Wudang tai chi is not a specific style of tai chi chuan but rather refers to the internal type of Chinese martial arts as opposed to the hard, or external, types of martial arts, such as kung fu. A Taoist monk named Chang San-Feng is believed to have lived in the Wudang mountain region of China during the 17th century. He is frequently credited with the development of tai chi chuan, which is also called tai chi. Originally used as a martial art or a method of defense, Wudang tai chi has been embraced in modern times for its potential health and fitness benefits.
The Taoist concept of yin and yang — polar opposites contained within the whole — is one of the core principles of Wudang tai chi. A symbol for yin and yang is also frequently used to represent tai chi. Tai chi chuan is often translated as meaning supreme ultimate fist, and is likely related to the idea of bringing the opposing forces of yin and yang into unity. When yin and yang are balanced, tai chi suggests that qi, or life force energy, is allowed to flow freely. The movements associated with tai chi are designed to facilitate the balance of yin and yang.
Sometimes described as moving mediation, Wudang tai chi is most often thought of in terms of slow, deliberate movements that transition gracefully from one tai chi pose to another. Tai chi moves are considered most effective when combined with maintaining awareness of breathing while maintaining proper posture. Correct tai chi posture generally incorporates a loose, relaxed stance with a raised head and lowered shoulders.
Practiced as a martial art, tai chi suggests the practitioner move with the opponent’s qi rather than against it. If an opponent makes a forceful move, the tai chi response would likely be to yield, thereby bringing the energy and movement to harmony. Close attention is also paid to the physical center of gravity of the opponent in hopes that the tai chi practitioner will be able to shift the opponent’s balance to gain the upper hand.
While it might have begun as a Chinese martial art, Wudang tai chi has become fairly popular in other cultures as a form of exercise that can increase flexibility, improve coordination, and strengthen muscles. Tai chi is generally considered a safe, low-stress exercise. There is some evidence to suggest that there may be additional health benefits, though more clinical studies are required.