Tai chi has always been a “martial art,” but we’re learning that it’s much more. Most practitioners in the US routinely do tai chi as an exercise. Many probably don’t realize that you can apply martial intention in the exercise of tai chi. When practicing tai chi as a martial art you focus on the notion of having an opponent. Even if you don’t actually spar with someone, you visualize you are. You place your attention out into the field around you as though there were an opponent there. And you move with the intention of moving an opponent.
Most don’t fight usually, or even spar, but that idea can still apply in tai chi as exercise.
The question is not who, but what, is your opponent? Chronic pain? Poor balance? Difficulty healing from an injury? Depression? Heart Disease? Fear and anxiety? Fatigue? The list in really long. Make these your opponents and practice tai chi to defeat them all with intention, energy awareness, and physical movement.
Paul Tim Richard, MA, studies and teaches fundamental principles of taijiquan and qigong. He also blogs about the philosophy (sort of) of Chinese internal martial arts, including taijiquan and qigong. He produces instructional videos of master practitioners. He lives in Durango, Colorado and is available for workshops and other taijiquan-related events as videographer and other communication development services.