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Is tai chi a martial art?
Is tai chi a martial art? The answer to this question may be found in the actual name of the art - the name that the Chinese themselves use. What is called “tai chi” in this country is properly called taijiquan, pronounced “tie jee chwan”. The literal translation means “supreme ultimate boxing” or”fist”. Taijiquan has been influenced by many aspects of Chinese culture during the past 200 years (Chinese medicine, daoism, etc.) but it originated as a form of rugged personal self defense. All styles of taijiquan whether called “tai chi”, taiji”, or Taijiquan” include obvious punches, kicks, joint locks and throws, attesting to it’s martial origins and intended use. So yes, taijiquan is a martial art. That having been said, very few people today practice taijiquan as a martial art. Since the introduction of modern weaponry, the need for personal unarmed self defense declined rapidly in China, and the practice of taijiquan began to emphasize it’s remarkable health benefits. 90% of my students study taijiquan for their health, not for self defense. This is why I personally practice taijiquan as well. For those who wish to explore the martial applications of the art, my traditional training allows me to provide that aspect as well, but the emphasis is definitely on taijiquan’s powers of rejuvenation, mental clarity and peace of mind. But what is self defense? Practicing taijiquan protects one from the negative effects of aging, from illness and mental decline. It protects you from accidents and injuries by increasing awareness of self and one’s surroundings. So even if you choose not to study taijiquan for “self defense”, you are practicing self defense. As my teacher Liu Changjiang likes to say, “ If you practice taijiquan correctly, over time you will achieve perfect health - and you will gain some self defense skill along the way.”
 


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