Tai chi is a wonderful martial art for practitioners of all levels. If you’re looking to start learning about tai chi or looking to practice tai chi from the comfort of your own home, you’re in the right place. Tai chi is a great addition to your current home exercise routine or training program.
What Is Tai Chi?
Tai chi is the popular name for tai chi chuan for taijiquan. It’s an Chinese martial art dating back to ancient China over 2000 years ago. In more recent history, it was further developed by Chen Wangting around 1670 and later, Yang Lu Chan. There are different types of tai chi such as chen, yang, wu, sun, and hao. While many people think tai chi is all about self-meditation and flowing movements, it was actually first developed for self-defense. In the advanced levels of tai chi, it can be an exceptionally effective martial art for combat situations. However, the types of tai chi that are practiced today are mostly concerned with relaxation and non-combat situations.
Over the years, tai chi has come to be used as a source of meditation and gentle exercise. Tai chi involves pairing movements (or sets) with deep breathing. Sometimes weapons are used in the movements.
It’s not required to dive deep into Chinese history or philosophy to start practicing tai chi. However, you might want to consider learning about some of the key historical facts of tai chi so you understand the context behind the movements and breathing techniques.
Who Can Practice Tai Chi?
Unlike intense martial arts like Muay Thai and MMA, tai chi is easier for individuals with limited mobility. Most people should be able to practice tai chi, regardless of age or fitness level. Due to the slow and calm nature of tai chi, people struggling with a disability can adapt the movements to suit their activity level.
Tai chi is especially great for individuals looking to increase their physical activity slowly over time. As with all new exercise routines, you’ll want to check with your doctor if you have any concerning pre-existing conditions.
Health Benefits of Tai Chi
There are numerous benefits of practicing tai chi. Many of the benefits you’ll get from regular physical activity apply to regular tai chi practice, such as:
- Improved mood
- Reduced stress
- Improved physical fitness (flexibility, strength, agility, and aerobic capacity)
- Decreased stress, anxiety, and depression
- Boosted cognitive function
In some cases, tai chi has been found to help individuals with specific health conditions like COPD. One study found sun-style tai chi helped improve COPD symptoms. There’s also research to suggest that tai chi can be helpful in managing fibromyalgia.
You might think tai chi is mainly practiced by older adults, but there are benefits for young people as well! Research suggests tai chi can help young adults sleep better.
Tai Chi Equipment
One of the best things about tai chi is that you don’t need expensive gear to get started. Simply wear some comfortable clothes that you can move around in. Avoid any sort of tight clothing that could restrict you in any way.
As you progress further with your tai chi practice, you may want to consider buying specialized gear.
Tai Chi Shoes
You should wear comfortable, flexible shoes with a good grip to avoid slipping. You might be able to use trainers or running shoes that you already have, but make sure they have a good blend of support and flexibility. Some people practice tai chi barefoot, but this isn’t recommended if you struggle with balance or are concerned about falling. If you’re looking for shoes specifically for tai chi, these Kung Fu shoes with a rubber sole are a great choice. They have a rubber sole to help provide a superior grip and are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. The out-soles are made of rubber that won’t mark up your floors if you wear them inside.
Tai Chi Sword
You’ll usually start to learn tai chi forms without weapons first. These are called open-handed forms which we’ll discuss in the next section. However, there are tai chi movements which involve weapons such as the tai chi sword. If you’re looking to learn advanced tai chi or simply interested in martial arts with weapons, you can purchase a tai chi sword to supplement your practice.
Tai Chi Movements
Learning how to do tai chi at home for beginners starts with learning some basic tai chi techniques. Tai chi movements (also called “forms”) are how you move your body while practicing tai chi. There are 108 movements in tai chi. The movements are paired with breathing exercises to help the entire body and mind stay connected while practicing tai chi. In tai chi, each form flows into another one seamlessly. A variety of tai chi movements connected together is called a set. You won’t need to learn all 108 moves at once and try to perform them in a set. You’ll likely start with just a few moves and then move up from there. It depends on how long you plan on practicing every day and how dedicated you are to learning new techniques. If you’re practicing at home, it might take you longer to learn the movements since you won't have an in-person instructor to help guide you.
Sometimes you’ll do qigong exercises before, during, or after your tai chi sets. Sometimes qigong and tai chi are discussed interchangeably, but they are different. They’re often used together in tai chi classes because their goal is the same: better health, energy control, and relaxation. For simplicity’s sake, here’s a quick breakdown of the differences between tai chi and qigong.
- A martial art that was developed in China over 2000 years ago
- A series of movements that are performed to allow energy (or qi) to flow through the body
- Concerned with following intricate choreography as accurately as possible
- A variety of breathing techniques and exercises that are either static or dynamic
- The purpose of qigong is to allow energy to flow through the body
- Adherence to strict, intricate movements is not necessary
One of the main differences to keep in mind is that tai chi is a martial art, but qigong is not. It’s important to be aware of qigong as you’ll find qigong exercises pop up quite often in tai chi classes.
How To Start Tai Chi
Ready to dive into tai chi at home? Here’s a short introduction to tai chi that’s perfect for beginners.
Once you have an idea of what tai chi looks like in practice, you might be ready to start a longer class. Thankfully, there are full tai chi classes for free online that you can start using right now! Even though tai chi is a gentle exercise, it’s still important to warm up before jumping into things. This is important to help prepare your body for stretching and focus your mind. Dr. Paul Lam goes over this extensively in his video below on How to Do Tai Chi At Home for Beginners.
There are plenty of tai chi YouTube videos for you to explore, but if you’re looking for more then check out the Tai Chi for Health Institute. They offer a variety of online lessons and specialized programs ranging from Tai Chi for Beginners to Tai Chi for Arthritis.
How Long Does It Take to Learn Tai Chi?
There is no black belt or official master title to earn with Tai Chi. According to the Tai Chi Foundation, it takes around 30-36 classes to learn the basic movements. However, that estimate is assuming you’re under the guidance of a licensed instructor. If you’re practicing tai chi at home, how long it takes you to learn tai chi will depend on how often you practice and your dedication level.
To accelerate your learning and ability, try practicing at home in front of a mirror to ensure you’re doing the movements correctly. If using a mirror is not possible, try recording yourself during practice and then watch the recording so that you know what you can improve on for next time.
Other Tai Chi Exercises To Do At Home
There are other supplementary exercises you can do at home that will complement your tai chi practice.
If you’re looking to increase your strength, you can try resistance training at home. You can help increase your balance and flexibility by practicing yoga. If it’s increased cardio that you’re after, try getting in 20-30 minutes of brisk walking per day either on a treadmill or outside. If you’re able, you can try running or cardio exercises such as jump rope.
Are you ready to start practicing tai chi at home? Now that you have some basic information about how to get started, just pick a YouTube class and follow along! Be sure to check out our home exercise equipment if you’re looking for more ways to stay fit without hitting the gym. If you'd like to exercise more at home but aren't sure where to start, then read our guide on Resistance Training At Home to learn the basics of strength and resistance training.