Tai Chi is a famous Chinese martial art - and its origins can be traced back to the ancient world.
It is a great discipline for your physical and mental health - and there are many life-changing Tai Chi movements to try out at any age.
Read our guide to 24 Tai Chi movements that will change mental and physical health for the better.
It is believed that Tai Chi, also known as Tai Chi Chuan or Taijiquan, was first developed by Taoist monks as a form of meditation and self-defence.
Then, with time, it evolved into a modern type of martial art that is vastly popular all over the world and practised by millions of people due to its vast health benefits.
How Can Tai Chi Change Your Life for the Better?
Tai Chi is truly wholesome and its practice covers three key aspects:
Better explained, Tai Chi as a martial art combines slow, flowing movements with deep breathing and meditation techniques.
This promotes physical and mental relaxation, reduces stress, improves balance and flexibility, eases painful areas and enhances overall well-being.
According to the Tai Chi Foundation, it usually takes around 30 to 36 class hours to learn the basic Tai Chi movements, depending on your teaching schedule.
While it’s always best to train with a professional trainer who is well-versed in this martial art, especially if you’re a beginner, it’s always good to learn more about the sport from multiple sources.
That means you can step into the classroom with some basic knowledge instead of as a complete beginner.
In this article, we’ve put together the 24 Tai Chi movements everyone should understand - including incredible exercises to change your life for the better, focusing on your physical and mental wellbeing.
The starting position; to achieve this position, stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms hanging at your sides.
Shift your weight to your left foot and lift your right foot off the ground, then place it back down in front of your left foot.
As you do this, lift both arms up in front of your body, turn your palms to face down, and hold for a few seconds before lowering your arms and shifting your weight back onto both feet.
Remember: Breathe deeply and stay relaxed during all of these Tai Chi movements!
2. Ward Off Left
This is one of the first movements taught to beginners.
This movement’s purpose is to demonstrate the fundamental principles of yielding, redirection and neutralisation.
It involves stepping forward with the left foot while raising both arms and pushing forward with the left hand.
3. Ward Off Right
This is another of the first movements taught to beginners.
Just like the ward off left movement, this movement should also demonstrate the principles of yielding, redirection and neutralisation.
It involves stepping forward with the right foot while raising both arms and pushing forward with the right hand, while simultaneously pulling the left hand back towards the left hip.
4. Roll Back
The roll back movement is a technique that is used to redirect your opponent’s energy. This one also demonstrates the principles of yielding, neutralisation and redirection.
It involves stepping back with the back foot and gently guiding the opponent's arm to the side.
The press movement is a technique used to push your opponent’s arm down and forward.
To achieve this movement, you need to shift your weight onto your front foot and use your body's energy to push your opponent's arm in a downward and forward direction.
This movement is another technique used to push an opponent, just this time, you’re pushing them with both hands, often by shifting the weight onto the back foot and extending the arms forward.
It involves using the body's energy to push the opponent's centre of gravity while maintaining a relaxed and grounded stance.
7. Single Whip
The single whip is a movement technique that requires an extension of one arm while twisting the torso, usually after stepping to the side with the opposite foot.
It involves using the body's energy to create a smooth and graceful motion while maintaining a grounded and stable stance.
8. Raise Hands
This movement, as the name suggests, focuses on raising both hands up in front of the body while shifting your weight onto the back foot.
This movement demonstrates the principles of relaxation, energy flow and connectedness.
More so, it involves using the body's energy to create a smooth and flowing motion, while maintaining a grounded and centred stance.
9. Stork Spreads Wings
This movement focuses on extending one arm forward while the other arm extends backwards, with a shifting of weight onto the back leg.
It demonstrates the principles of balance, coordination and energy flow.
The stork spreads wings movement involves using the body's energy to create a smooth and flowing motion while maintaining a stable and centred stance.
10. Brush the Knee and Push
This movement is meant to demonstrate the principles of weight shifting, coordination and energy redirection.
The brush the knee and push movement involves using the body's momentum to smoothly transition between different postures while maintaining a relaxed and grounded stance.
11. Playing the Lute
As the name suggests, this movement mimics playing a musical instrument.
