Tai Chi Chuan

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T'ai chi ch'uan

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"Taiji" and "Tai Chi" redirect here. For the philosophical concept, see Taiji (philosophy). For people with the name 'Taichi', see Taichi (name). For all other uses, see Taiji (disambiguation).
T'ai chi ch'uan / Taijiquan
(太極拳)
Taijiquan Symbol.png
The lower dantian in taijiquan:
yin and yang rotate, while
the core reverts to stillness (wuji)
Yang-single (restoration).jpg
Yang Chengfu in a posture from
the Yang-style t'ai chi ch'uan solo form
known as Single Whip c. 1931
Also known as Taijizhang;1
t'ai chi; taiji
Focus Hybrid
Hardness Forms competition,
Light contact (pushing hands, no strikes),
Full contact (strikes, kicks, throws, etc.)
Country of origin China
Creator Said to be Zhang Sanfeng
Famous practitioners Chen Wangting,
Chen Changxing,
Chen Fake,
Yang Lu-ch'an,
Yang Chengfu,
Wu Ch'uan-yu,
Wu Chien-ch'uan,
Wu Yu-hsiang,
Sun Lu-t'ang,
Wang Pei-sheng
Olympic sport Demonstration only
T'ai chi ch'uan / Taijiquan
Traditional Chinese 太極拳
Simplified Chinese 太极拳
Literal meaning supreme ultimate fist
Taijizhang
Simplified Chinese 太极掌
Literal meaning supreme ultimate palm

T'ai chi ch'uan or tàijíquán, often shortened to t'ai chi, taiji or tai chi in English usage, is an internal Chinese martial art practised for both its defense training and its health benefits. It is also typically practised for a variety of other personal reasons: its hard and soft martial art technique, demonstration competitions, and longevity. As a result, a multitude of training forms exist, both traditional and modern, which correspond to those aims. Some of t'ai chi ch'uan's training forms are especially known for being practised with relatively slow movement.

Today, t'ai chi ch'uan has spread worldwide. Most modern styles of t'ai chi ch'uan trace their development to at least one of the five traditional schools: Chen, Yang, Wu (Hao), Wu, and Sun.

Medical research has found evidence that t'ai chi is helpful for improving balance and for general psychological health, and that it is associated with general health benefits in older people.2

Overview

The term "t'ai chi ch'uan" translates as "supreme ultimate fist", "boundless fist", "supreme ultimate boxing" or "great extremes boxing". The chi in this instance is the Wade–Giles transliteration of the Pinyin , and is distinct from (ch'i, "life energy"). The concept of the taiji ("supreme ultimate"), in contrast with wuji ("without ultimate"), appears in both Taoist and Confucian Chinese philosophy, where it represents the fusion or mother3 of Yin and Yang into a single ultimate, represented by the taijitu symbol Taijitu - Small (CW).svg. T'ai chi ch'uan theory and practice evolved in agreement with many Chinese philosophical principles, including those of Taoism and Confucianism.

T'ai chi ch'uan training involves five elements, taolu (solo hand and weapons routines/forms), neigong & qigong (breathing, movement and awareness exercises and meditation), tuishou (response drills) and sanshou (self defence techniques). While t'ai chi ch'uan is typified by some for its slow movements, many t'ai chi styles (including the three most popular – Yang, Wu, and Chen) – have secondary forms with faster pace. Some traditional schools of t'ai chi teach partner exercises known as tuishou ("pushing hands"), and martial applications of the taolu's (forms') postures.

In China, t'ai chi ch'uan is categorized under the Wudang grouping of Chinese martial arts4 – that is, the arts applied with internal power.5 Although the Wudang name falsely suggests these arts originated at the so-called Wudang Mountain, it is simply used to distinguish the skills, theories and applications of neijia ("internal arts") from those of the Shaolin grouping, waijia ("hard" or "external") martial art styles.6

Since the first widespread promotion of t'ai chi ch'uan's health benefits by Yang Shaohou, Yang Chengfu, Wu Chien-ch'uan, and Sun Lutang in the early 20th century,7 it has developed a worldwide following among people with little or no interest in martial training, for its benefit to health and health maintenance.8 Medical studies of t'ai chi support its effectiveness as an alternative exercise and a form of martial arts therapy.

It is purported that focusing the mind solely on the movements of the form helps to bring about a state of mental calm and clarity. Besides general health benefits and stress management attributed to t'ai chi ch'uan training, aspects of traditional Chinese medicine are taught to advanced t'ai chi ch'uan students in some traditional schools.9

Some other forms of martial arts require students to wear a uniform during practice. In general, t'ai chi ch'uan schools do not require a uniform, but both traditional and modern teachers often advocate loose, comfortable clothing and flat-soled shoes.1011

The physical techniques of t'ai chi ch'uan are described in the "T'ai chi classics", a set of writings by traditional masters, as being characterized by the use of leverage through the joints based on coordination and relaxation, rather than muscular tension, in order to neutralize, yield, or initiate attacks. The slow, repetitive work involved in the process of learning how that leverage is generated gently and measurably increases, opens the internal circulation (breath, body heat, blood, lymph, peristalsis, etc.).

