| WHAT DOES TAI CHI MEAN? |
Tai Chi is known by several names, but all derive from the
Chinese phrase "tài jí quán," meaning:
supreme (tài - sounds like 'tie')
ultimate, or extreme (jí - sounds like 'gee' )
fist or boxing (quán - sounds like 'chwen')
TAI CHI IS EXERCISE
Tai Chi is a series of movements or exercises derived from martial arts practice. Each of the moves has some potential for defense or offense. Like all forms of exercise, Tai Chi can benefit one's overall health. Some people attribute all sorts of cures to Tai Chi. There is no real evidence to prove it heals any condition better than other forms of exercise -- the main thing is to exercise!
IT'S NOT A BELIEF SYSTEM
There is no metaphysical, religious, or spiritual implication involved in simply practicing Tai Chi (in Chinese, one 'plays' Tai Chi). There are elements of Taoist philosophy represented, such as the balance between yin and yang, but these could be found in other forms of exercise as well. Many people find that the combination of movement and concentration relaxes them and helps clear their thoughts. If that helps you get in touch with your own spirituality, great!
CHI ISN'T ALWAYS CHI
One romanization (see the paragraph that follows) of the Chinese word jí (ultimate) is spelled 'chi,' which has led to widespread confusion about the name 'Tai Chi.' The life force known as 'chi' in many Asian cultures (in Chinese: qì, pronounced ' tchü ') is not the 'chi' in 'Tai Chi' (tài jí quán), where jí simply means ultimate, or extreme. (This is not to say that some practitioners of Tai Chi do not incorporate qì into their practice.) Compare the Chinese logograms for the words qì (an active principle forming part of any living thing) and the word jí (ultimate, extreme), then listen to the two words pronounced. You'll see and hear that 'chi' isn't always 'chi!'
ROMANIZATION OF CHINESE WORDS
Romanization is the spelling of words from a language that does not use the Western European alphabet with letters from the alphabet used for English, French, German, etc . The form of Romanization from which the spelling "tài jí quán" comes is called pinyin. Unfortunately, pinyin is not an accurate source of pronunciation for English speakers without additional instruction (note that the letter Q represents a purse-lipped /ch/ sound). It is, however, the official Romanization style of Chinese words used by the Chinese government. Another style of romanization of Chinese is called Wade-Giles, it aligns more closely to English sound-letter correspondence. In Wades-Giles romanization, the same phrase is spelled "t'ai chi ch'üan." It is this form from which the spelling 'chi' comes, which has caused the confusion regarding the words jí and qì.