It demonstrates the principles of balance, coordination and fluidity of movement.
It involves using the body's internal energy and relaxation to create a graceful, flowing motion that promotes physical and mental relaxation.
12. Repulse Monkey
Demonstrating the principles of yielding, redirection and fluidity of movement, the repulse monkey movement involves a combination of deflecting an incoming attack and transitioning to the next position.
The movement starts with deflecting an opponent's attack and then smoothly transitioning to the next position, which involves a backward step and a turning motion.
13. Grasp the Bird's Tail
This is a foundational movement.
It consists of a series of four movements which include ward off, roll back, press and push, meant to demonstrate the principles of yielding, redirecting and neutralising incoming force.
The movement involves a sequence of fluid, circular motions that integrate breathing and body movement.
14. Diagonal Single Whip
This movement focuses on transitioning from one stance to another while performing a diagonal hand movement.
It demonstrates the principles of controlling the centre, shifting weight and coordinating the upper and lower body.
15. Fair Lady Works at Shuttles
Fair lady works at shuttles is another Tai Chi movement that involves a series of movements, specifically diagonal steps and arm movements.
It demonstrates the principles of balance, coordination and fluidity of movement. Typically, it is performed as a transition between other movements in the Tai Chi form.
16. Needle at the Sea Bottom
As if you’re reaching for a needle on the ocean floor, this movement clearly involves the extension of your arm downwards.
It demonstrates the principles of rooting, balance and coordination between the upper and lower body.
The movement is typically performed as part of the Yang-style Tai Chi form and is used to improve flexibility and balance.
17. Fan Through Back
This is a transitional movement that demonstrates the principles of weight shifting, coordination and fluidity of motion.
As such, it involves shifting the weight from one leg to the other while simultaneously rotating the torso and arms to create a fan-like shape.
The body's natural flow and energy are meant to be used for graceful movement from one position to another while maintaining a relaxed and focused state of mind.
18. Turn and Chop with the Fist
This move is meant to demonstrate the principles of coordinated movement, precision and fluidity of motion.
The turn and chop is the first movement that is a combination of rotation and striking techniques.
It focuses on rotating the body and executing a downward chopping motion with a closed fist.
19. Deflect Downward, Parry and Punch
This is a defensive technique used to redirect an opponent's attack and counter with a punch.
This movement demonstrates principles of yielding, redirecting and neutralising the opponent's force.
It involves stepping diagonally to deflect the incoming attack, followed by a parry and a punch.
20. Apparent Close-Up
The apparent close-up movement is meant to demonstrate the principles of balance, coordination and flow. It is used to transition between movements and to generate energy in the body.
This movement involves bringing the hands together in front of the body and then pushing them outwards while stepping forwards.
21. Golden Rooster Stands on One Leg
This movement demonstrates the principle of balance, coordination and strength as well as the flow of energy through the body.
It is used to improve leg strength, balance and stability, while also cultivating focus and concentration.
To achieve this movement, you need to stand on one leg while lifting and extending your other leg.
22. Cloud Hands
The cloud hands movement is a continuous flowing movement that can be practised as a standalone exercise or integrated into a Tai Chi form.
It involves shifting weight and stepping side to side while moving your arms in a circular motion.
The cloud hands movement demonstrates the principles of fluidity, relaxation and balance, as well as the ability to shift weight smoothly between the feet.
23. Cross Hands
The final movement of the 108-move Tai Chi form, the cross hands is a transition movement that involves bringing the hands together in front of the body and then lowering them to the sides.
It is a simple yet elegant way to end the Tai Chi form as it brings the practitioner back to a state of calm and you can feel grounded again.
It simultaneously demonstrates the principles of balance, coordination and fluidity of motion.
As the name suggests, closing is the final Tai Chi movement and it signals the end of the practice.
As such, it is meant to demonstrate the principles of balance, relaxation and harmony.
The closing movement involves a series of slow and deliberate movements that bring the body and mind to a state of calm and centring.
How to Use Tai Chi Movements to Change Your Life for the Better
Tai Chi is all about slow, fluid movements that are synchronised with deep breathing and focused attention.
There’s no need to rush things. Take your time with each mindful movement, relax your body and mind and try to focus your energy on peacefulness.
