16.33) T'AI CHI CH'AUN (Tai Ji Quan)


One of the three orthodox "internal" styles of Chinese martial art (the 
other two being Hsing Yi Ch'uan and Pa Kua Chang). The term "T'ai Chi" 
refers to the ancient Chinese cosmological concept of the interplay 
between two opposite yet complementary forces (Yin and Yang) as being the 
foundation of creation. "Ch'uan" literaly means "fist" and denotes an 
unarmed method of combat. T'ai Chi Ch'uan as a martial art is based on 
the principle of the soft overcoming the hard.

ORIGIN: Chen Jia Gou, Wen County, Henan Province, China.

The origins of T'ai Chi Ch'uan are often attributed to one Chang San Feng 
(a Taoist of either the 12th or 15th century depending on the source) who 
created the art after witnessing a fight between a snake and a crane. 
These stories were popularized in the early part of this century and were 
the result of misinformation and the desire to connect the art with a 
more famous and ancient personage. All of the various styles of T'ai Chi 
Ch'uan which are in existence today can be traced back to a single man, 
Chen Wang Ting, a general of the latter years of the Ming Dynasty. After 
the fall of the Ming and the establishment of the Ching Dynasty (1644), 
Chen Wang Ting returned to the Chen village and created his forms of 
boxing.  Originally containing up to seven forms,only two forms of Chen 
Style T'ai Chi Ch'uan have survived into the present.

The Art was only taught to members of the Chen clan until a promising 
young outsider named Yang Lu Chan was accepted as a student in the early 
part of the 19th century. Yang Lu Chan (nicknamed "Yang without enemy" as 
he was reportedly a peerless fighter) modified the original Chen style 
and created the Yang style of T'ai Chi Ch'uan, the most popular form 
practiced in the world today. Wu Yu Hsiang leaned the Art from Yang Lu 
Chan and a variation of the original Chen form from Chen Ching Ping (who 
taught the "small frame" version of Chen T'ai Chi Ch'uan) and created the 
Wu style. A man named Hao Wei Chen learned the Wu style from Wu Yu 
Hsiang's nephew and taught the style to Sun Lu Tang, who in turn created 
the Sun style (Sun was already an established master of Hsing Yi Chuan 
and Pa Kua Chang when he learned T'ai Chi Ch'uan. He combined his 
knowledge of the other arts when creating his style). Yang Lu Chan had 
another student, a Manchu named Ch'uan You, who in turned taught the Art 
to his son, Wu Jian Ch'uan. Wu Chian Ch'uan popularized his variation of 
the Yang style, which is commonly refered to as the Wu Chian Ch'uan 
style. In recent times (this century) there have been many other 
variations and modifications of the Art, but all may be traced back 
through the above masters
to the original Chen family form.


Complete T'ai Chi Ch'uan arts include basic exercises, stance keeping 
(Chan Chuang), repetitive single movement training, linked form training, 
power training (exercises which train the ability to issue energy in a 
ballistic pulse), weapons training (which includes straight sword, 
broadsword, staff and spear), and various two-person exercises and drills 
(including "push-hands" sensitivity drills). A hallmark of most styles of 
T'ai Chi Ch'uan is that the movements in the forms are done quite slowly, 
with one posture flowing into the next without interruption. Some forms 
(the old Chen forms for example) alternate between slow motion and 
explosive movements. Other styles divide the training into forms which 
are done slowly at an even tempo and separate forms which are performed 
at a more vigorous pace. The goal of moving slowly is to insure correct 
attention is paid to proper body mechanics and the maintenance
of the prerequisite relaxation.


Training exercises can be divided into two broad categories: solo 
exercises, and drills which require a partner. A beginner will usually 
begin training with very basic exercises designed to teach proper 
structural alignment and correct methods of moving the body, shifting the 
weight, stepping, etc. All of the T'ai Chi Ch'uan arts have at their very 
foundation the necessity of complete physical relaxation and the idea 
that the intent leads and controls the motion of the body. The student 
will also be taught various stance keeping postures which serve as basic 
exercises in alignment and relaxation as well as a kind of mind calming 
standing meditation. A basic tenet of all "internal" martial arts is that 
correct motion is born of absolute stillness. Once the basics are 
understood, the student will progress to learning the formal patterns of 
movement ("forms") which contain the specific movement patterns
and techniques inherent in the style.

