TaiChi, despite the connotations attached to the term in the U.S., is actually just a concept from the Chinese philosophy of Taoism.
Roughly translated as Great Polarity or Supreme Ultimate, TaiChi refers to Yin and Yang; the fundamental duality we experience in the Universe. Earth and Sky, Cool and Warm, Soft and Firm, Dark and Light; these pairings of complimentary “opposites” are all manifestations of TaiChi.
This observation about the Natural World has been utilized in Traditional Chinese Medicine, as well as Chinese Martial Arts. The multitude of exercises that developed out of these Practices are frequently lumped together under the blanket-term “Tai Chi”, however there is considerable variety among them.
TaiChiChuan is the Martial Art (Chuan means Fist or Boxing) based on TaiChi. The full Practice includes breathing exercises, stance-training, the moving Forms so often associated with the blanket term “Tai Chi”, and also application and combative training: Tui Shou and San Shou.
TaiChiChuan training provides a good physical workout, as well as Self-Defense application, and promotes well-being and relaxation.
Many people, however, are only interested in the wellness and relaxation benefits of TaiChiChuan.
For those folks, there are also numerous systems of Qigong to explore. Qigong translates as Energy Work or LifeForce Cultivation, and is also something of a blanket-term.
In fact, TaiChiChuan trained correctly is a type of Qigong. Yet not all types of Qigong could qualify as TaiChiChuan.
Included in the scope of Qigong are many different meditations, visualizations, breathing techniques, physical exercises, and even acupuncture. Anything done with the intention of affecting the Qi could fairly be considered Qigong.
Getting to know your particular interests and goals is important in finding or creating a Tai Chi program that will be fulfilling.