(In modern usage the term 太極,t’ai chi / taiji (unless further qualified as in “taiji philosophy” or “taiji diagram”) is now commonly understood, both in the West and in mainland China, to refer to the martial art and exercise system. However, the term has its origins in Chinese philosophy.
The word taiji translates to “great pole/goal” or “supreme ultimate”, and is believed to be a pivotal, spiraling, or coiling force that transforms the neutrality of wuji to a state of polarity depicted by the taijitu. T’ai chi / taiji is thus symbolically represented by a state between wuji and the polar “ying and yang“, not by the actual yin and yangsymbol, as is frequently misinterpreted. The combination of the term taiji and quan (“fist”), produces the martial art’s name taijiquan or “taiji fist“, showing the close link and use of the taiji concept in the martial art.
In our practice I really go out of the way to de stress the (quan) preferring to emphasize the unique skill sets that make the taiji work, in what is called taijiquan.
I have noted over the years, that many people who say they practice taiji, and those teaching taiji seem to promote the quan (fighting aspects) over the philosophical underpinnings of the practice, not realizing that they help to enable the functional development of taiji skill sets that they seek .
In my view it’s truly a sad mistake,,,as the many I have met who practice in this way never really reach a point with what they do would really conform to the tenants of taiji.
Those that follow this line of thought then seek to change or redefine the historical concepts to ones that fit their lack of taiji achievement often laughing at the park taiji practices as not being functional, not understanding that what they do in the name of (fighting) is not really healthy for the mind /body, nor is it functionally not much different then any other Chinese Martial Art (CMA).
If used as a marital art and it looks, feels, and is used like, any other CMA why call it taijiquan?
The focus of this practice ties the philosophical understanding of taiji with the physical practices that are known as taiji. The outside movements change the inside, soon the inside changes will show on the outside. When this happens one will really understand the how and what of their practice.
Master Zhang, often talked in terms of practicing tens of yrs to learn or understand a skill or concept.
He once remarked “ my teacher told me it would take 20 years to gain this skill” he smiled as he said this “ I did it in 15”
The many seen practicing in the parks understand this and gain the benefit of an exercise that provides some movement practices, and calming of the mind/body,,,they may not develop the historical skill sets that taiji is was noted for.
Life is about living, the practice of taiji helps one to live life.
a great master of taiji, Master Wang PeiSheng
another great master of taiji, Master Ma Yueh Liang
Master Ma Yueh Liang said “it took me ten years to discover my qi, another 30 to know how to use it”