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The history of Tai Chi is a difficult one, since it is often difficult to sort out fact from legend. But we can say loosely that Tai Chi traces its roots back to approximately the 2nd mellennium B.C. with the practice of yoga in ancient India. In China yoga came to be developed into what is called Saolin chuan ("chuan," can be translated as fist, or boxing).
In the 13th century a.d., a Taoist monk by the name of Chang Sang Feng developed what has come to be known as Tai Chi. Subsequently Tai Chi came to be associated with different families in China. These family names came to designate the different styles of tai chi.
The Tai Chi family or style from which all other current styles or families of Tai Chi are believed to have developed was the Chen family. A man by the name of Yang, subsequently studied with the Chen family and later modified the Chen style, thus developing the Yang style of Tai Chi Chuan.
The Yang style is the most common traditional style of Tai Chi Chuan practiced today. The Yang style has three different forms that are practiced: the simplified form, the short form, and the long form.
Tai Chi Chuan is an internal Chinese martial art. It is considered a soft style martial art, an art applied with as much deep relaxation or "softness" in the musculature as possible. Traditional T'ai Chi training is intended to teach awareness of one's own balance and what affects it, awareness of the same in others, an appreciation of the practical value in one's ability to moderate extremes of behavior and attitude at both mental and physical levels, and how this applies to effective self-defense principles.