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What are the Different Tai Chi Forms?

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  • Written By: Angela Crout-Mitchell
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2016
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There are many tai chi forms taught and practiced throughout the world including chen tai chi, kung fu tai chi, and yang style tai chi. Originating in China thousands of years ago, tai chi is the practice of movements or postures designed to enhance physical strength, flexibility, mental awareness, and spiritual health. With the correct tai chi instructor and practice, there have been documented cases of people using this ancient art to recover from serious injuries and illnesses and regain their former good health. It is not uncommon for those new to tai chi to experiment with some of the different forms before choosing their favorite or specialty practice.

One of the most well known, and oldest, of the tai chi forms is chen tai chi. This particular practice focuses on jumps, kicks, and lower stances intended to engage the practitioner and open the body, mind, and spirit. Students of this type of tai chi are also taught the art of silk reeling along with the other postures to create a seamless, flowing practice. Initially, chen tai chi students begin learning 88 basic postures, and more advanced students and masters incorporate over 108 movements into their regular practice. Each student works at their own individual pace and is closely guided by their tai chi teacher through each level.

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Especially in the Western world, kung fu tai chi is very popular and considered to be one of the most effective tai chi forms in regards to the martial arts. This type of tai chi is actually designed to be a defensive martial art form, and is only intended to be used for self protection if attacked. The typical slow and flowing movements of kung fu tai chi are performed at a faster rate to block blows and kicks during a confrontation. Like the other forms of tai chi, kung fu tai chi is constructed of a large number of postures carefully taught by experienced, highly trained instructors.

Another type of tai chi, known as yang style tai chi, is very popular with beginners to the practice, as well as those who suffer from physical limitations of any kind. Developed in the 1800s, yang style tai chi takes the standard postures found in chen tai chi and simplifies them to accommodate less advanced students. Students are lead through a series of postures to achieve greater stability and strength of the body, along with improved discipline and mental alertness, similar to the other tai chi forms.

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