The study of t'ai chi ch'uan primarily involves three aspects:

  • Health: An unhealthy or otherwise uncomfortable person may find it difficult to meditate to a state of calmness or to use t'ai chi ch'uan as a martial art. T'ai chi ch'uan's health training, therefore, concentrates on relieving the physical effects of stress on the body and mind. For those focused on t'ai chi ch'uan's martial application, good physical fitness is an important step towards effective self-defense.
  • Meditation: The focus and calmness cultivated by the meditative aspect of t'ai chi ch'uan is seen as necessary in maintaining optimum health (in the sense of relieving stress and maintaining homeostasis) and in application of the form as a soft style martial art.
  • Martial art: The ability to use t'ai chi ch'uan as a form of self-defense in combat is the test of a student's understanding of the art. T'ai chi ch'uan is the study of appropriate change in response to outside forces, the study of yielding and "sticking" to an incoming attack rather than attempting to meet it with opposing force.12 The use of t'ai chi ch'uan as a martial art is quite challenging and requires a great deal of training.13

Name

T'ai chi ch'uan / Taijiquan is formed by the combination of three Chinese characters (hanzi):

Hanzi Wade–Giles Pinyin Meaning
太極 t'ai chi tài jí the source, the beginning
ch'uan quán fist, boxing

Despite having a single Chinese spelling, 太極拳, there are two different spellings in the English usage, one derived from the Wade–Giles and the other from the Pinyin transliteration, with the West mostly being familiar with the Wade–Giles, t'ai chi ch'uan. This name is often shortened by Westerners to "t'ai chi" (or "tai chi," a common misspelling). This shortened name is the same as that of t'ai chi philosophy, sometimes resulting in confusion between the two. The chi in the martial art's name can also be mistaken for ch'i (氣), especially as ch'i is involved in the practice of t'ai chi ch'uan. The 'up-to-date' Pinyin transliteration, tàijíquán, is not subject to such misinterpretation, as the spelling of the hanzi 極, is quite distinct from that of 氣, qi. "T'ai chi ch'uan" (including "t'ai chi" and their misspellings) remains the popular spelling used by the general public today. Many professional practitioners, masters and martial arts bodies (such as the IWUF14) write it as taijiquan.

Historic origin

When tracing t'ai chi ch'uan's formative influences to Taoist and Buddhist monasteries, there seems little more to go on than legendary tales from a modern historical perspective, but t'ai chi ch'uan's practical connection to and dependence upon the theories of Sung dynasty Neo-Confucianism (a conscious synthesis of Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian traditions, especially the teachings of Mencius) is claimed by some traditional schools.6 T'ai chi ch'uan's theories and practice are believed by these schools to have been formulated by the Taoist monk Zhang Sanfeng in the 12th century, at about the same time that the principles of the Neo-Confucian school were making themselves felt in Chinese intellectual life.6 However, modern research casts serious doubts on the validity of those claims, pointing out that a 17th-century piece called "Epitaph for Wang Zhengnan" (1669), composed by Huang Zongxi (1610–1695 A.D.), is the earliest reference indicating any connection between Zhang Sanfeng and martial arts whatsoever, and must not be taken literally but must be understood as a political metaphor instead. Claims of connections between t'ai chi ch'uan and Zhang Sanfeng appeared no earlier than the 19th century.15

History records that Yang Luchan trained with the Chen family for 18 years before he started to teach the art in Beijing, which strongly suggests that his art was based on, or heavily influenced by, the Chen family art. The Chen family are able to trace the development of their art back to Chen Wangting in the 17th century.

What is now known as "t'ai chi ch'uan" only appears to have received this appellation from around the mid-1800s.15 There was a scholar in the Imperial Court by the name of Ong Tong He, who witnessed a demonstration by Yang Luchan at a time before Yang had established his reputation as a teacher. Afterwards Ong wrote: "Hands holding Taiji shakes the whole world, a chest containing ultimate skill defeats a gathering of heroes." Before this time the art may have had a number of different names, and appears to have been generically described by outsiders as zhan quan (沾拳, "touch boxing"), mian quan (绵拳, "soft boxing") or shisan shi (十三式, "the thirteen techniques").

Relation to taiji philosophy

In modern usage, the term 太極,t'ai chi / taiji (unless further qualified as in "taiji philosophy" or "taiji diagram") is now commonly understood, both in the West and in mainland China, to refer to the martial art and exercise system. However, the term has its origins in Chinese philosophy. The word taiji translates to "great pole/goal" or "supreme ultimate", and is believed to be a pivotal, spiraling, or coiling force that transforms the neutrality of wuji to a state of polarity depicted by the taijitu.16 T'ai chi / taiji is thus symbolically represented by a state between wuji and the polar "yin and yang", not by the actual yin and yang symbol, as is frequently misinterpreted.1 The combination of the term taiji and quan ("fist"), produces the martial art's name taijiquan or "taiji fist", showing the close link and use of the taiji concept in the martial art. Taijiquan does not directly refer to the use of qi as is commonly assumed.17 The practice of taijiquan is meant to be in harmony with taiji philosophy,18 utilising and manipulating qi via taiji, to produce great effect with minimal effort.

The appropriateness of this more recent appellation is seen in the oldest literature preserved by these schools where the art is said to be a study of yin (receptive) and yang (active) principles, using terminology found in the Chinese classics, especially the I Ching and the Tao Te Ching.6

History and styles

There are five major styles of t'ai chi ch'uan, each named after the Chinese family from which it originated:

The order of verifiable age is as listed above. The order of popularity (in terms of number of practitioners) is Yang, Wu, Chen, Sun, and Wu/Hao.6 The major family styles share much underlying theory, but differ in their approaches to training.

There are now dozens of new styles, hybrid styles, and offshoots of the main styles, but the five family schools are the groups recognized by the international community as being the orthodox styles. Other important styles are Zhaobao t'ai chi ch'uan, a close cousin of Chen-style, which has been newly recognized by Western practitioners as a distinct style, and the Fu style, created by Fu Chen Sung, which evolved from Chen, Sun and Yang styles, and also incorporates movements from Baguazhang (Pa Kua Chang)citation needed.

The differences between the different styles range from varying speeds to the very way in which the movements are performed. For example, the form "Parting the wild horse's mane" in Yang-style does not at all resemble the very same movement in Sun-style. Also, the Sun 73 forms take as long to perform as the Yang 24 formscitation needed.

