Tai chi, by ancestry, is a martial art, because as a system it was originally designed for fighting. This is one way tai chi is different from yoga and other practices that are purely forms of exercise or devotion. However, the principles of tai chi are derived from qigong, translated as “energy work”, which, along with acupuncture and herbology, is one of the main branches of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Thus, tai chi can be considered to be a result of medical principles applied to fighting. The art of medicine, which can be broadly defined as the art of self preservation, thus comes, through tai chi, to encompass self-defense. Likewise, self defense comes, through tai chi, to incorporate self preservation, or health maintenance, and acknowledges that optimal strength is but one of many desirable byproducts of optimal health.