Tai Chi is a system of movements that develops physical, emotional and mental health. Those who practice this art feel a spiritual connection and a calmness about them. Although the origins of Tai Chi Chuan are not known for sure, one interpretation includes Bodhidharma. It is said he went to the Shaolin monastery and found the monks falling asleep during meditation. The series of exercises he taught them was known as Yee Chin Ching or Sinew Changing. The purpose of the exercises was to improve their physical condition so they hopefully would not fall asleep during meditation. The exercises were also used by the monks to defend themselves, since they were forbidden to use weapons.
Another man important to the development of Tai Chi, Chan-San Feng, observed animals. He watched how they moved and protected themselves. He thought man could fashion a system of movements similar to those of the animals so that he could defend himself as the animals did. He observed that animals would use opposing techniques to win. If one animal showed strong force the other could defeat it by using the soft force. This is represented in the yin and yang symbol. Tai chi utilizes smooth flowing movements which put the enemy off balance by not countering with the same energy as that of an attack. The strong attack and the flowing counter lends itself to a very balanced situation. Besides self-defense applications, Tai Chi offers a feeling of peace and fulfillment.