Taiwan has a flourishing martial arts culture that encompasses a wide variety of activities. Distinguished Chinese and Western martial arts masters have come to Taiwan to study or teach, making the island an ideal place to get a taste of martial arts. This includes traditional Chinese martial arts like kung fu and Taijiquan, also known as "taiji" (tai'chi) and "shadow boxing". In addition, martials arts from other Asian cultures, including karate, jujitsu, judo, aikido, Thai kickboxing and taekwondo are taught by instructors at studios and gyms around Taichung.
In Taiwan, there are three popular types of traditional Chinese martial arts practiced. The Hakka people, Taiwan's original Chinese immigrants, brought the first form to Taiwan, including "Phoenix Eye Fist" and "Southern Praying Mantis". The next wave of Chinese immigrants brought the well-known form of Shaolin martial arts. The third and last wave of immigrants added a combined variety of all three major branches of Chinese martial arts, which consists of the internal martial arts system, the Shaolin system, and the art of Shuai Jiao. These, however, are very general categories, as there are over 100 different forms of Chinese boxing alone.
In most internationally popular sports, athletes retire at relatively early ages due to aging bodies, injuries and flagging endurance. However, there are two main types of Chinese martial arts--those with external excercise for the physical body, and internal forms which train the spirit, mind, and the "chi" life energy flow. As a result, the older one gets, the higher the level of achievement reached, which ultimately promotes the maintenance of good health.
While finding martial arts classes at school and fitness centers around Taichung is relatively easy, obtaining instruction from a true master is much more difficult and expensive. Generally, masters only select a few students who show special levels of dedication and sincerity to learning. One of the easiest ways to get involved in martial arts is to join one of the dozens of taiji classes that are held in public parks, university campuses and other locations around Taichung around dawn each morning. Usually, all it takes is politely asking the instructor if you can join. Language should not be problem, as most instruction is by imitation. Other martial arts lessons are advertised in free English publications like the Compass, or on websites like forumosa.com.