About tai ji
Tai ji quan (太极拳) is a traditional Chinese exercise that employs stylizes movements from the Chinese martial arts. The literal meaning of the first two characters 太极 is 'supreme ultimate.' The literal meaning of the third character 拳 is 'fist' or 'boxing' (which is why some types of tai ji are sometimes referred to as shadowboxing). In English, tai ji quan is usually referred to simply as 'tai ji.'
There are five principal styles of tai ji: Chen, Yang, Wu Hao, Wu, and Sun. Each of these styles includes several variations, which have different numbers of forms. The term 'form' refers to a series of movements. A tai ji style can also be classified as either: (1) external, which is also called 'hard-style'; or (2) internal, which is also called 'soft-style.'
About '24 forms tai ji quan'
In 1956, the National Physical Culture and Sports Commission of the People's Republic of China developed a new 'standard simplified' short, internal, soft style of tai ji (based on Yang style), which they called '24 forms tai ji quan' (二十四式太极拳). Since then, this has been the most widely taught style of tai ji. Also, it is the most widely used standard for tai ji competitions in China and other countries – and is the style of tai ji that is practiced by tens of millions of people in China every morning, and by hundreds of thousands of people in other countries.
Although the practice of tai ji is a physical activity, and although the origins of the movements that make up tai ji forms were borrowed from the Chinese martial arts, the standardized '24 forms tai ji quan' is not a martial art: it does not prepare its practitioners for self-defense or for participation in combat simulations or competitions.
Rather, the purpose of the standardized '24 forms tai ji quan' is metaphysical and internal. It is a formalized set of movements that are used to facilitate the balancing of what (in Chinese culture and philosophy, and in traditional Chinese medicine) are referred to as yin and yang (阴阳) energies. By facilitating the balancing of these energies, tai ji can provide a practitioner with a range of physical, mental, and emotional health and wellness benefits that support and nurture his or her body, mind, and spirit.
About tai ji at New Heights Wellness Center
In the United States, the increased emphasis on wellness – and the increased awareness of the benefits of practicing internal styles of tai ji, have caused tai ji to become increasingly acknowledged and accepted as highly beneficial exercises for helping to avoid and/or correct health problems – and as a highly effective element in people's wellness programs.
The tai ji taught at New Heights Wellness Center by Warnock Davies (Chinese name, Wang Daowen, 王道文) is the standardized ‘24 forms tai ji quan.’ Warnock has studied and practiced this style of tai ji with teachers and masters in Singapore, Colorado, and China (where he lived and worked as a university professor from 2001 to 2013) – and has taught this style of tai ji in China. In 2004, he won a national gold medal in China, when he placed first in ‘24 forms tai ji quan’ at the Zhejiang International Traditional Wushu Tournament, in Hangzhou.
About the different Pinyin spellings of 太极拳
The official Chinese Government system for Romanizing Chinese characters (using the Latin alphabet), which has been adopted as the international standard by the International Standards Organization and by the United Nations Organization, is called Hanyu Pinyin. The Hanyu Pinyin spelling of 太极拳 is 'tai ji quan.' An earlier Pinyin system, which was developed by two British sinologists, and first published in 1892, is called Wade-Giles Pinyin. The Wade-Giles Pinyin spelling of 太极拳 is 't’ai chi ch'üan.'