Wu-style master Eddie Wu demonstrating the form "Grasp the bird's tail" at a tournament in Toronto, Canada

All existing styles can be traced back to the Chen-style, which had been passed down as a family secret for generations. The Chen family chronicles record Chen Wangting, of the family's 9th generation, as the inventor of what is known today as t'ai chi ch'uan. Yang Luchan became the first person outside the family to learn t'ai chi ch'uan. His success in fighting earned him the nickname Yang Wudi, which means "Unbeatable Yang", and his fame and efforts in teaching greatly contributed to the subsequent spreading of t'ai chi ch'uan knowledge.


T'ai chi ch'uan in the USA

Choy Hok Pang, a disciple of Yang Chengfu, was the first known proponent of t'ai chi ch'uan to openly teach in the United States in 1939. Subsequently, his son and student Choy Kam Man emigrated to San Francisco from Hong Kong in 1949 to teach t'ai chi ch'uan in San Francisco's Chinatown. Choy Kam Man taught until he died in 1994.1920

Another early proponent of t'ai chi ch'uan to openly teach in the United States was Zheng Manqing who opened his school Shr Jung T'ai Chi after he moved to New York in year 1964. His 37-movement t'ai chi ch'uan form became very popular and was the dominant form in the New York-Philadelphia-Washington DC corridor until other teachers started to emigrate to the United States in larger numbers in the 90's. He taught until his death in 1975.

T'ai chi ch'uan lineage tree

Note:

  • This lineage tree is not comprehensive, but depicts those considered the 'gate-keepers' & most recognised individuals in each generation of the respective styles.
  • Although many styles were passed down to respective descendants of the same family, the lineage focused on is that of the martial art & its main styles, not necessarily that of the families.
  • Each (coloured) style depicted below, has a lineage tree on its respective article page that is focused on that specific style, showing a greater insight into the highly significant individuals in its lineage.
  • Names denoted by an asterisk are legendary or semi-legendary figures in the lineage; while their involvement in the lineage is accepted by most of the major schools, it is not independently verifiable from known historical records.


Key:
Solid lines Direct teacher-student.
(张三丰)
Zhang Sanfeng*
c. 12th century
NEIJIA
Dash lines Individual(s) omitted.
Various Daoists
Legendary figures
Dot lines Partial influence
/taught informally
/limited time.
(王宗岳)
Wang Zongyue*
TAIJIQUAN
Dash cross Branch continues.
(陈王庭)
Chen Wangting
1580–1660
CHEN-STYLE
(蒋法)
Jiang Fa
Zhaobao-style
(陈汝信)
Chen Ruxin
2nd gen. Chen
(陈所乐)
Chen Suole
2nd gen. Chen
(邢喜怀)
Xing Xihuai
2nd gen. Zhaobao
(陈大鹍)
Chen Dakun
3rd gen. Chen
(陈大鹏)
Chen Dapeng
3rd gen. Chen
(陈光印)
Chen Guangyin
3rd gen. Chen
(陈申如)
Chen Shenru
3rd gen. Chen
(陈恂如)
Chen Xunru
3rd gen. Chen
(陈正如)
Chen Zhengru
3rd gen. Chen
(张楚臣)
Zhang Chuchen
3rd gen. Zhaobao
(陈善通)
Chen Shantong
4th gen. Chen
(陈善志)
Chen Shanzhi
4th gen. Chen
(陈继夏)
Chen Jixia
4th gen. Chen
(陈节)
Chen Jie
4th gen. Chen
(陈敬伯)
Chen Jingbo
4th gen. Chen
4th gen. Zhaobao
(陈秉奇)
Chen Bingqi
5th gen. Chen
(陈秉壬)
Chen Bingren
5th gen. Chen
(陈秉旺)
Chen Bingwang
1748–?
5th gen. Chen
(陈公兆)
Chen Gongzhao
1715– after1795
5th gen. Chen
(张宗禹)
Zhang Zongyu
5th gen. Zhaobao
(陈长兴)
Chen Changxing
1771–1853
6th gen. Chen
Chen Old Frame
(陈有本)
Chen Youben
c. 19th century
6th gen. Chen
Chen Small Frame
(张彦)
Zhang Yan
6th gen. Zhaobao
(陈耕耘)
Chen Gengyun
7th gen. Chen
(杨露禅)
Yang Luchan
1799–1872
YANG-STYLE
Guang Ping Yang
Yangjia Michuan
(陈清萍)
Chen Qingping
1795–1868
7th gen. Chen
7th gen. Zhaobao
(陈延熙)
Chen Yanxi
8th gen. Chen
(王兰亭)
Wang Lanting
1840–?
2nd gen. Yang
(杨健侯)
Yang Jianhou
1839–1917
2nd gen. Yang
2nd gen. Yangjia Michuan
(杨班侯)
Yang Banhou
1837–1892
2nd gen. Yang
2nd gen.
Guang Ping Yang
Yang Small Frame
(武禹襄)
Wu Yuxiang
1812–1880
WU (HAO)-STYLE
(他招远)
He Zhaoyuan
1810–1890
8th gen. Zhaobao
Zhaobao He-style
(陈发科)
Chen Fake
1887–1957
9th gen. Chen
Chen New Frame
(李瑞东)
Li Ruidong
1851–1917
Li-style
(杨澄甫)
Yang Chengfu
1883–1936
3rd gen. Yang
Yang Big Frame
(杨少侯)
Yang Shaohou
1862–1930
3rd gen. Yang
Yang Small Frame
(吴全佑)
Wu Quanyou
1834–1902
1st gen. Wu
(王矯宇)
Wang Jiaoyu
1836–1939
3rd gen.
Guang Ping Yang
(李亦畬)
Li Yiyu
1832–1892
2nd gen. Wu (Hao)
(和庆喜)
He Qingxi
1857–1936
9th gen. Zhaobao
(陈照丕)
Chen Zhaopi
1893–1972
10th gen. Chen
focused on
Chen Old Frame
(陈照奎)
Chen Zhaokui
1928–1981
10th gen. Chen
focused on
Chen New Frame
(張欽霖)
Zhang Qinlin
1888–1967
3rd gen. Yangjia Michuan
(杨振铎)
Yang Zhenduo
b. 1926
4th gen. Yang
(傅仲文)
Fu Zhongwen
1903–1994
4th gen. Yang
Beijing (24) form
(郑曼青)
Zheng Manqing
1902–1975
4th gen. Yang
Short (37) Form
(吴鉴泉)
Wu Jianquan
1870–1942
2nd gen. Wu
WU-STYLE
108 Form
Kuo Lien Ying
1895–1984
4th gen.
Guang Ping Yang
(郝為真)
Hao Weizhen
1849–1920
3rd gen. Wu (Hao)
(郑悟清)
Zheng Wuqing
1895–1984
10th gen. Zhaobao
(吴公儀)
Wu Gongyi
1900–1970
3rd gen. Wu
(孙禄堂)
Sun Lutang
1861–1932
SUN-STYLE
(郝月如)
Hao Yueru
1877–1935
4th gen. Wu (Hao)
(王延年)
Wang Yannian
1914–2008
5th gen. Yang
4th gen. Yangjia Michuan
(鄭天熊)
Zheng Tianxiong
1930–2005
Wudang-style
(吴雁霞)
Wu Yanxia
1930–2001
4th gen. Wu
(孙剑云)
Sun Jianyun
1913–2003
2nd gen. Sun
(郝少如)
Hao Shaoru
1908–1983
5th gen. Wu (Hao)
(陈小旺)
Chen Xiaowang
b. 1945
11th gen. Chen
(陈小星)
Chen Xiaoxing
b. 1952
11th gen. Chen
(杨军)
Yang Jun
b. 1968
5th gen. Yang
(吴光宇)
Wu Guangyu
b. 1946
5th gen. Wu
(孙永田)
Sun Yongtian
b. ?
3rd gen. Sun
(刘积顺)
Liu Jishun
b. 1930
6th gen. Wu (Hao)
CHEN-STYLE
YANG-STYLE
WU-STYLE
SUN-STYLE
WU (HAO)-STYLE

