Tai chi is a form of Chinese martial arts. The term, ‘Martial arts’ is broad, covering a variety of schools and forms: the unity derives only from their mutual origins in the arts of war and one-to-one combat. There are many martial arts traditions including kung fu, judo, kendo, jujitsu, aikido, karate, kung fu and more recently Tai chi chuan.
Brief History of Martial Arts
Martial arts are thought to have their origins in China, India, Japan and Korea. There From ancient times, probably as early as 600 BC, the martial arts have been closely identified with spiritual teachings and practices. According to legend, Ch’an, an enlightened Indian Buddhist monk and missionary, travelled to China via the Silk Road around 550 AD. It is said that when Ch’an arrived at the Shao-lin monastery in China he found the resident monks in poor physical condition and subject attack from local bandits. So he taught them fighting techniques to improve their health and security. To this day, the monks of the Shao-lin monastery are famed for their fighting skills.
The military introduced martial arts classes for their soldiers when they discovered that the associated Zen practices enhanced fighting techniques by eliminating the fear of defeat and death. Zen practices do this by enabling one to keep one’s mind and energy focused in the present moment. Thus, by shutting our past and future the the fighters’ reflexes were enhanced and they could remain totally focussed on the task at hand. The martial arts underwent some changes during the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1969-1976) kung fu (now called wu-shu) and tai chi were portrayed by the Chinese government as forms of sport, fitness or artistic display rather than holistic body-mind-spirit practices with spiritual and ethical dimensions.
‘Kung fu’ is anglicised term which derives from the Chinese word ‘gongfu’ from gong ‘merit’ + fu ‘master’. Kung fu (also termed wu-shu) is an ancient Chinese martial art which dates back to the Zhou dynasty (11th century BC –256 BC) or earlier. Kung fu is based on the idea that the best form of responding to violent attack is to use actions that combine both attack and defence. Kung fu involves acrobatic feats including kicks, jumps and tumbles. The use of weaponry such as sticks, poles, swords, farm implements and bows and arrows is part of the art and sport of kung fu.
‘Tai chi’, is a neo-Confucian philosophical or spiritual concept meaning ‘the Supreme Ultimate’; i.e. the intrinsic energy of the universe (chi). ‘Tai chi chuan’ is a practice that is comprised of series of postures and slow, flowing movements that are based on martial arts. Unlike other martial arts forms, where the focus is primarily on the external world, tai chi chuan is an internally focussed activity. Tai chi chuan is designed to enhance the effective flow of Chi around the body thus optimising holistic wellbeing with benefits for body, mind and spirit. Most modern styles of tai chi chuan trace their development to one of the five traditional schools: Yang, Wu/Hao, Chen, Wu and Sun. Tai chi chaun is usually an unarmed practice but can involve accessories such as sticks, swords and fans.
“Martial Arts” Damien Keown . Ed. A Dictionary of Buddhism. Oxford University Press, 2003. Oxford Reference Online.
"Kung Fu n." Tony Deverson. The New Zealand Oxford Dictionary. Oxford University Press 2004. Oxford Reference Online.
“Tai Chi” World Encyclopaedia. Philip's, Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. 2008
For more details go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kung_Fu on Wikipedia. Accessed January, 2008