The Philosophical Study of Tai Chi

Improve Your Tai Chi With Online Courses

The principles found in the ancient Chinese martial arts practice of Tai Chi are based in the philosophy of Taoism, making philosophical study an important direction of Tai Chi. At Portland Tai Chi Academy, we talk about five directions of Tai Chi practice:

  • The martial side
  • The therapeutic side
  • The medical side
  • The philosophical study side
  • The meditative or spiritual side

Learn more about the philosophical study of Tai Chi and sign up for online training at Portland Tai Chi Academy!

Bowls filled with sand and burning incense sticks.


Taoism is an ancient Chinese practice that sees the natural balance in all things. In order for this balance to be created, everything is composed of the yin and yang which represent the two opposite forces. Tai Chi takes these philosophical principles of balance and naturalness and physically represents them in the movement and motion of Tai Chi.

Mental Training

Tai Chi is a type of mind-body exercise, so it requires a certain level of mental training. While the yin and yang exist in all things, you need to find the balance between the yin and yang in your mind in order for your movement and practice to be strong and smooth.

Woman dressed in white sitting on a rocky shoreline meditating.
The silhouette of a man holding a martial arts pose contrasted with a bright yellow glowing background


Do not meet force with force. Yielding is something we talk about in the martial arts side of Tai Chi training, but it also has its roots in Taoism. Taoism teaches that things will naturally take their course, so the idea of yielding to a force in Tai Chi is to let your opponent’s attack run its course without using any of your own energy. This allows you to redirect that energy back towards your opponent.

Conversational Awareness

In a conversation with another person, you need to have a level of awareness and engagement to keep that conversation moving forward. In order for Tai Chi practice to flow naturally, you need to have a similar back and forth exchange of energy and movement, both physically and mentally. Through the philosophical study of Tai Chi, you and your opponent can learn to understand the practice and the energy created between both of your movements.

Three river stones balanced on top of a piece of wood.


Tai Chi can be used as a tool for self-realization. In order to perfect the slow and graceful movements of Tai Chi, you need to focus on finding calmness and stillness within yourself. This offers time for inner meditation and awareness where you have to confront yourself and find balance in both your mind and body. Through this practice, you can better understand your potential and your true self.

Open Perspective

Tai Chi is about finding balance in your mind and body. This makes it important to come to your philosophical studies and each practice with an open mind and perspective. Use Tai Chi as a space to explore your capabilities and find balance between your yin and yang.

A stack of five riverstones in decreasing size balanced in one tall stack.
The symbol for a yin and yang — a circle with one half that’s black and one half that’s white.

Yin, Yang, & Chi

In Tai Chi, the balance between your yin and yang energies will help you to find your chi or life energy. If the yin (relaxation) and yang (tension) are unbalanced, your movement will be too stiff or relaxed. Since balance is not a static state, Tai Chi is the practice of adapting and changing to your environment to maintain that balance or chi.

The Spiritual With the Martial

As you can tell, Tai Chi involves an understanding of the philosophical principles behind the practice along with the physical movement of martial arts. These philosophical aspects — mental training, awareness, and self-realization — are applied through the practice of martial arts, matching the spiritual with the physical. All five the directions of Tai Chi that we teach at the Portland Tai Chi Academy work towards creating this balance in your mind, your body, and your practice.

Tai Chi

Improve Your Tai Chi With Online Classes

Looking to find your inner chi and experience the power of Tai Chi for yourself? At Portland Tai Chi, we offer online training classes. Learn Tai Chi and sign up for one of our online courses today!


“My stress level is down.. I’ve lost nine pounds [in less than 2 months]… I enjoy it!”

-Becca, A happy new member of our Qigong and Tai Chi community