Tai Chi (Tai Chi Chuan, Taijiquan) is a traditional form of martial art used more for promoting health than for fighting. Its gentle, dance-like moves are said to strengthen and balance the body’s “energy.” The net results, according to tradition, include increased physical stamina, enhanced sense of well-being and comfort, and improved resistance to illness.

Tai Chi is said to have been invented by the Taoist monk Chang San-Feng sometime in the Middle Ages. (The exact dates and even the existence of this monk are disputed.) Various schools of Tai Chi developed over subsequent centuries, each with their own particular movements and postures, but all conforming to the same underlying principles.

In the 1950s, the Chinese government began to develop a series of standardized Tai Chi forms. One of these has become the most popular form of Tai Chi in the West, a 37-posture form abbreviated from a traditional approach to Tai Chi called the Yang Style.

Tai Chi is an extremely popular form of exercise among older Asians in China and other Asian countries. In the US, it is gaining widespread use as a method of improving balance and preventing falls among seniors. The slow movements of Tai Chi provide a gentle framework for enhancing physical control and improving balance.

Tai Chi is also advertised to improve overall health and enhance immunity, but this has not been evaluated scientifically to any significant extent.