Traditionally, single patterns of movement were learned and repeated over 
and over until mastered, only then was the next pattern taught. Once the 
student had mastered an entire sequence of movements individually, the 
movements were taught in a linked sequence (a "form"). The goal of 
training is to cultivate a kind of "whole body" power. This refers to the 
ability to generate power with the entire body, making full use of one's 
whole body mass in every movement.  Power is always generated from "the 
bottom up," meaning the powerful muscles of the legs and hips serve as 
the seat of power. Using the strength of the relatively weaker arms and 
upper body is not emphasized. The entire body is held in a state of 
dynamic relaxation which allows the power of the whole body to flow out 
of the hands and into the opponent without obstruction.

The T'ai Chi Ch'uan arts have a variety of two person drills and exercises
designed to cultivate a high degree of sensitivity in the practitioner. 
Using brute force or opposing anothers power with power directly is 
strictly discouraged. The goal of two person training is to develop 
sensitivty to the point that one may avoid the opponent's power and apply 
one's own whole body power wher the opponent is most vulnerable. One must 
cultivate the ability to "stick" to the opponent, smothering the others' 
power and destroying their balance. Finally, the formal combat techniques 
must be trained until they become a reflexive reaction.

Modified forms of T'ai Chi Ch'uan for health have become popular 
worldwide in recent times because the benefits of training have been 
found to be very conducive to calming the mind, relaxing the body, 
relieving stress, and improving one's health in general.

Modern vs. Traditional training methods 

Traditionally, a beginning student of Tai Chi Chuan was first required
to practice stance keeping in a few basic postures.  After the basic body
alignments had settled in, the student would progress to performing single
movements from the form. These were performed repetitively on a line. 
After a sufficient degree of mastery had been obtained in the single
movements, the student was taught to link the movements together in the
familiar long form.  Now, it is not uncommon for a student to be taught 
the long form immediately, with no time being spent on stance keeping or 
on basic movement exercises.  Since the Long Form trains all of the 
qualities developed in the basic exercises, this does not really produce 
a dilution of resulting martial art.  It does however make it more 
difficult for beginner to learn. The duration of the basic training 
depends on the
student and the instructor; however,  it would not be unusual for a
relatively talented student, with good instruction, to be able to defend
themselves effectively with Tai Chi after as little as a year of 


Chen Wang Ting's original form of Chen style T'ai Chi Ch'uan is often 
refered to as the "Old Frame" (Lao Chia) and its second form as "Cannon 
Fist" (Pao Chui). In the latter part of the 18th century, a fifth 
generation decendant of Chen Wang Ting, Chen You Ben simplified the 
original forms into sets which have come to be known as the "New Style" 
(Hsin Chia). Chen You Ben's nephew, Chen Ching Ping, created a variation 
of the New Style which is known as the "Small Frame" (Hsiao Jia) or "Chao 
Pao" form. All of these styles have survived to the present.

The Yang style of T'ai Chi Ch'uan is a variation of the original Chen 
style. The forms which were passed down from the Yang style founder, Yang 
Lu Chan have undergone many modifications since his time. Yang Lu Chan's 
sons were very proficient martial artists and each, in turn, modified 
their father's art. The most commonly seen variation of the form found 
today comes from the version taught by Yang Lu Chan's grandson, Yang 
Cheng Fu. It was Yang Cheng Fu who first popularized his family's Art and 
taught it openly. Yang Chen Fu's form is characterizes by open and 
extended postures. Most of the modern variations of the Yang style, as 
well as the standardized Mainland Chinese versions of T'ai Chi Ch'uan are 
based on his variation of the Yang form.

Yang Lu Chan's student, Wu Yu Hsiang combined Yang's form with the Chao 
Bao form which he learned from Chen Ching Ping to create the Wu style. 
This style features higher stances and compact, circular movements. His 
nephew's student, Hao Wei Chen was a famous practitioner of the style, so 
the style is sometimes refered to as the Hao Style. Hao Wei Chen taught 
his style to Sun Lu Tang, who combined his knowledge of Hsing Yi Ch'uan 
and Pa Kua Chang to create his own

Yang Lu Chan had another student named Chuan You, who in turn taught the 
style to his son Wu Chian Ch'uan. This modification of the Yang style is 
usually refered to as the Wu Chian Chu'an style. This form's movements 
are smaller and the stance is higher than the popular Yang style.

In summary, the major styles of traditional T'ai Chi Ch'uan are the Chen,
Yang, Wu, Wu Chian Ch'uan and Sun. All other "styles" are variations of 
the above.

Non-martial Tai Chi variants. 

There are modified forms of Tai Chi which are devoted mostly to health
enhancement and relaxation.  The movements retain the flavor of Tai Chi
Chuan, but are often simplified.