Modern forms

The Cheng Man-ch'ing (Zheng Manqing) and Chinese Sports Commission short forms are derived from Yang family forms, but neither is recognized as Yang family t'ai chi ch'uan by standard-bearing Yang family teachers. The Chen, Yang, and Wu families are now promoting their own shortened demonstration forms for competitive purposes.


 
 
 
 
(杨澄甫)
Yang Chengfu
1883–1936
3rd gen. Yang
Yang Big Frame
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
(郑曼青)
Zheng Manqing
1902–1975
4th gen. Yang
Short (37) Form
 
Chinese Sports Commission
1956
Beijing (24) Form
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1989
42 Competition Form
(Wushu competition form
combined from
Chen, Yang, Wu & Sun styles)

T'ai chi ch'uan today

Outdoor practice in Beijing's Temple of Heaven.

In the last twenty years or so, t'ai chi ch'uan classes that purely emphasise health have become popular in hospitals, clinics, as well as community and senior centres. This has occurred as the baby boomers generation has aged and the art's reputation as a low-stress training method for seniors has become better known.2122

As a result of this popularity, there has been some divergence between those that say they practice t'ai chi ch'uan primarily for self-defence, those that practice it for its aesthetic appeal (see wushu below), and those that are more interested in its benefits to physical and mental health. The wushu aspect is primarily for show; the forms taught for those purposes are designed to earn points in competition and are mostly unconcerned with either health maintenance or martial ability. More traditional stylists believe the two aspects of health and martial arts are equally necessary: the yin and yang of t'ai chi ch'uan. The t'ai chi ch'uan "family" schools, therefore, still present their teachings in a martial art context, whatever the intention of their students in studying the art.23

T'ai chi ch'uan as sport

In order to standardize t'ai chi ch'uan for wushu tournament judging, and because many t'ai chi ch'uan teachers have either moved out of China or had been forced to stop teaching after the Communist regime was established in 1949, the government sponsored the Chinese Sports Committee, who brought together four of their wushu teachers to truncate the Yang family hand form to 24 postures in 1956. They wanted to retain the look of t'ai chi ch'uan, but create a routine that would be less difficult to teach and much less difficult to learn than longer (in general, 88 to 108 posture), classical, solo hand forms. In 1976, they developed a slightly longer form also for the purposes of demonstration that still would not involve the complete memory, balance, and coordination requirements of the traditional forms. This became the Combined 48 Forms that were created by three wushu coaches, headed by Men Hui Feng. The combined forms were created based on simplifying and combining some features of the classical forms from four of the original styles: Chen, Yang, Wu, and Sun. As t'ai chi ch'uan again became popular on the mainland, more competitive forms were developed to be completed within a six-minute time limit. In the late-1980s, the Chinese Sports Committee standardized many different competition forms. They developed sets to represent the four major styles as well as combined forms. These five sets of forms were created by different teams, and later approved by a committee of wushu coaches in China. All sets of forms thus created were named after their style, e.g., the "Chen-style national competition form" is the 56 Forms, and so on. The combined forms are The 42-Form or simply the Competition Form. Another modern form is the "97 movements combined t'ai chi ch'uan form", created in the 1950s; it contains characteristics of the Yang, Wu, Sun, Chen, and Fu styles blended into a combined form. The wushu coach Bow Sim Mark is a notable exponent of the "67 combined form".

These modern versions of t'ai chi ch'uan (often listed as the pinyin romanization "taijiquan" among practitioners, teachers and masters) have since become an integral part of international wushu tournament competition, and have been featured in popular movies, starring or choreographed by well-known wushu competitors, such as Jet Li and Donnie Yen.

In the 11th Asian Games of 1990, wushu was included as an item for competition for the first time with the 42-Form being chosen to represent t'ai chi ch'uan. The International Wushu Federation (IWUF) applied for wushu to be part of the Olympic games, but will not count medals.24

Practitioners also test their practical martial skills against students from other schools and martial arts styles in tuishou ("pushing hands") and sanshou competition.

