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Simplified tai chi is a shortened form of the traditional Yang Style Taijiquan, containing only 24 movements as opposed to 108. The entire routine can be performed in less than eight minutes, making it an ideal way for people to squeeze some meditation time into their busy day. The routine includes 24 movements, some with several parts, and is less strenuous than the traditional Yang form.
Tai chi has been proven to lower stress and benefit people with chronic health conditions, and has even been recommended by the Mayo Clinic as a supplemental therapy. As tai chi became popular, the simplified form evolved as an easier, gentler workout that could be quickly taught and performed. The gentler movements are popular with elderly people, who often suffer from arthritis and limited mobility, both of which tai chi can help alleviate. Simplified tai chi is also better for large groups because the choreography is all done in a straight line, which requires less individual space.
This shortened form of tai chi makes a great introductory course to traditional forms, and allows the student to gradually build up strength and grace before moving on to more difficult maneuvers. This accessibility made simplified tai chi a popular standard form for many competitions, expanding the competition field. The sense of inclusiveness and learnability generated by the shortened form was so popular, The People’s Republic of China formally recommended it as a proper exercise, making it the most widely-performed tai chi in the world.
Simplified tai chi is broken down into five sections, with each section containing three to five related movements. A light warm-up is done before beginning, to soften the muscles and work out stiffness. The first section encompasses the first five movements, and is leads the performer from standing quietly to intricate directional steps and arm movements. The second section includes moves six through nine, where the stance is wider and more engaged, and the movements are performed in the opposite direction.
The third section includes movements ten through fifteen, and involves more exaggerated lateral movement, requiring increased balance. This section evolves from the flowing “Hands Like Clouds” movement to high kicks in movement number 14. The fourth section includes movements 16 through 19, and incorporates more sweeping, bending, and squatting postures that work the larger muscle groups, while the smaller muscles work constantly to maintain balance and poise.
The fifth and final section encompasses movements 20 through 24. The first two movements involve punches and deflection, while the final movements focus on winding the body back down to a relaxed state. The closing movement is performed in the exact opposite manner of the opening movement, and the routine is finished with the performer standing quietly upright, hands at sides.