China is one of the main birth places of Eastern martial arts with the well-respected Shaolin Monastery and Wudang Mountains. Chinese martial arts, also referred to ‘wu shu’ 武术 [wǔshù], and are collectively given the name popularly as kung fu 功夫 [gōngfu]. Wushu is practiced in various types of set exercises, either barehanded or with weapons, based on movements employed in fighting, such as kicking, striking, throwing, catching, repelling and stabbing. Performers follow the laws of change from one to the other of two contradictory aspects: attack and defense, advance and retreat, action and inaction, acceleration and deceleration, strength and grace, false move and real move.
Styles which focus on qi manipulation are labeled as internal 内家拳, [nèijiāquán], while others concentrate on improving muscle and cardiovascular fitness and are labeled external 外家拳, [wàijiāquán]. Huang Zongxi described martial arts in terms of Shaolin or “external” arts versus Wudang or internal arts in 1669. Those who practice Shaolinquan leap about with strength and force; people not proficient at this kind of training soon lose their breath and are exhausted. Taijiquan is unlike this, strive for quiescence of body, mind and intention.
T’ai chi ch’uan 太极拳 [tàijíquán], literally “supreme ultimate fist”, “great extremes boxing”, often shortened to Tai chi in the West, is a type of internal Chinese martial art practiced for both its defense training and its health benefits. Most modern styles of t’ai chi ch’uan trace their development to at least one of the five traditional schools: Chen, Yang, Wu/Hao, Wu, and Sun. The concept of the Taiji appears in both Taoist and Confucian Chinese philosophy, where it represents the fusion or mother of Yin and Yang into a single Ultimate, represented by the Taijitu symbol. T’ai chi theory and practice evolved in agreement with many Chinese philosophical principles, including those of Taoism and Confucianism. Today, t’ai chi ch’uan has spread worldwide.
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