Tai chi's greatest gift is its objectification of the spiritual. The point of Tai Chi is to cultivate ch'i. Ch'i is the motile force of the art, in the end. Ch’i is the essence of Chinese culture.
The ch'i is slowly accumulated through slow movement and non-movement exercises that fuse body to consciousness so that the body-mind “lights up” and begins developing this more corporeal cousin of what modern medicine calls “direct current bioelectricity”.
As ephemeral as “ch’i” is, Tai Chi is known to cultivate smooth muscle right away in beginners and to grow this benefit the longer the person practices the art. The health benefits of smooth muscle, especially for brain protection, are extensive and well-known.
In time, the ch'i is so substantial, so objectified, that it moves one’s torso and limbs in the form and push hands to bend away the attack, to diffuse the orchestration of incoming force, so that the practitioner can then locate the opponent’s center, control the center balance, and neutralize or topple it.
Tai chi is surely the most unusual martial art. The more ch'i, the more “rooted”, the more powerful. The Chinese describe Tai Chi as a “Tao”, pronounced Dow, an exceptional word and concept. A Tao is something complete within itself, that needs nothing else, that addresses every aspect of life from a philosophical and functional standpoint. A student once expressed sadness that Tai Chi had a martial component. But anything that is self-complete and thorough eventually addresses self defense concepts.
Tai chi’s uniqueness is the fusion of spirituality with movement.