To understand the purpose of the form it is important to understand its basis and roots.
The origins of Tai Chi go back over 5,000 years and are based in Taoist philosophy developed and refined by the great Taoist thinkers such as, Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu.
The core concept of Taoism and Taoist philosophy is that everything in the universe is subject to change and when dealing with this change we should act not to fight it but work with it and avoid conflict.
The core Of Taoism is that action should always be effortless and come from spontaneous creativity, but this should not require mental or physical effort.
According to Taoist philosophy change is constant but, by understanding change and acting in accordance with the laws that govern it, we can work effortlessly to achieve our aims.
Taoism is about working within the laws of change, not struggling to oppose them, this is seen as futile and a waste of energy.
In Tai Chi this manifests itself in that a posture will always be difficult and a struggle, unless there is union of mind and body, to make the move an effortless interaction.
Yin and Yang
Another concept in Chinese philosophy related to change is yin and yang.
These two opposing, yet complimentary forces are constantly at work in the universe and in our lives.
Yin and yang are the basis of change but they also come together in harmony to create a balanced whole.
The simplest example of this is breathing. We breathe in and we breathe out – an opposing action that comes together to create balance and harmony. Change and harmony, is the basis of yin and yang and of Tai Chi.
The principles of yin and yang are reflected in the form the sequence of movements that make up the Tai Chi discipline.
The form is actually a sequence of movements that flow continuously representing both change and harmony.
A movement begins, grows completes and empties then another begins until the sequence is completed.
The Tai Chi Philosophy
The aim of the Tai Chi form is to create streams of energy to flow through the body.
In the philosophy of Tai Chi, it is said Chi (life energy) follows the mind; each posture and movement creates a different energy flow, which, has a beneficial overall affect on overall well-being.
Tai Chi stimulates circulation, aligns the skeleton and joints correctly, stimulates the organs of the body and helps digestion.
It increases muscle tone, strength, improves balance and co ordination and improves breathing.
Tai Chi does not just provide physical benefits; by raising energy levels, it also affects the mind and the spirit.
Tai Chi focuses thought, so that mind and body energy works together as one.
Tai Chi reflects both Taoism in terms of effortless interaction and yin and yang in terms of reconciling two opposing forces, to create harmony and equilibrium. This combination is the very essence of the Tai Chi philosophy.