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People practise Tai Chi in the snow at a park in Shenyang, Liaoning province, ChinaReuters

A global 'healing wave' celebration on 30 April will begin in New Zealand and spread across time zones to include hundreds of cities in six continents. Extensive displays involving thousands of people will introduce people to World Tai Chi & Qigong Day.

The use of Tai Chi in business is practiced by billionaire Jack Ma, worth $23.1bn according to Forbes. He is the second richest man in China and CEO of e-commerce company, Alibaba Group. In a Tech In Asia report, he characterised the essence of Tai Chi, and also the running of a successful business, in three words: "calm" (no matter what happens, remain calm); "follow" (follow the trend); and "abandon" (learn to abandon burden in life).

Ma regularly practises Tai Chi and said in an interview, "I love Tai Chi. Tai Chi is a philosophy about how you balance. When people asked me if we hated eBay, I said no. eBay is a giant company, and if he hits me here I will hit him there, he comes and I go, I am smaller than him so I can jump while he can't.

"He applies Tai Chi philosophy which is "Keep calm, and you will find a way out. Competition is interesting. Business is not a battlefield. It's not necessary that I will be alive after you die".

So highly does Ma value Tai Chi that he chose Li Tianjin as his personal bodyguard, an expert in the martial art. At eight years old, he started practising Tai Chi and in 1998, when Li was 19, he won his first award in a Tai Chi competition with many more titles in the years that followed.

Alibaba Boss Jack Ma
Alibaba Group's Executive Chairman Jack Ma swears by Tai ChiReuters

Health benefits

The ancient martial art of Tai Chi, which literally means Supreme Ultimate Boxing, is practised by nearly 250 million people worldwide as a defence training and also because of its health benefits. It is said to help to bring about a state of mental calm and clarity using a series of slow movements. According to NHS Choices studies have shown that this ancient Chinese practice can help those over the age of 65 in stress reduction, balance improvement and improve strength in leg muscles.

"A growing body of carefully conducted research is building a compelling case for Tai Chi as an adjunct to standard medical treatment for the prevention and rehabilitation of many conditions commonly associated with age," says Peter M. Wayne, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Tai Chi and Mind-Body Research Programme.

Public Health England also endorses Tai Chi as a valuable boost to physical activity. "Keeping physically active at any age is important for health, especially as you get older.

"Simple exercises like Tai Chi can be beneficial for mental health and wellbeing as well as building the confidence and stability," said Dr Justin Varney, its national lead for adult health and wellbeing.

"This contributes to the recommended 150 minutes a week of moderate activity and two sessions a week of muscle strengthening and balance exercises for older adults."

Origins

The inventor of Tai Chi is unknown although some historical accounts assert that Chang San Feng, a Taoist priest in the 15th century was the first practitioner. He is said to have left his monastery to become a hermit and created his own form of martial arts fighting based on gentleness.

According to historical texts, Feng is thought to have said: "In every movement, every part of the body must be light and agile and strung together. The postures should be without breaks. Motion should be rooted in the feet, released through the legs, directed by the waist and expressed by the fingers. Substantial and insubstantial movements must be clearly differentiated."