Stay present in the moment and try not to let your brain get scattered.
Remember, practice makes perfect! With time, you’ll be able to achieve these and many other Tai Chi movements with ease.
What are the benefits of tai chi 24 form? ›
The slow, relaxed, condensing and expanding movements of taijiquan provide a total body exercise. As the muscles are allowed to relax, blood circulation can be improved. The gentle movements loosen up the spine, ribs and the internal organs.How many times a week should you do tai chi? ›
You can do Tai Chi as many times each week as you'd like! Some practitioners do Tai Chi twice a day nearly every day of the week. Other practitioners do Tai Chi once a week. Of course, your results will be much more pronounced if you practice more often.How many tai chi movements are there? ›
When you begin the practice of tai chi, you'll see that it is not about each move, but more about a series of fluid motions. In fact, there are 108 moves that are all in motion, which is why tai chi is called “moving meditation.”Is it OK to do tai chi everyday? ›
“Since it's not weight training or long-distance running, many people can safely do 20 minutes of tai chi every day,” Sobo says. “Your body doesn't need a day to recover. You should not feel any sharp pain when you're practicing tai chi. Go to your comfort level.Should you do tai chi every day? ›
Be Consistent With Your Practice
The key to garnering results is consistent practice: Lam says tai chi should be practiced for at least 10 minutes per day to build a routine, but ideally people should be practicing for 20 to 30 minutes daily.
Results from post hoc analysis indicate that Tai Chi group had significantly better memory performance relative to Brisk Walking group (p < 0.05). Specifically, significant improvement was only observed in Tai Chi group (p < 0.05), but not in the Brisk Walking group.Are there negative side effects of tai chi? ›
Tai chi is generally considered to be a safe exercise with few side effects. You may experience some aches or pains after practicing tai chi if you're a beginner. More rigorous forms of tai chi and improper practice of tai chi are associated with increased risk of injury to joints.Is tai chi better than yoga? ›
Better balance and flexibility may be the trademark benefits of tai chi and yoga. And with good reason. Both practices are designed to enhance body awareness and have been linked to these improvements. But strong research points to tai chi for better balance and yoga for increased flexibility.Does tai chi count as exercise? ›
Tai chi can improve both lower-body strength and upper-body strength. When practiced regularly, tai chi can be comparable to resistance training and brisk walking. Although you aren't working with weights or resistance bands, the unsupported arm exercise involved in tai chi strengthens your upper body.What is the easiest tai chi style to learn? ›
Selecting the Tai Chi Style That is Right for You
If you are a beginner looking for something that is easy to adopt, Yang and Wu style are easier to learn than some of the other styles. If you are recovering from an injury, Yang style is the recommended style to practise.
Can you learn tai chi by yourself? ›
While there is no substitute for quality teaching one can learn tai chi at home by using the Tai Chi Foundation DVD, The Principles and Practice of T'ai Chi Chuan™.Does tai chi strengthen the core? ›
Tai chi, Pilates and yoga are great low-impact activities. They focus on improving your balance and core strength. Generally, these activities are accessible to everyone no matter your age or ability.Can tai chi heal the body? ›
Health benefits of Tai Chi
On a physical level, Tai Chi improves strength, flexibility, aerobic conditioning and balance. It's been proven to improve cardiovascular fitness, lower blood pressure, prevent falls and help people who have arthritis. And the list goes on!
Practicing tai chi exercises before bedtime can help you relax.Does tai chi increase life expectancy? ›
Tai Chi Yuttari exercise in a community setting might be beneficial for longer longevity and healthy life expectancy.Can you do too much tai chi? ›
Resetting your energy is just as important as fueling your body with food, so there is no limit to how often you can practice tai chi. Some people even include practicing tai chi in their daily routine. But remember, your body is the boss. There is no set minimum or limit — only what feels right to you.How long does it take to complete tai chi? ›
How long does it take to learn the tai chi form? It usually takes about 30 to 36 class hours to learn the basic movements, depending upon the schedule of your teaching location.Should you do tai chi with or without shoes? ›
Any comfortable clothing is fine. Wear something you might wear to go for a walk around your neighborhood. We recommend wearing flat shoes to do tai chi. Any heel elevation above an inch can affect your posture and we work to improve posture in tai chi class.Why is Tai Chi so hard to learn? ›
Even though most tai chi movements are simple, they can be complicated when they are movements that you aren't used to doing. Tai chi also requires full-body integration of movement, so trying to jump into tai chi and incorporating the movements of your entire body at once can be a challenge.Which Tai Chi style is best? ›
Yang is often considered the most popular form of Tai Chi and is the most widely practiced across the globe today. It was founded by Yang Lu-Ch'an in the mid-1800s and builds off the original Chen style.