Philosophy

The philosophy of t'ai chi ch'uan is that, if one uses hardness to resist violent force, then both sides are certainly to be injured at least to some degree. Such injury, according to t'ai chi ch'uan theory, is a natural consequence of meeting brute force with brute force. Instead, students are taught not to directly fight or resist an incoming force, but to meet it in softness and follow its motion while remaining in physical contact until the incoming force of attack exhausts itself or can be safely redirected, meeting yang with yin. When done correctly, this yin/yang or yang/yin balance in combat, or in a broader philosophical sense, is a primary goal of t'ai chi ch'uan training. Lao Tzu provided the archetype for this in the Tao Te Ching when he wrote, "The soft and the pliable will defeat the hard and strong."

Traditional schools also emphasize that one is expected to show wude ("martial virtue/heroism"), to protect the defenseless, and show mercy to one's opponents.7

Training and techniques

The core training involves two primary features: the first being taolu (solo "forms"), a slow sequence of movements which emphasize a straight spine, abdominal breathing and a natural range of motion; the second being different styles of tuishou ("pushing hands") for training movement principles of the form with a partner and in a more practical manner.

Solo (taolu, neigong and qigong)

Further information: List of t'ai chi ch'uan forms
Painting in Chenjiagou, illustrating taolu according to the Chen style of taijiquan.

The taolu (solo "forms") should take the students through a complete, natural range of motion over their centre of gravity. Accurate, repeated practice of the solo routine is said to retrain posture, encourage circulation throughout the students' bodies, maintain flexibility through their joints, and further familiarize students with the martial application sequences implied by the various forms. The major traditional styles of t'ai chi have forms that differ somewhat in terms of aesthetics, but there are also many obvious similarities that point to their common origin. The solo forms – empty-hand and weapon – are catalogues of movements that are practised individually in pushing hands and martial application scenarios to prepare students for self-defence training. In most traditional schools, different variations of the solo forms can be practised: fast/slow, small-circle / large-circle, square/round (which are different expressions of leverage through the joints), low-sitting / high-sitting (the degree to which weight-bearing knees are kept bent throughout the form), for example.

Breathing exercises; neigong ("internal skill") or, more commonly, qigong ("life energy cultivation") are practiced to develop qi ("life energy") in coordination with physical movement and zhan zhuang ("standing like a post") or combinations of the two. These were formerly taught only to disciples as a separate, complementary training system. In the last 60 years they have become better known to the general public.

Qigong versus t'ai chi ch'uan

Main article: Qigong

Qigong involves coordinated movement, breath, and awareness used for health, meditation, and martial arts training. While many scholars and practitioners consider t'ai chi ch'uan to be a type of qigong,2526 the two are commonly distinguished as separate but closely related practices, with qigong playing an important role in training for t'ai chi ch'uan, and with many ta'i chi ch'uan movements performed as part of qigong practice. The focus of qigong is typically more on health or meditation than martial applications.

Partnered (tuishou and sanshou)

Two students receive instruction in tuishou ("pushing hands"), one of the core training exercises of t'ai chi ch'uan.

T'ai chi ch'uan's martial aspect relies on sensitivity to the opponent's movements and centre of gravity dictating appropriate responses. Effectively affecting or "capturing" the opponent's centre of gravity immediately upon contact, is trained as the primary goal of the martial t'ai chi ch'uan student.9 The sensitivity needed to capture the centre is acquired over thousands of hours of first yin (slow, repetitive, meditative, low-impact) and then later adding yang ("realistic," active, fast, high-impact) martial training through taolu ("forms"), tuishou ("pushing hands"), and sanshou ("sparring"). T'ai chi ch'uan trains in three basic ranges: close, medium and long, and then everything in between. Pushes and open-hand strikes are more common than punches, and kicks are usually to the legs and lower torso, never higher than the hip, depending on style. The fingers, fists, palms, sides of the hands, wrists, forearms, elbows, shoulders, back, hips, knees, and feet are commonly used to strike, with strikes to the eyes, throat, heart, groin, and other acupressure points trained by advanced students. Chin na, which are joint traps, locks, and breaks are also used. Most t'ai chi ch'uan teachers expect their students to thoroughly learn defensive or neutralizing skills first, and a student will have to demonstrate proficiency with them before offensive skills will be extensively trained.

In addition to the physical form, martial t'ai chi ch'uan schools also focus on how the energy of a strike affects the other person. A palm strike that looks to have the same movement may be performed in such a way that it has a completely different effect on the target's body. A palm strike that could simply push the opponent backward, could instead be focused in such a way as to lift the opponent vertically off the ground, breaking his/her centre of gravity; or that it could terminate the force of the strike within the other person's body with the intent of causing internal damage.

Most aspects of a trainee's t'ai chi ch'uan development are meant to be covered within the partnered practice of tuishou, and so, sanshou ("sparring") is not as commonly used as a method of training, but more advanced students sometimes do practice by sanshou. Sanshou is more common to tournaments such as wushu tournaments.

Weapons

Taijijian

A pair of jian with their scabbards.
Wushu jian pair event at the 10th All China games.

Variations of t'ai chi ch'uan involving weapons also exist such as taijijian. The weapons training and fencing applications employ:

  • the jian, a straight double-edged sword, practiced as taijijian;
  • the dao, a heavier curved saber, sometimes called a broadsword;
  • the tieshan, a folding fan, also called shan and practiced as taijishan;
  • the gun, a 2m long wooden staff and practiced as taijigun;
  • the qiang, a 2m long spear or a 4m long lance.
A matched set of two feng huo lun.

