Tai Chi is often referred to as "meditation in motion" for its gentle movements connecting mind and body. Tai Chi has roots in China as far back as the 6th Century B.C. with the inception of Taoism and the writings of spiritual philosopher Lao Tsu. It was originally developed for self defense but evolved into a stress reducing exercise for people of all ages. From 220-265 A.D. the physician Hua-tu’o created a system called Wu-chi chih his, a method of movement based on the “five creatures” - tigers, deer, bears, apes, and birds. His system focused on exercising every joint of the body to improve digestion and circulation. These principles led to the development of Tai Chi founded by Chang San-feng, a monk at the Wu Tang Monastery, believed to have lived from 1391-1459. From this common origin, many branches of Tai Chi were formed and the 5 major ones are Yang, Wu, Chen, Sun, and Wu. Today, Tai Chi is practiced in many countries in all parts of the world as a way to become more physically and spiritually healthy.
Tai Chi is a non-competitive, self paced system of gentle physical movements and stretching used to improve the health of those who practice it. There are many different styles, such as yang and wu and each style has its own subtle emphasis on various tai chi principles and methods such as slow movements that emphasize a straight spine, deep breathing, and increasing range of motion or using the movements in a practical way. At its core are the rhythmic movements that, coupled with deep breathing, help people achieve an inner calm.
To understand Tai Chi, one must embrace the core belief of yin and yang -- the theory that two seemingly contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent -- two complementary forces within a greater whole. Physically, using brute force to counter brute force has a negative effect on both sides. Tai Chi practitioners believe that it is important to deflect force until the source is exhausted, and thus may teach the martial art to be used for self-defense. However, most students of tai chi use it for solely health reasons as it has been shown to improve overall wellness through increased flexibility and exercise. Practitioners of Tai Chi instruct students in this healing art through classes at fitness centers, local community centers, or private practices.
There are many different styles of Tai Chi and providers may be well versed in one or more. While there is no set curriculum for becoming a Tai Chi instructor, providers generally follow a similar format of training that includes formal education under an experienced instructor as well as a designated number of hours of teaching demonstration. To receive certification from the American Tai Chi and Qigong Association (ATCQA) providers must meet different criteria depending on the level of instructor they wish to become. These include 150 documented hours in formal training, 500-2000 hours of teaching, and numerous reference letters from credible sources.
Credentials and Regulation Bodies
While there is no official certification or regulation of Tai Chi, the American Tai Chi and Qigong Association provides certification for professionals if they so wish. The ATCQA certification is the most trusted credential in America for the Tai Chi profession. The ATCQA accredits Tai Chi training centers and sets high standards of practice for its professional members.
The American Tai Chi and Qigong Association is the largest national organization for Tai Chi instructors. This professional association aims to improve education, increase awareness, and advance health through the practice of Tai Chi.
Tai Chi classes are usually offered in groups which are $10 to $15 on average. Private lessons average $60 to $90.
To learn more about Tai Chi, visit the ATCQA or the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.