Is breathing important in Tai Chi? ›
Tai chi is an easy, low-intensity exercise that focuses on breathing along with slow motions and poses. This series of movements flow together in a constant motion that is light on the joints and causes minimal muscle stress.What is the Chinese way of losing fat? ›
Acupuncture. Acupuncture is a commonly used method for weight loss in China. For instance, acupuncture helps curb cravings, increase energy, and increase nutrient absorption. When the needles are inserted into certain vital points, they improve and restore the flow of life energy called “Qi”.Why was tai chi banned in China? ›
During the Great Leap Forward (1958 – 62) and the Cultural Revolution (1966 – 76), many ancient ideas and artefacts were destroyed in China. Religion was considered a defilement to the Chinese government and it became harder to practice tai chi because of its strong links to Taoism and Buddhism.What foods should be avoided in tai chi? ›
A tai chi student should pay particular attention to their diet: drink plenty of water, fresh fruit and vegetables, pulses, rice, beans, grains, nuts and seeds. Fast food/junk food, preservatives, additives, nicotine and an excess of alcohol hamper your efforts to be healthy.Is tai chi outlawed in China? ›
Tai Chi not banned in China The reason Falun Gong Qigong is banned because the cults said it can heal anything with the book Zhuan Falun. Qigong and Tai Chi talks about the chi or qi and Falun Dafa talks About the channels too.Why is Tai Chi good for seniors? ›
Research has found that seniors who regularly practice tai chi enjoy benefits such as: Improved balance. Decreased risk of high blood pressure. Improved physical strength.Is yoga or Tai Chi better for arthritis? ›
Both yoga and tai chi have been found to be beneficial for arthritis, improving strength, flexibility and fitness, while also being good for mental health.Which is better Qi Gong or Tai Chi? ›
Qigong is the simpler and more adaptive of the two, focusing more on cultivating energy known as chi or qi, while tai chi places more emphasis on physical form and requires more discipline.Can you get toned with Tai Chi? ›
Tone and strength of muscles - As with any other form of physical exercise, Tai Chi provides practitioners with an overall toning and strengthening of specific muscles. The weight bearing aspects of the Tai Chi exercise have even been shown to stimulate bone growth, which may be beneficial to help prevent osteoporosis.Is Tai Chi good for osteoporosis? ›
There are many ways that tai chi helps people with osteoporosis. An excellent study showed tai chi slowed down the loss of bone density approximately three fold. When people with osteoporosis fall they are more likely to sustain a fracture. Many studies have shown that tai chi reduces falls.
Does Tai Chi help with anxiety? ›
While the movements are improving your physical health, the medatative aspects of t'ai chi help the mental side of things. Practicing t'ai chi can improve our moods, as well as lessen the effects of depression and anxiety.What is the best tai chi style for seniors? ›
Nowadays, the most popular form of tai chi is Yang, known for its simplified, less athletic style. Yang uses “large, sweeping movements performed at a slow, even pace” and is simple to learn. For these reasons, not only is it the most popular style, but it's ideal for aging adults.Am I too old to learn tai chi? ›
Start anytime Age should never be an obstacle when beginning to learn Tai chi. Over half of Tai chi practitioners begin after the age of 50! No matter your age, it's possible to age gracefully and to improve your health through Tai chi.How long does it take to learn tai chi short form? ›
As time goes by, students slowly learn more about Tai Chi theory. On the average, it usually takes a student that attends classes twice a week about 6 months to complete the short Tai Chi form.What is a tai chi teacher called? ›
Sensei teaches the class. Sifu is pronounced 'seefoo' in Cantonese and 'shihfu' in Mandarin. It means teacher/father. Sifu is the correct form of address when talking to the founder/instructor of a martial arts (e.g. taijiquan) class.What are the surprising benefits of tai chi? ›
- It's healthy for your heart. Tai Chi is said to be good for heart health. ...
