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Symbolic Movement


by Christopher Dow

What exactly is Tai Chi Chuan?

We can say that it is an effective  martial art and a healthful exercise, but we also have to admit that it is an art born of mystery since we don’t really know who invented it. Was it created by legendary Taoist monk Chang San-feng, the Chen family of Henan Province, or someone between, such as itinerate martial artist Wang Tsung-yueh who reputedly taught the Chens? We’ll probably never know, and this adds to the art’s mystique, lending it a sense of emerging directly from the Tao as a gift to humankind.

We also can say that Tai Chi is an art of contradictions. You move slowly in order to be able to move fast. You move deliberately in order to be able to move instinctively. You move with continuity so you can disrupt continuity. You separate solidness and emptiness only to recombine them. You strive to be like steel embedded in cotton.

Obviously, Tai Chi is not a particular form or a specific set of movements, otherwise there would be only one version instead of the variety we now see: five major recognized styles and numerous modified, abbreviated, or hybrid forms. But the efficacy of these many styles—several of which are very different in appearance, “flavor,” and even specific points of utility—indicates that each has something that can be called “tai chi.”


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