More exotic weapons still used by some traditional styles include:

Health

A Chinese woman performs
Yang-style t'ai chi ch'uan

T'ai chi ch'uan has been reported as being useful in treating a number of ailments, and is supported by a number of associations, including the National Parkinson Foundation and Diabetes Australia. However, medical evidence of effectiveness was lacking and in recent years research has been undertaken to address this.2

A comprehensive overview of all the existing systematic reviews of t'ai chi ch'uan's health effects, found that as of 2011, "the evidence is conclusively or tentatively positive for fall prevention, general healthcare in older people, improving balance and enhancing psychological health"; the overview's authors thus recommended t'ai chi ch'uan to older people for its various physical and psychological benefits. There was no conclusive evidence of benefit for any of the other conditions researched, including Parkinson's disease, diabetes, cancer and arthritis.2

Historic and legendary confrontations

Yang Chengfu utilizing one of the many possible applications of the Single Whip technique.
  • During the Qing dynasty, a man named Wang Yuanwai living in Beipinggao village (about 10 km East of Chenjiagou), was threatened with death by a gang of highwaymen with bladed weapons, unless he surrendered his valuables. He sent for assistance from Chen Suole (see lineage tree above), who was away according to his sons Chen Shenru and Chen Xunru, who, despite being only around fifteen and sixteen years old, volunteered their own help instead. They convinced the messenger to tell Wang Yuanwai to give the bandits liquor, discussed a plan and that night, travelled to the Wang residence in Beipinggao, where they jumped over the fence of the rear garden and there found Wang Yuanwai. He told them that the highwaymen, numbering around twenty, were drunken in his guest hall. While peeping in, Shenru pushed Xunru into the hall and extinguished several candles by throwing a bunch of peas at them. Xunru leapt onto beam and taunted, the panicked bandits who had seemingly started fighting each other, saying, "So you still will not hand over your weapons and surrender? Gods number one and two are here." Some tried to escape the frenzy, but were attacked by Shenru, who was still at the door.27
  • In the 1940s, a man known as "Big Spear Liu" came to Shanghai's "big world," the city's major performance and entertainment centre. Liu asked the doorkeeper, “Are there any good hands around here?” In other words, he was seeking someone considered highly skilled in martial art in order to make a challenge. The doorkeeper told "Big Spear Liu" of Tian Zhaolin (student of Yang Jianhou). With that Liu set off to find him. He found Tian Zhaolin and immediately demanded to spar by each striking the other three times, to which Tian Zhaolin responded that it may not be necessary. He said, “Just let me touch you. If you can tolerate my touch, you win." Liu, sensing a fool and an effortless victory, immediately agreed. The two men approached and Tian Zhaolin reached out his hand to touch Liu's chest. Within a few moments, Liu's facial muscles started to contort. Soon he grimaced and his face showed signs of intense pain. Spear Liu pulled away and, after recovering, commented, "I have travelled throughout five provinces and various cities but until today I have never seen such a profound skill." Energy, including that of taijiquan, may be thought of as transmission by wave. Earlier generation adepts in taijiquan had an expression – "'hitting the cow on this side of the Mountain." This phrase referred to hitting an opponent's front side with the pain and effect being felt on the back side. In years past, people who sparred with Yang Shaohou often described him as also having an energy like electricity. That is, it caused very painful sensations in the muscle and even on the skin surface. Tian Zhaolin, coming from that background, also knew this method.28
  • In 1945, Hu Yuen Chou, a student of Yang Chengfu, defeated a Russian boxer by TKO in a full-contact match in Fut San, China.
  • At the age of 60, Huang Sheng Shyan demonstrated his abilities in taijiquan by defeating Liao Kuang-Cheng, the Asian champion wrestler, 26 throws to 0 in a fund raising event in Kuching, Malaysia.29

Attire and ranking

Master Yang Jun in demonstration attire that's come to be identified with taijiquan

In practice traditionally there is no specific uniform required in the practice of t'ai chi ch'uan. Modern day practitioners usually wear comfortable, loose t-shirts and trousers made from breathable natural fabrics, that allow for free movement during practice. Despite this, t'ai chi ch'uan has become synonymous with "t'ai chi uniforms" or "kung fu uniforms" that usually consist of loose-fitting traditional Chinese styled trousers and a long or short-sleeved shirt, with a Mandarin collar and buttoned with Chinese frog buttons. The long-sleeved variants are referred to as Northern-style uniforms, whilst the short-sleeved, Southern-style uniforms. The colour of this clothing is usually, all white, all black, black & white, or any other colour, mostly being either all a single solid colour or a combination of 2 colours: one colour being the actual clothing and the binding being a contrasting colour. They are normally made from natural fabrics such as cotton or silk. These uniforms are not a requirement, but rather are usually worn by masters & professional practitioners during demonstrations, tournaments and other public exhibitions.

There is no standardized t'ai chi ch'uan ranking system, and not all schools use belt rankings. Some schools may present students with belts depicting rank, similar to dans in Japanese martial arts. A simple uniform element of respect and allegiance to one's teacher and their methods and community, belts also mark hierarchy, skill, and accomplishment of practice in one school's style and system. During wushu tournaments, masters and grandmasters often wear "kung fu uniforms" which tend to have no belts. Wearing a belt signifying rank in such a situation would be unusual.

In popular culture

T'ai chi ch'uan plays an important role in many martial arts and fighting action movies, series, novels, especially in those ones which belong to the wuxia genre, as well as in video games, trading cards games, etc. Fictional portrayals often refer to Zhang San Feng, who is reported to be the first one harnessing and operationalising the benefits of the 'internal' and the 'soft', and to the Taoist monasteries of Wudang Mountains, where he lived.

