Tai Chi Chuan, more commonly known as Tai Chi, is a form of martial arts that originated in Chinese culture. There are many styles of Tai Chi, with each one being comprised of a different combination of Tai Chi moves, Tai Chi forms, length of program and area of targeted benefit. Long Form Tai Chi consists of a total of 103 individual postures, significantly higher than most forms derived from other styles. Depending on how the postures are grouped together, some Tai Chi instructors will describe the Long Form as having anywhere from 85 to 150 postures, but 103 is the most widely accepted count.
There are five basic classes of Tai Chi, each named for the family that helped to create and influence their development. Of the five, the Yang family style is the most commonly practiced style, particularly in Western cultures. The Yang family also was noted for developing Long Form Tai Chi.
Long Form Tai Chi is considered one of the most beneficial forms of the art, encompassing the greatest number and variety of Tai Chi positions. Beginning practitioners of Long Form Tai Chi will learn the basic forms gradually. The more flowing movements that most people are familiar with are designed to promote health and relaxation. Long Form Tai Chi emphasizes controlled breathing techniques, balance and mental focus.
Each form of Tai Chi has a specific name that often describes the movements it involves. Some of the more eloquently named of the 103 forms in Long Form Tai Chi include "grasping the bird's tail," "white crane spreads its wings" and "parting wild horse's mane." Other forms are slightly less creative in their naming, relying more on exact descriptions of the movements themselves. These include heel kicks, separation kicks and "fist under elbow."
There is a specific order in which the movements are performed in Long Form Tai Chi, which allows the practitioner ease of movement from one pose to another. After the practitioner has mastered all of the steps, he or she gradually increases the speed at which the moves are performed. The series of 103 Tai Chi postures should take the average user just under 30 minutes to complete. This is significantly longer than the five minutes it typically takes for Short Form Tai Chi, but many people believe that it is a more intensive series of movements, focusing on specific areas of the body that might otherwise be overlooked in other styles.