Difference between Tai Chi and Pilates

Key difference: Tai Chi is an ancient and almost meditative martial art form that originated in China. Pilates is a physical fitness routine that was devised by Joseph Pilates, a German physical-culturist.

The term Tai Chi, means the “supreme ultimate fist”. It is a discipline devoted to achieve unity and harmony between the mind and the body of a person. Tai Chi is highly influenced by the Taoist and Buddhist monasteries, and first originated in China. The basic tenets of Tai Chi include self-defense and maintenance of one’s health. The health here refers to the physical and also mental fitness of a person, which is why Tai Chi comprises of three important modules namely: health, meditation and martial arts.

The fundamental premise of Tai Chi is to be responsive and aware of the opponent’s vital energy, also known as ‘Chi’. Tai Chi teaches a person to anticipate and react to the opponent’s moves and movements, without instigating any on one’s own. It is the knowledge of using an opponent’s vital force to one’s advantage. Keeping this in mind, Tai Chi involves the practice of slow movements, which enable a person to learn the art of balancing himself/herself in all conditions, and also eliminate the risk of falling.

Pilates is a practice of physical fitness that is named after its inventor, Joseph Pilates. Pilates was a German physical-culturist, who hailed from Monchengladbach in Germany. Believing that physical and mental fitness are interrelated, Pilates developed his version of fitness in the early 20th century. He took inspiration from many of the fitness systems available to him during his boyhood. In fact, many modules of Pilates resemble the fitness regimes and physical culture of the late nineteenth century, the growing up years of Joseph Pilates.

Pilates is a combination of exercises that promote flexibility, muscle strength, fat loss, endurance, etc., to its practitioners. It lends special significance to spinal and pelvic alignment, development of core strength, i.e. the center of the body, and improvement of physical coordination and balance. For achieving all of this, Pilates involves six basic principles, which are: concentration, control, center, flow, precision, and breathing.

When Pilates invented this style of fitness regime, he called it as Contrology, i.e. the discipline of body control, which is exactly what a person practicing Pilates can master.

Comparison between Tai Chi and Pilates:


Tai Chi


Place of origin



Invented by

Zhang Sanfeng

Joseph Pilates

Time of origin

Sometime in the 12th Century

Early 20th Century

Basic modules

Three: health, meditation and martial arts.

There are six, namely: concentration, control, center, flow, precision, and breathing.


Mental and physical oneness, relaxation, stress release, etc.

Physical and mental fitness, body balance, endurance, etc.

Core activity

Tai Chi is essentially a soft and hard martial art form.

Physical exercises.

Other forms

Tai Chi Chih, Qigong, Wushu, etc.

Mat Pilates, Reformer Pilates, etc.

Image Courtesy: mh-health.com, happybellystudios.com

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