Tai Chi (short for T’ai chi ch’uan or taijiquan, which translates to “supreme ultimate fist”) was originally developed as a hidden form of martial art. Practitioners, by performing slowly and with shortened movements, could disguise the martial intent of the practice in times and places when discretion was needed. Over time, the art became popular for its many health and fitness benefits, and the martial aspect is today often overlooked.
While principles of Tai Chi can be found as early as the 12th century, historical records suggest that as a distinct art Tai Chi appeared first in Chen Village with the Chen family of the 17th century. Yang Luchan trained with the Chen family for many years before developing his own Yang style which he then taught in Beijing.
Today, the various styles of Tai Chi can trace their origins to one of the five traditional Chinese family schools: Chen, Yang, Wu, Wu (Hao) and Sun.