Movies

  • As early as 1972 in Lady Whirlwind (aka Deep Thrust) starring Sammo Hung, one of the protagonists (Chang Yi in a rare good guy role) is initially severely beaten by Japanese Yakuza gangsters and left for dead, but afterwards he is taught t'ai chi ch'uan by an old man and it is this martial arts edge that enables him to take his revenge against the leader of the gang.
  • In 1984, in Drunken Tai Chi, the protagonist (Donnie Yen in his first major role) befriends a puppeteer and is taught t'ai chi ch'uan by him and he combines it with his previous hard style, thus being able now to defeat a contract killer who was hired and sent against him and who used only a hard style. The title's 'drunken' refers to the wine-loving protagonist and not to any variant of t'ai chi ch'uan.
  • Ang Lee's first Western movie in 1992, Pushing Hands, features as its leading character a traditional Chinese t'ai chi ch'uan master moving to New York and having to get used to a different way of life and to a different group of there. A critical eye is laid upon whether t'ai chi ch'uan and martial arts in general can benefit or even fit someone in modern society, but the leading character seems to be safeguarding the need for this physical and cultural capital.
  • In 1993, in a reproduction of a series mentioned below, the Kung Fu Cult Master (aka Kung Fu Master, The Evil Cult and The Lord of Wu Tang) starring Jet Li, Sammo Hung and Sharla Cheung, Jet Li with the help of Sammo Hung resembling Zhang San Feng in appearance realises and accepts the benefits of the 'internal' and the 'soft' and their complementarity if not their superiority to the 'external' and the 'hard' and manages to deal with opponents of various other martial arts.
  • Also in 1993, The Tai Chi Master (aka Twin Warriors) starring Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh, Jet Li leaves behind the hard aspects of the Shaolin practises to which he was used when he was learning martial arts in the Shaolin Monastery and develops and even mentions explicitly the name of his new martial art, t'ai chi ch'uan, thus fighting and defeating his old friend from the Shaolin Monastery but current evil military general.
  • In 1994, Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie showed Chun-Li's t'ai chi ch'uan in a much more obvious manner than seen in the video game mentioned below. In another reproduction in 2009, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, the protagonist (Kristin Kreuk), is shown to practice barehand and sword t'ai chi ch'uan forms with her father (Edmund Chen) in their garden and to be using it extensively in her fights throughout the movie.
  • The 1995 Ng See-yuen-produced camp classic Superfights prominently features t'ai chi ch'uan as a martial discipline. In the film, the main character is approached by a traditionalist tai chi master who teaches him to use his internal energy overcome a need for steroids when competing in the eponymous professional fighting league.
  • In the semi-documentary film in 1996 The Tai Chi Boxer, Wu Jing enacts Yang Luchan showing how he managed to become the founder of the Yang-style t'ai chi ch'uan, although in this film Wu Jing's t'ai chi ch'uan style actually seems to be Chen rather than Yang.
  • In Ang Lee's 2000 film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, starring Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi, various aspects of the fighting style and philosophy of t'ai chi ch'uan and of neijia in general are also dispersed although not explicitly acknowledged and the same is done in Zhang Yimou's 2004 romantic-wuxia film House of Flying Daggers.
  • Shaolin Soccer (2001) and Kung Fu Hustle (2004), show exaggerated portrayals of various internal and soft martial arts including t'ai chi ch'uan.
  • In 2007, in Fatal Contact starring Wu Jing again, his best friend and co-fighter (Ronald Cheng) is a t'ai chi ch'uan master and Wu Jing realises and mentions it when he sees him fighting against many members of a gang in the underground. Jet Li is currently preparing his next film, again titled Tai Chi Master and again intended to provide a semi-documentary account of Yang Luchan, the founded of Yang-style t'ai chi ch'uan.
  • In the opening scenes of the 2008 blockbuster Ip Man (martial arts choreographed by Sammo Hung and starred by Donnie Yen as Ip Man), a young guy credited to t'ai chi ch'uan's '4 taels to move 1000 catties', the victory of Ip Man against a martial arts school owner who came to challenge him and lost easily, a match that he had the privilege to watch secretly while picking up his kite from Ip Man's garden, although his friends insist that this cannot have been the case in so far as Ip Man was known for using Wing Chun and not t'ai chi ch'uan.
  • September 2012 saw the release of Tai Chi 0 (aka Tai Chi Zero) in 3D, a fictionalised portrayal of Yang Luchan learning t'ai chi ch'uan in the Chen village, which although true, in reality was not for the purpose of him saving the village from a railroad or otherwise.
  • Released the following month, in October 2012, Tai Chi Zero's sequel, Tai Chi Hero which was shot back-to-back with Tai Chi Zero, concluded this story.
  • A 2013 Chinese-American martial arts film called Man of Tai Chi directed by and starring Keanu Reeves and Tiger Chen was released. The film whose story is in part inspired by the life story of Keanu Reeves' friend and stunt man, Tiger Chen, has been praised by acclaimed action film director, John Woo.

Series

Games

  • In the Street Fighter martial arts video game series, Chun-Li uses a variant of t'ai chi ch'uan.
  • Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance introduced Kenshi, a blind warrior who uses t'ai chi ch'uan as his primary fighting style. Kenshi is also seen practising t'ai chi ch'uan forms in the ending credits after the single player arcade mode is completed. Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance also introduced Li Mei, who in her bio-card has her hands in a posture representing the symbol Taijitu and who uses a variant of t'ai chi ch'uan as well.
  • A closer variant of t'ai chi ch'uan is used by the Tekken character Ling Xiaoyu, introduced in Tekken 3 and Tekken Tag Tournament.
  • In Dead or Alive, Leifang uses t'ai chi ch'uan and this is also mentioned in her bio-card. Before fighting some of her opponents, Leifang gets ready by doing some t'ai chi ch'uan moves such as the 'immortal pounds mortar' move, so one could say that she uses Chen-style t'ai chi ch'uan in particular.
  • The Playstation 2 game Kinetic: The Personal Fitness Trainer includes a t'ai chi based mini game and workout. The Playstation Eye Toy is used for feedback and interaction with a virtual environment.

Books

  • T'ai chi ch'uan plays a role in Jeff Stone's book series The Five Ancestors as a work-out of many people, especially of elderly ones, due to the slow pace of doing its form in order to learn it.
  • Tres Navarre, the detective in the popular mystery novels by Rick Riordan, is a t'ai chi ch'uan master too.

