The Chinese characters for Tai Chi Chuan can be translated as the 'Supreme Ultimate Force'.
The notion of 'supreme ultimate' is often associated with the Chinese concept of yin-yang, the notion that one can see a dynamic duality (male/female, active/passive, dark/light, forceful/yielding, etc.) in all things. 'Force' (or, more literally, 'fist') can be thought of here as the means or way of achieving this ying-yang, or 'supreme-ultimate' discipline..
Taoist Tai Chi is a gentle art of health and well-being for people of all ages and health conditions. Many thousands of people are enjoying the health benefits of Taoist Tai Chi practice in approximately 500 locations in 25 countries around the world.
Taoist Tai Chi was introduced to western society by Master Moy Lin-shin in 1970 and is designed fundamentally to promote and restore health. This purpose distinguishes Taoist Tai Chi from other forms of Tai Chi. The slow, graceful movements of Taoist Tai Chi increase strength and flexibility and improve balance and circulation. The Taoist style of Tai Chi emphasises greater stretching and turning in each of the movements in order to gain these and other benefits more effectively.
Following the principles of Taoist 'internal alchemy', the goal of Taoist Tai Chi is to return the body and mind to its original pure and healthy state. Emphasis is put on being kind, generous and helpful to others and releasing one's own stress and worries. Taoist Tai Chi has been described as a form of 'meditation in motion' where the continuity of its movements, combined with the devotion of one's undivided attention, heal and revitalize both the body and mind.
The physical component of Taoist Tai Chi consists of the basic principles known as the 'Foundations', and 108 movements, which constitute the 'Set'. Some of the principles reflected in the movements are summarized by the following key words: relaxation, balance, lining up the body, correcting angles, 'squaring' the hips, controlling the step and the transfer of weight, turning constantly in spirals, 'opening' and 'closing', centring the trunk, and stretching and relaxing the spine. The movements are gentle, continuous and circular. Practice of the Set is to be done with a relaxed state of mind.
The prime spiritual aspect of Taoist Tai Chi is the adoption of a spirit of self-sacrifice, generosity and the elimination of self-centredness. Taoist Tai Chi is meant to be taught and practised in a spirit of compassion and service to others.
Distinguishing Features of Taoist Tai Chi
Promotion of health has been set as the goal of Taoist Tai Chi by its founder, Master Moy Lin-shin. The sole measure of quality in Taoist Tai Chi is whether or not a movement is beneficial to health.
Although there are specific differences in movement which distinguish Taoist Tai Chi from other styles of Tai Chi, the main differences go well beyond the mere visual aspect. The goal of practising Taoist Tai Chi lies not in perfecting external forms or achieving self-defence skills, but the recovery of lost health in the holistic sense.
The perfect form is one that will maximise the physiological benefit to the practitioner given his or her condition, rather than the one which conforms to some predetermined aesthetic or technical martial arts criteria. It will therefore change with the student.