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(4 pages total)

[Editor´s note: The following article contains a combination of romanization systems. This is common when referring to proper names and family styles. To prevent error, we have left the romanization in its original format.]

Taijiquan has become the most popular exercise in China at the turn of the century. However, during the Culture Revolution in the 1960s, Taijiquan along with many other traditionally valued activities was considered bourgeois. It therefore underwent a hiatus during that period of time in China. Fortunately, like good art and wine, Taijiquan has lasting value permeating through time. Taijiquan, together with other martial arts, not only is enjoying resurgence but also has flourished beyond the borders of China.

Taijiquan has recently gained immense popularity in America, especially in the west and east coastal states. It has in fact found itself within the fields of alternative medicine, health care and exercise physiology. The prime reason has been the extensive clinical research on the therapeutic effects of Taijiquan. The positive therapeutic values include the enhancement of physical balance, postural stability, reduction of frailty and falls in older persons.

These studies involving the Yang style only were carried out in prestigious institutions such as the Emory University School of Medicine, the University of Connecticut Health Center, Harvard University, John Hopkins University School of Medicine, etc., with grants from the National Institute of Aging and the US Public Health and Human Services. These studies compared Taijiquan to other forms of exercises like walking, computerized balancing exercises, dancing, etc. in the same cohort or group of persons. The results were analyzed statistically for their validity.

There have been at least forty scientific and medical publications written in English on the health effects of Taijiquan since 1989. It is a small number when compared to publications on other exercise programs, but a comparatively large number for such an out of the ordinary exercise art of the East in the Western world. Although beneficial effects have been reported, studies should be carried out with other styles and should explore beyond the therapeutic values mentioned above.

My purpose in this brief article is to introduce the various forms, styles, or schools of Taijiquan currently taught and practiced by many in America to those who wish to take up this time-proven integration of physical and mental exercise art. Like all physical exercises, no single one is good for everyone. A person must choose the right one objectively. To the newcomer, Taijiquan is meditation in motion, an "exercise art" or "art in motion" as articulated with compassion by the late Sophia Delza who taught the Wu style as well as modern dance in New York City.

Knowing the differences among styles will allow the newcomer to make the right choice of instructors. For the enthusiasts, knowing the difference will not only enhance the enjoyment but also extract the best of doing Taijiquan. Although there are common denominators and fundamentals shared by all styles of Taijiquan, subtle differences among styles present therapeutic elements affecting variation in health values as well as for enjoyment for individuals differing in age, physiological, and physical conditions.

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