Further reading

Books

  • Jonathan Bluestein (2014). Research of Martial Arts. Amazon CreateSpace. ISBN 978-1499122510. 
  • Yang, Yang (2008). Taijiquan: The Art of Nurturing, The Science of Power. Zhenwu Publication; 2nd edition. ISBN 978-0-9740990-1-9. 
  • Bruce Frantzis (2007). The Power of Internal Martial Arts and Chi: Combat and Energy Secrets of Ba Gua, Tai Chi and Hsing-I. Blue Snake Books. ISBN 978-1583941904. 
  • Davis, Barbara (2004). Taijiquan Classics: An Annotated Translation. North Atlantic Books. ISBN 978-1-55643-431-0. 
  • Eberhard, Wolfram (1986). A Dictionary of Chinese Symbols: Hidden Symbols in Chinese Life and Thought. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London. ISBN 0-415-00228-1. 
  • Choy, Kam Man (1985-05-05). Tai Chi Chuan. San Francisco, California: Memorial Edition 1994. 
  • Wile, Douglas (1983). Tai Chi Touchstones: Yang Family Secret Transmissions. Sweet Ch'i Press. ISBN 978-0-912059-01-3. 

Magazines

External links

Videos of the major styles
Videos of strength and fighting techniques of t'ai chi ch'uan.

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b Jwing-Ming Yang. Taijiquan Theory Lecture, Tai Chi Chuan (DVD). YMAA. 
  2. ^ a b c Lee, M. S.; Ernst, E. (2011). "Systematic reviews of t'ai chi: An overview". British Journal of Sports Medicine 46 (10): 713–8. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2010.080622. PMID 21586406. 
  3. ^ Cheng Man-ch'ing (1993). Cheng-Tzu's Thirteen Treatises on T'ai Chi Ch'uan. North Atlantic Books. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-938190-45-5. 
  4. ^ Sun Lu Tang (2000). Xing Yi Quan Xue. Unique Publications. p. 3. ISBN 0-86568-185-6. 
  5. ^ Ranne, Nabil. "Internal power in Taijiquan". CTND. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Wile, Douglas (2007). "Taijiquan and Taoism from Religion to Martial Art and Martial Art to Religion". Journal of Asian Martial Arts (Via Media Publishing) 16 (4). ISSN 1057-8358. 
  7. ^ a b Wile, Douglas (1995). Lost T'ai-chi Classics from the Late Ch'ing Dynasty (Chinese Philosophy and Culture). State University of New York Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-2654-8. page needed
  8. ^ Morris, Kelly (1999). "T'ai Chi gently reduces blood pressure in elderly". The Lancet 353 (9156): 904. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(05)75012-1. 
  9. ^ a b Wu, Kung-tsao (2006). Wu Family T'ai Chi Ch'uan (吳家太極拳). Chien-ch’uan T’ai-chi Ch’uan Association. ISBN 0-9780499-0-X. page needed
  10. ^ Lam, Dr. Paul. "What should I wear to practice Tai Chi?". Tai Chi Productions. Retrieved 2008-07-14. dead link
  11. ^ Fu, Zhongwen (2006-06-09). Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan. Louis Swaim. Berkeley, California: Blue Snake Books. ISBN 1-58394-152-5. page neededdead link
  12. ^ Wong Kiew Kit (November 1996). The Complete Book of Tai Chi Chuan: A Comprehensive Guide to the Principles. Element Books Ltd. ISBN 978-1-85230-792-9. 
  13. ^ Jeff Patterson, Understanding Tai Chi Push Hands
  14. ^ International Wushu Federation
  15. ^ a b Henning, Stanley (1994). "Ignorance, Legend and Taijiquan". Journal of the Chen Style Taijiquan Research Association of Hawaii 2 (3). 
  16. ^ "The nature of Taijiquan". taiji-online.co.uk. 2011. Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
  17. ^ Patterson, Jeff. "The Chi in Tai Chi is not Qi". portlandtaichiacademy.com. Portland Tai Chi Academy. Retrieved 11 March 2014. 
  18. ^ Chen Wanting, The Chen family chronicles
  19. ^ Choy, Kam Man (1985-05-05). Tai Chi Chuan. San Francisco, California: Memorial Edition 1994. 
  20. ^ Logan, Logan (1970). Ting: The Caldron, Chinese Art and Identity in San Francisco. San Francisco, California: Glide Urban Center. 
  21. ^ Yip, Y. L. (Autumn 2002). "Pivot – Qi". The Journal of Traditional Eastern Health and Fitness (Insight Graphics Publishers) 12 (3). ISSN 1056-4004. 
  22. ^ "SGMA 2007 Sports & Fitness Participation Report From the USA Sports Participation Study". SGMA. p. 2. Retrieved 2007-08-18. 
  23. ^ Woolidge, Doug (June 1997). "T'AI CHI". The International Magazine of T'ai Chi Ch'uan (Wayfarer Publications) 21 (3). ISSN 0730-1049. 
  24. ^ "Wushu likely to be a "specially-set" sport at Olympics". Chinese Olympic Committee. 2006. Retrieved 2007-04-13. 
  25. ^ Yang, Jwing-Ming (1998). The Essence of Taiji Qigong, Second Edition : The Internal Foundation of Taijiquan (Martial Arts-Qigong). YMAA Publication Center. ISBN 978-1-886969-63-6. 
  26. ^ YeYoung, Bing. "Introduction to Taichi and Qigong". YeYoung Culture Studies: Sacramento, CA (http://sactaichi.com). Retrieved 2012-01-16. 
  27. ^ The Chen family chroniclespage needed
  28. ^ Clark, Leroy; Sun, Key. "Tian Zhaolin: A Legacy of Yang Taiji". Art-of-Energetics.com. Retrieved 2012-09-01. 
  29. ^ "THE TAIJI JOURNEY OF HUANG SHENG-SHYAN". Archived from the original on 2008-06-12. Retrieved 2008-12-03.