Taoist (Daoist) philosophy says there was emptiness before the creation of the universe. This is called “Wu Chi (Wuji)” which means no-thing or no-limit and is represented by an empty circle. Then, a differentiation took place in this no-thing and a form is created. This is shown by a dot in the centre of the circle. This creation brings differentiation, which forms the polarities, the duality. These two poles are called yin and yang. Yin and yang change in relation to each other and create each other all the time. Tai Chi (Taiji) is the symbol that shows these two polarities.
Wuji (Wu Chi), First Differentitation and Taiji (Tai Chi)
The Chinese characters that make the word Tai Chi 太極 (Taiji 太极), convey the meanings “boundless, ultimate, supreme ultimate”. We can think of it as the highest principle that creates all form. This principle includes yin and yang. Movement represents yang. When the movement reaches its extreme, it gives birth to stillness (yin). The extreme of stillness (yin) in turn creates movement (yang) once again.
As can be seen from the symbol above, when the two polarities (yin and yang) reach their maximum, they create the seed of their opposite. The word Chuan (quan) is martial arts. Therefore, Tai Chi Chuan (Taijiquan) is an internal martial arts where this highest principle is applied.
Tai Chi is based on the balance and change of yin (passive) and yang (active) elements and therefore reflects the balance of forward-backward, up-down, expansion-contraction, attack-defence etc. In Tai Chi you never meet brute force with resistance but follow the motion while remaining in contact until it exhausts itself or you can redirect it. This is based on the ancient Taoist principle that soft (yin) overcomes the hard (yang) and any movement transforms into its opposite when it reaches the extreme.
Since the movements in the Tai Chi practice are initiated and lead by internal energy (qi or chi) rather than hard muscle movements, we also learn a little Qigong in our Tai Chi classes and focus more on the health benefits and strengthening of internal energy, rather than martial applications.