Tai Chi Chuan

Learn about Tai Chi – Its origins and history, concept, theory and more…

Tai Chi – “supreme ultimate” Chuan – “fist” or “way” - is an old martial art dating back to the 13th - 14th century. Its legendary maker is said to be Cheng San Feng – a legendary Taoist monk.

This martial art is best known for its slow movements or forms. In the far east one can see large crowds of people practicing it together or alone in the parks.

Due to the training characteristic it is practiced by elderly people as much as it is by young.

Most of the people practicing tai chi practice it for its health and longevity attributes. Many others train it for it sport competitions (Wushu) and others for its fighting applications

Brief History

Many legends and stories have been told and rapped about and around the origins of this art. The first written document which was found, wrote about the tradition of the art, dates back to the early 19th century.

It is believed by most tai chi traditions that until the mid 17th century the art was practiced in a fast pace, the slow forms where only used for developing good physical and mental ability and stature.

However, when the Manchurians invaded China creating the Ch’ing Dynasty and wanted to learn the secrets of the system, the masters, could not refuse the government and the emperor and so they taught only the slow forms.

From then, as the art grew in popularity, it is said that the slow forms became the main training methods of the system.

Chen style is considered to be the first style of Tai chi. The secret elements of this art were kept secret from generation to generation inside the Chen village. In the beginning of the 19th century Yang Lu-chan (the founder of yang style) was taught the style.

The 20th century has seen a renaissance of the art as it became more and more popular.

The growth in popularity is due in many ways to the “push” it received from the Chinese government during the Republican Period and as the Peoples Republic of China “recreated” the Chinese martial arts which were “outlawed” during the civil war and cultural revolution

( To read more about Chinese martial arts).

What is Tai Chi?

It is considered to be an internal and soft martial art rather than external and hard. According to this classification Tai Chi emphasizes more use of internal energy and structure than muscle strength and kinetic power.

More on the different classification of the martial arts...

The art, more than most martial art, is a philosophical oriented one, in that it derives it’s fighting assumptions, strategy and tactics, from philosophical text and conceptions which examines life as a whole and not only as a fight situation.

From that point of view a practitioner practices his art or “fighting conception” in all walks of life. Books like the “Tao Te Ching” written by Lau Tzu or the I-Ching – book of changes, as well as Taoist, Buddhist, Confucianism and Neoconfucianism concepts and theory have great influence on the theory behind this martial art

( To learn more about the Theory of a Martial Art)

Tai-chi also standing for the yin-yang symbol, advocates that the fight/battle, like any another situation in life, is built upon the yin and yang changing in harmony.

Thus if our enemy is attacking we need to be defending, if he is retreating we should be following and if he is moving forward we move backward.

Any yang verses yang – for instance strength answered with strength - is wrong according to the theory; it does not reside with the concepts.

Even stance wise - the weight must never be distributed equally (50%- 50%) because then it is not “possible” for change to occur, providing our opponent with the perfect time for attack.

Training of this art consist of three main stages or methods –

• Form work - mainly slow but sometimes fast

• Pushing hands and sticking hands

• Application exercises

Tai Chi Fighting System

The art itself is a close range fighting system. Many schools agree that the practitioner strives to be in touching distance of the hand or body so that he can stick (adhere) to his opponent and manipulate his balance.

Balance is not the only method, but it is the main way in which the art controls the fight and wins it. For a person with out balance can do nothing.

The art also utilizes strikes, usually open hand not fist/punch and kicks which do not aim higher than the hips. It also uses chi-na (jointlocks), pressure points (vital points) and other submission holds.

Important literature

Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu

I - Ching – Book of Changes

Tai Chi Classics

Main Styles -

*By order of age (eldest being first)

• Chen style

• Yang style

• Wu/Hao (sometimes only Wu) – style of Wu Yu-hsiang

• Wu style of Wu Chien-chuan and Wu Quanyuo

• Sun style

Common weapons

• Broad sword

• Saber sword

• Staff

Conclusions

Tai chi is a very difficult martial art to master, especially to be able to implement in a fight situation. It is a very special and unorthodox art both in fighting concept and in training.

In any art, but in this one specifically, knowing our goals and the reasons of practicing is very important, for this system can and has been taken into many different directions To learn more about Choosing the right Instructor and Teacher…

Today it is one of the most if not the most popular martial art in the world.

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