- It can boost your immunity. Tai Chi could also benefit your immune system. ...
- Tai Chi improves brain function – fast.
The word “Tai” （太）means “Supreme”, “Ji” （极or Chi) means “Boundary” and the word “Quan” （拳or Chuan) means “fist” or “movement”. Together the term “Taijiquan” implies a method of movement to cultivate a form of power that has no boundary.Do you need a mat for tai chi? ›
The benefits of tai chi and yoga are pretty much the same. They improve your muscles, movement, and flexibility, and can also do wonders for your mental health. And the best part of it all is that you don't need any equipment to perform them. Lay down a yoga mat on the floor and you're good to go.Does tai chi build bone? ›
In addition to protecting your bones by preventing falls, there's a possibility that tai chi can even help to make your bones stronger. Some research has found it can prevent some of the bone loss that occurs with age.
After taking this hour-long class, I was able to better understand why the movements are indeed a spiritual practice. The flowing energy is spiritual to me; the constant movement connects my mind to my body and creates energy.
What effects does tai chi have on the brain? ›
These changes can improve cognitive function—and various forms of exercise, including tai chi, can help. In a meta-analysis of 20 studies on tai chi and cognition, tai chi appears to improve executive function—the ability to multitask, manage time, and make decisions—in people without any cognitive decline.What is the 24 form of tai chi in Chinese? ›
The 24-posture Simplified Form of t'ai chi ch'uan, (Chinese: 太极拳; pinyin: Tàijíquán) sometimes called the Beijing or Peking form for its place of origin, is a short version of Taiji composed of twenty-four unique movements.What parts of the body does tai chi help? ›
Tai chi strengthens both the lower and upper extremities and also the core muscles of the back and abdomen. Flexibility. Tai chi can boost upper- and lower-body flexibility as well as strength. Balance.What style is Tai Chi 24 form? ›
Yang-Style Tai Chi is the most popular and widely practiced form of Tai Chi.Is the type of tai chi which includes 24 movements in its simple form? ›
The yang style includes 24 movements in its simple form (108 movements in the traditional form). It is demanding because you must keep your stance wide and your knees bent most of the time.What is a tai chi master called? ›
Sensei teaches the class. Sifu is pronounced 'seefoo' in Cantonese and 'shihfu' in Mandarin. It means teacher/father. Sifu is the correct form of address when talking to the founder/instructor of a martial arts (e.g. taijiquan) class.What is the easiest form of tai chi? ›
If you are a beginner looking for something that is easy to adopt, Yang and Wu style are easier to learn than some of the other styles. If you are recovering from an injury, Yang style is the recommended style to practise.What illness does tai chi help? ›
Tai chi may be beneficial in improving balance and preventing falls in older adults and people with Parkinson's disease. It is unknown whether tai chi can help reduce falls in people who have had a stroke or people with osteoarthritis or heart failure.What is the oldest Tai Chi style? ›
Chen. Developed in the 1600s, Chen is the oldest (and therefore the original) form of tai chi. According to Taichi.ca, it was developed by the Chen family in the Chen Village, and is characterized by a combination of slow and then quick movements, including jumping, kicking, and striking.What are Tai Chi shoes called? ›
The kung fu shoe, also known as a "Tai Chi shoe" or as a "martial arts slipper", is a type and style of cloth slip-on shoe that is traditionally made in China, and was originally worn while practicing kung fu and other martial arts, and also while performing Tai Chi.
What are the 3 main aspects of tai chi? ›
- 1.) Physical Level. This includes how to breathe, how to stand, how to relax, how to move smoothly and evenly, how to start and end your practice, how to integrate your practice into your daily routine. ...
- 2.) Mental Level. ...
- 3.) Spiritual Level.
Tai Chi movements are functional training at their best as they involve standing and balancing movements that not only replicate activities of daily life — such as transferring weight through gait (which we all do) — but also challenge these very movements.