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Kung fu tai chi, also known as tai chi chuan, generally is considered an internal or "soft" form of martial art or system of empty-handed self-defense developed in ancient China, probably within the Shaolin temple. Some people, however, consider kung fu tai chi a form of exercise, stretching and a sort of "physical" meditation to achieve relaxation and a sense of inner peace. Others consider the practice of kung fu tai chi a form of the occult disguised as either a system of exercise or a martial art in the West.
Tai chi moves are performed in a slow, graceful manner, each movement followed without interruption by another to form a series. Deep and controlled breathing is practiced during the performance of kung fu tai chi forms to enhance respiration and mental relaxation through meditation. It also frequently is recommended for cardiac patients, the physically challenged and the mature population who might not desire or have the stamina to engage in physically demanding forms of exercise such as aerobics or weightlifting. Some people who view the authentic art as a system of self-defense believe that the practice of it must begin no later than age 4, preferably by age 3, and that a very special diet must be followed to enhance the flow and development of chi energy, which eventually enables the practitioner to possess what is described as supernatural strength, stamina and endurance.
Some people who view kung fu tai chi as a form of the occult disguised as martial arts or exercise often point to the generally accepted definition of the term "chi," sometimes spelled "qi" in the West. Most Western students of tai chi chuan are taught that chi is a life force, or universal energy that flows through the body and that can be manipulated and controlled at will to achieve supernatural strength, endurance and even control of bodily functions. Opponents of the practice of this art believe that any health benefits perceived by practitioners are simply psychosomatic because, in their opinion, there is no such thing as a life force or universal life-giving energy that truly can be controlled, or else death would be preventable.