There are five traditional schools of taijiquan: Chen, Yang, Wu/Hao, Wu and Sun – of which only the first will be introduced here – and two overarching groups of so-called frames, or paradigms: one based on old frames and one based on new frames. The old frame is said to have been created by Chen Wangting, one of the great masters of taiji quan and the founder of the Chen school of taiji quan. Both of these paradigms include boxing routines, where the boxing referred to was so-called empty-handed boxing (nothing either in or on the hand), while today, taiji quan, practiced as a competition sport, generally makes use of boxing gloves, so as not to cause lasting bodily harm.

The Chen school of taiji quan consisted of 5 routines – including a 13-posture boxing routine, a 108-posture boxing routine and a so-called cannon boxing routine involving a disputed number of postures (disputed by present-day experts; some indicate 5, others indicate 13, while still others indicate 15, etc.) – and two categories: close-range and long-range (the term "cannon" can be somewhat confusing in this context, since there existed at the time a number of treatises, or canons (sets of rules, practices, laws, etc.), that dealt with the particulars of various wushu, including boxing, while Chen Wangting's use of the word "cannon" in this specific context is clearly a reference to the much-feared military weapon that was in widespread use at the time, hence the deliberately exaggerated comparison of a boxing blow to the formidable blow of a 100 lb (45 kg) metal cannon ball!).

The macho-like side of taiji quan notwithstanding, the sport is growing in popularity, as much for the secondary health benefits it confers as much as for the sense of self-confidence it engenders. Clinical studies suggest that the practice of taiji quan can lower blood pressure, reduce nervous tension, and benefit the immune system as well as improve the functioning of the digestive, cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Today, there are over 100 million happy devotees who practice taiji quan on a regular basis.