Tai Chi Chuan was derived from Taoism. The most important practice of Taoism was concerned with tranquillity of mind and improvement of temperament. Since the hustle and bustle of city is unsuitable for those seeking self-discipline, the Taoists had to search for isolated spots where they could lead the life of a hermit. Such spots exist only in the mountains where one finds little or no sound, no sorrow and no movement. But in reality such hermitage is an unsuitable environment in which to dwell. The reasons for this are that the air though fresh, is often foggy; the winds are too strong; transportation of food is difficult making nutrition a bit deficiency. Furthermore, there is a constant danger of being a victim of wild beasts. Also, many diseases when left unattended may cause death. So, many Taoists failed to reach their Destiny - the life of transcendental bliss. Therefore, the Taoists developed techniques of Martial Art in order to gain good health and to protect themselves from the attacks of beasts.
In the Tong Dynasty (618 a.d. to 907 a.d.), there were some soft styles of the martial arts of which the Thirty Seven Styles of Hsu Suan Ping (許宣平) was the main one. At the end of the Sung Dynasty a Taoist by the name of Cheung San Fung (張三丰), in order to find one suitable martial art for the Taoist, often observed the habits of long lived animals such as turtles and cranes. After many years of study, he, at last, created Tai Chi Chuan.
This martial art of Tai Chi is based on the concepts of The Yin Yang Relationship.
Indeed, Tai Chi is in itself very comprehensive in meaning. In the philosophical sense, it explains everything in the Universe. It treats the universe as a unity. The Taoist called it ‘Tao’.
Tai Chi, in itself, possesses two parts completely different in nature, one part is called ‘Yin’, the other is called ‘Yang’. Everything in the world can be said to possess Yin and Yang. The I Ching (易經) states: ‘Tai Chi turned into Lain Yee (兩儀), two powers of Yin and Yang. Lian Yee turned into See Jarn (四象) and See Jarn turned into Pa Kua (八卦).
This is the martial concept of Tai Chi. Tai Chi is beyond the limits of both time and space. It also came into being prior to the existence of Heaven and Earth. According to Tai Chi principles, the genesis of the universe is based on two different forces, Yin and Yang, collectively called Lian Yee (兩儀). These two react to produce variation and give rise to four factors called See Jarn (四象), which are responsible for the formation of the Universe. See Jarn can be classified as Old Yang, Young Yang, Old Yin and Young Yin. The Old Yang and Old Yin represent inorganic matter while the Young Yang and Young Yin represent organic matter. Since the Old Yang and Old Yin are not able to change, they cannot develop. On the other hand, the Young Yang and Young Yin are able to change, so they can develop. The reaction of Yin and Yang also induces the formation of eight more entities that affect the growth of plants, birth of animals and even the evolution of the human race. These eight entities are known as Pa Kua (八卦). They are: Heaven (乾), Earth (坤), Light (震), Air (巽), Water (坎), Fire (離), Mountains (艮), Seas and Rivers (兌).
Since all matter in the Universe is formed from Yin and Yang, all things inherently possess Yin and Yang. In philosophy, Yin and Yang exist in both spiritual and material states. In society, Yin and Yang exist in capitalist and worker. In the animal kingdom, Yin and Yang exist in life and death. Yin and Yang also exist in the North and South Poles, in day and night, in the positive and negative charges in physics.
Yin and Yang are opposites, but they are in unity while in opposition. In a suitable and harmonized condition, they will counteract and develop, but in an unsuitable and unharmonized condition, they will repel one another and destroy all matter. Yin and Yang counteract and yet they react. When their reaction reaches its end, they naturally revert in the opposite direction and start all over again. All natural phenomena follow this pattern of variation in constant repetition. So annually there are the seasonal changes: from warm spring to hot summer, from cool autumn to cold winter, then from cold winter to warm spring again. Also each day exists from the light at dawn to the darkness at dusk, and then from dusk it reverts to dawn again. Similarly, plants grow from flowers to fruits, from fruits to seeds then from seeds revert to flowers again. Even for animals, one generation propagates another, this pattern is repeated continuously. Therefore, Yin and Yang are involved in all phenomena and at all times in the Universe.
Since Tai Chi reveals the relationship between Nature and Man, we realize that no man can evade the effects of this universal variation. Nevertheless, man can still adapt to an environment by putting restrictions on his demands, activities and ambition; then man may live a longer more balanced life of stability and peace.
The principles of Tai Chi have been thoroughly applied to different academic subjects in Chinese.
The series of Movements of Tai Chi Chuan comprises the ‘open and close’ of the arms and legs, the ‘void and substantiality’ of steps, the ‘continuity’ of actions, and the ‘softness’ of postures. All these obey the definition of the theory of Tai Chi - ‘The unbending breaks while the yielding survives.’ This also has two meanings: the promotion of our health belongs to Yin while our self-protection belongs to Yang.
Slow practice and avoiding the use of great strength is necessary for the improvement of our health, since this will make the actions more soft and the muscles of the whole body will relax more easily, it also makes the nervous system relax, so that our emotions will be more stable.
As for the self-defence aspect, the principle of Tai Chi Chuan concerning this is divided into two parts - the yielding force and the unbending force. The yielding force belongs to Yin and the unbending force belongs to Yang. When fighting, we use the yielding force to counteract our opponent’s attack and the unbending force to counterattack our opponent. The change of forces from unbending to yielding or vice versa is achieved in the form of a circle. Therefore the main pattern of Tai Chi Chuan is like many circles spiralling continually without end. The main feature of this circle is that we use half of the circle as yielding force to counteract the opponent’s attack, and the other half circle as unbending force to counterattack the opponent. When using such circles, we can use one hand by itself or both hands together to act upon our opponent directly or indirectly at angles horizontal, inclined or vertical - depending on the circumstances.