What are the Different Types of Tai Chi Clothing?
The type of Tai Chi clothing a person wears can be just as important as mastering the Tai Chi form itself. According to Tai Chi teachings, the clothing has a direct correlation with the state of mind and spiritual energy to the chi flowing through the body’s meridians. Clothing such as jeans and jackets, and even tightness of fabric will restrict chi flow in the body as it moves during the martial art. In Tai Chi, it generally is recommended that a person wear clothing that is soft, light, and supple, such as clothing made of loose linen, cotton, or silk. A key characteristic among linen, cotton, and silk clothing for Tai Chi is that they do not impede the martial art movements.
One of the marked differences from the linen type of Tai Chi clothing versus the cotton or silk kind is its ability to regulate body temperature. Linen is also good for its durability and strength, since it usually is able to resist any wears or tears that might happen during Tai Chi exercises. These attributes are what make linen Tai Chi clothing generally suitable for an experienced practitioner of the martial art.
Cotton and silk, on the other hand, typically is better worn on warmer days, such as during the summer. Historically, silk was abundant in China and this generated plenty of silk-style uniforms. Many Tai Chi masters still traditionally will wear silk-type uniforms. Silk and cotton share similar qualities, such as comfort, but silk is costly to manufacture and cotton is not.
The standard Tai Chi clothing comes in black or white, thereby offering fewer distractions to other people practicing the martial art form. Color restriction, however, is not definitive. Some martial arts schools may prefer other colors to be worn for Tai Chi uniforms. More modernized variations of Tai Chi wear can come in the form of printed T-shirts. Usually, these types of clothing will have the various Tai Chi symbols or perhaps the school’s logo printed on the fabric.
While Tai Chi recommends proper clothing, it is not necessarily enforced. Proper Tai Chi clothing typically serves as an aid to keep a practitioner away from distractions. This generally helps practitioners focus more on the balance of chi flow in the mind and body rather than outside distractions.
In general, I'd say whatever is comfortable for yoga is also good for Tai Chi. It has to be loose, non-restrictive and not distracting to others. So I'd leave the tank top at home.
Come to think of it, I've never seen a Tai Chi practitioner wear a tank top, male or female. They may go sleeveless, but that's it. I'm sure it has everything to do with not wearing something that might distract the practitioner from concentrating on his or her movements and forms.
I've always seen Tai Chi practitioners in loose clothing, since, as the article mentions, the whole point of the exercise is to allow energy to flow through you.
I imagine any soft, lightweight material would be fine for practicing Tai Chi. Most of the Tai Chi clothing I've seen has been white, gray or light blue. I've never seen any in black. That seems to be reserved for the more defense oriented martial arts, like karate, kung fu and jujitsu.
Because of the soothing nature of practicing Tai Chi, it's easy to forget that it is, indeed, one of the martial arts. It always seems more like a mental meditation exercise. I am told it had real uses in the days when it was first developed, though.
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