Is Tai Chi a Martial Art?

Is Tai Chi a Martial Art

Tai chi is not largely considered or recognized by many as a martial art but as a relaxation and meditation exercise. But, is Tai Chi a martial art?

Yes, Tai Chi is an internal Chinese martial art practiced for both self-defense and health benefits. Early practitioners promoted the art for its health benefits beginning in the early 20th century, and its global following may be attributed to its overall benefit to personal health.

Please remember that there is more to the martial art than just physical combat.

While some arts emphasize the physical combat of martial art, others are more focused on the health and mental benefits.

Although Tai chi (Tàijíquán) sometimes called “shadowboxing” is mainly practiced for health benefits and meditation, it also practices defense training with practitioners worldwide from Asia to America.

Now, stay with me as I help you better understand the position of Tai Chi in the world of martial art.

Let’s begin.

Is Tai Chi Considered a Martial Art?

Yes, tai chi is considered a Chinese martial art with an internal style. It is mainly practiced for both its defense training and health benefits.

I believe the reason why many people (especially outside Asia) consider tai chi not to be a martial art is that they are only mainly familiar with the external style of (Chinese) martial art.

They are probably unaware of the fact that there are other martial arts styles known as internal styles.

External styles which are often associated with Chinese martial arts are characterized by fast and explosive movements and a focus on agility and physical strength.

External styles include fighting and the traditional styles focusing on application, as well as the modern styles adapted for exercise and competition.

Examples of external styles are Shaolin Kung Fu (Shaolin Quan) with its direct explosive attacks and many Wushu forms with spectacular aerial techniques.

External styles training normally begins by focusing on muscular power, speed, and application.

They then generally integrate their qigong aspects in advanced training, after their desired “hard” physical level has been reached.

Most styles of Chinese martial art are classified as external styles.

Let’s now move to the other style to which Tai Chi belongs, the internal style.

Internal styles are focused on the practice elements such as awareness of the mind, spirit, qi (breath, or energy flow), and the use of relaxed leverage rather than muscular tension, which is called “brute force” by soft stylists.

While there are many types of internal martial arts, Tai Chi and Qi Gong are the most recognized.

Tai Chi is the most popular internal style making it one of the most popular martial arts in China.

So, Chinese martial arts are generally classified as internal or external, soft or hard.

This classification system depends on the source of the energy applied.

In theory, an art may apply muscular and structural force (the external element) activated by forceful muscular contraction (the hard aspect), or it may depend on the circulation control of an inner force called qi (chi) (the internal factor), which can be accumulated in the dantian (area below the navel) by physical and spiritual exercise and can flow only through a relaxed body (the soft aspect).

Is Tai Chi a Martial Art or Meditation?

Tai Chi is both a martial art and a meditation exercise. It combines physical exercise, defense training, breathing meditation, lifestyle change, and philosophical awareness of the world.

Tai chi has in fact been described as The Moving Meditation.

To practice Tai Chi is to practice how to be one with the environment and our surroundings.

Although tai chi has some self-defense techniques, it can also be the perfect exercise to connect the mind and body – to alleviate your mental stress and body aches and turn disease into peace and ease.

As written by Lao Zi, founder of Taoism: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

Interestingly, Tai Chi practice begins with one step, one movement, and one breath.

By practicing these movements, you can feel the elimination of burdens and a distance from external stressors, bringing you simplicity, sensitivity, and the connection of your senses to your internal mind and body.

Tai Chi began as a self-defense art used to build physical endurance and preserve longevity.

It then matured into its unique flavors of profound meditative nature rather than its martial arts counterparts’ fast and aggressive nature such as Japanese Karate and Korean Taekwondo.

Is Tai Chi an Effective Martial Art?

Tai chi is an effective martial art, particularly in the area of health, meditation and exercise. However, it is not the most effective in terms of real-world self-defense situations.

I mentioned earlier that while tai chi focuses on the mental benefits of the art, it also teaches self-defense which is valuable for real-world application.

Sadly, tai chi is now less focused on the combat aspect of the art making it less effective for self-defense and real fights purposes.

However, when learned right, it can be a useful weapon, particularly as a self-defense tool.

Tai chi is largely defensive, and the idea of the style is to quickly break an attacker and end the fight.

Tai Chi is practiced in slow motion so students and practitioners can develop the body mechanics and structure to powerfully deliver self-defense techniques.

To the average observer, tai chi appears fluid and relaxed. However, the body structure gives it an iron-like strength underneath.

I studied tai chi for 3 years before being introduced to the external martial art styles and I was stunned at its power.

Most teachers don’t understand the “secrets” of the art, so students struggle to learn real tai chi.

The secret of tai chi and all other “internal” arts of China is simple, but these physical skills take years to develop.

Too many teachers focus on developing “chi” a mysterious energy they claim is circulating through the body.

As a result, their students focus on chi and miss the body mechanics that can make them physically powerful.

However, when studied properly, Tai Chi can be an effective martial art for combat.

Is Tai Chi the Same as Martial Arts?

Tai chi is the same as martial arts because it is a Chinese martial art style that is practiced for both defense training and health benefits.

Anyone who considers the internal martial art styles not to be a real martial art probably does not understand what martial art is.

Tai chi remains one of the most recognized yet underrated martial art styles, but its impact on students and practitioners goes beyond the borders of china.

There is more to the martial art than just fighting or combat. Tai chi is indeed a unique martial art style.

How Is Tai Chi Different From Other Martial Arts?

Tai chi is different from other martial arts in various ways. While other martial arts (external martial arts) generally focus on the use of force, Tai chi place greater importance on the use of chi or ki power with emphasis on health benefits and self-defense.

As an ancient Chinese art of combat, it makes use of fluid movement for parrying and redirecting attacks with a riding force, using the opponent’s force against him.

It includes the use of strikes, kicks, locks, and throws.

It is a soft martial art style, as opposed to hard styles which use hard blocks, kicks, and strikes.

It is a beautiful art form that uses a set of moves put into a dance that is used around the world as a means of mental and physical fitness.


To the uninitiated, tai chi is just like yoga which is for old Chinese people.

To them, it is not a “real” martial art.

In fact, chi or ki energy is something many westerners doubt its existence, but to millions of people in China and Japan, it is part of their everyday life.

Without a doubt, Tai Chi is a recognized and respected martial art in that part of the world.

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