary forms. Additionally, study of Tai Chi involves three aspects. The first is health; unhealthy people may find Tai Chi difficult, so health training emphasizes the relief of the physical effects of stress on both body and mind. The second is meditation; Tai Chi requires practitioners to be calm and focused, and its meditative aspect is seen as essential for maintaining optimum health. The third is martial art; the use of Tai Chi as self-defense tests practitioner’s understanding of the art, and requires a great deal of training.

It has only been in about the last 20 years that Tai Chi began being taught in ways that purely emphasize health. The deep breathing and meditative aspects of Tai Chi are used for relaxation and improved mental health, while its various routines and forms have been known to improve strength and balance, reduce pain and stiffness, and enhance sleep.


Research Summary

Research published in 2001 studied use of Tai Chi as a form of exercise. 94 healthy, though physically inactive adults with an average age of 72.8 years old were randomly assigned to either a 6-month, twice a week, Tai Chi condition, or a wait-list control condition. At the end of the study, it was determined that those who practiced Tai Chi on a significant basis perceived increased levels of physical capability. The research report concluded that further study should be done on the relationship between exercise and physical function for the improvement of health in the elderly. An NCCIH study from 2007 examined the effect of Tai Chi on the immune system’s response to the virus that causes shingles and found that Tai Chi may enhance the immune system and improve general health in the elderly. Additional research from 2008 found that Tai Chi reduced 22 out of 26 study participants’ blood pressure, attributing to the cathartic effects of the martial art.



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