The slow, rhythmic martial art commonly called Tai Chi Chuan has generated several different theories as to the specifics of its origin. The earliest of which trace to the Taoist monk Chang San-feng who during the Sung Dynasty (960-1278 AD) applied the philosophy of Huang Ti and Lao Tzu to Shil Lum (Shaolin) boxing. Additionally, Chang stressed the conscious movement, and application of Ch'I in all of T'ai Ch'I Chuan's postures, creating in essence what modern martial artists call an "internal" style. This then allows for the seemingly supernatural strength, and overwhelmingly positive feelings that the martial artists experience when they practice T'ai Ch'I Chuan. Finally, Chang applied the Taoist ideal of Yin and Yang (positive and negative, pressing and yielding, hard and soft, internal and external). This brought forward the pliability of T'ai Ch'I Chuan, allowing for the yielding to external force then redirecting it, and using ones Ch'I to further enhance that redirection.
All of the basic principals that this incredible monk put forward, when used together create a very powerful martial art that is deceptively effective, and overtly empowering. By using the full body with focused Ch'I, an individual can be many times more powerful than simply using physical strength alone. Coupled with the proper timing that yielding and redirection allows, T'ai Ch'I Chuan has deservedly been named one of the most effective martial arts ever brought into existence. Cheng Man-Ch'ing put it best in his book T'ai Ch'I Chuan:
"a tornado is but the massed movement of air and a tidal wave that of water. As a whiff, nothing is more pliable than air; as a drop, nothing is more yielding than water. But as tornados and tidal waves, air and water carry everything before them. Mass integration makes the difference."
When Cheng Man-Ch'ing uses the term "mass integration" he is referring to the use of the Ch'I combined with proper body mechanics. When watching this martial art in action, the spectator will see almost immediately that as a T'ai Ch'I practitioner moves through his or her form, the postures all combine movements of the body to come together in one focused point. Having Ch'I not only aid, but also guide the individual through the movements of the form, it then adds to the overall effect of the strike or push; ultimately creating a virtually unstoppable force.
There are also many health benefits to T'ai Ch'I Chuan. As published in (American Psychological Association) Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 1989 Vol 33 (2) 197-206: during an experiment subjects who practiced T'ai Ch'I experienced a general decrease in blood pressure, tension, depression, anger, and fatigue. These same practitioners also experienced an increase in overall awareness, balance, and blood flow. Other reported benefits are a boost in immune system, a drastic increase in lung capacity, and a delay in the decline of cardio-respiratory function in older individuals. As T'ai Ch'I Chuan is a non-impact activity, the breakdown of joints and bones so commonly experienced by those who take part in cardio-kickboxing, or aerobics, is non-existent. Even so, one is able to get an excellent work out that incorporates many muscle groups. Additionally, it has been reported by Rizzo's White Tiger Kung Fu students that T'ai Ch'I Chuan has helped with the recovery of back injuries, surgeries, knee injuries, and has lent a strong helping hand in the rebuilding of hips and shoulders as well. Perhaps the most important health benefit of T'ai Ch'I Chuan is that through proper training and instruction, individuals can move their Ch'I at will, thereby increasing the amount of Ch'I to areas as needed. As Ch'I and blood come in contact with injuries or illness, it revitalizes and speeds the recovery process. With this comes the ability to visualize the changes that occur in the body and apply the internal aspects of T'ai Ch'I to the desired mold. The result is a well trained mind, and body that will not just keep its self happy and in shape, but speed the recovery of illness and injury as well.
As Cheng Man-Ch'ing theorized, and later proved, Ch'I moves with intent. That intent can be overt or covert; it can be for good or bad. T'ai Ch'I Chuan truly encompasses the philosophy of Yin and Yang and is a vessel for which we as human beings can better ourselves by simply understanding the principals passed down through the generations and putting them to work for us through good intentions and regular practice. The style of T'ai Ch'I Chuan that is practiced is important on many levels, but when finally put into practice, the end result is that T'ai Ch'I is practiced for health. It is up to the individual to use Ch'I as desired. If used to defend oneself, it is still being utilized for health. It is the hope, and intent of Rizzo's White Tiger Kung Fu to teach all of its students to train and use their Ch'I for the betterment of themselves (both mentally and physically), and to enrich their lives to enjoy not simply living, but living with passion and energy.