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Dr. Mike Timpone
T'ai Chi Ch'uan
By Monica Schultz and Micah Collins
T'ai Chi Ch'uan (also transliterated as "Taijiquan"), is a
"soft" martial art belonging to the "Internal Family" (Nei
Jia), along with such martial arts as Pa Kua Chang (Baguazhang), and Hsing-I
Ch'uan (Xing-Yi). T'ai Chi complements the more exertive, "external" (Wai
Jia), martial arts, like Kenpo Karate and Muay Thai. Translated, T'ai Chi Ch'uan
means "Ultimate Boxing" or "Limitless Fist," and can be
traced back to the ancient Taoist "Chang, San-Feng," though the
practice may have existed for thousands of years before that time in a more
rudimentary form and under a different name. Regardless of when or exactly by
whom it was started, T'ai Chi appears to be directly linked to and rooted in
Taoist principles of Yin and Yang.
Chang, San-Feng was a Shaolin monk, trained as a fighter. He decided to leave
the monastery to become a Taoist hermit and give up the life of a warrior in
search of tranquility. One way he employed seeking tranquility was by
integrating the Taoist notions of overcoming superior force through yielding
into martial arts.
It is said that Chang, San-Feng created 13 original postures, which were then
linked together into a continuous flowing combination of movements that most
people today associate with T'ai Chi Ch'ua. There are several different styles
of T'ai Chi that have been said to have emerged from him; these being based on
and named after the people who were involved n the development of this martial
art. Some of the styles are as follows:
Chen Style: Founded by Chen, Wang-Ting, a soldier and fighting aficionado.
He began compiling different T'ai Chi movements in the mid 1500's and passed
them on to his family members until the early 1800's when the Chen style split
into "New" and "Old" frame movements. Around this time,
people outside of the Chen village began learning the style. It is suggested by
Chen historians today that the Chen style of T'ai Chi did not originate from
Chang, San-Feng and the Wu Dang Temple original T'ai Chi, but was a later
development from an existing local Kung-Fu style, which was practiced slowly and
approached in a similar manner to the Taoist, Chang, San-Feng style.
Yang Style: Founded by Yang, Lu-Ch'an in the 1800's. Yang was believed
to have taken a job as a servant for the Chen family solely to learn the art by
watching; since at that time the Chen village did not teach their art to
outsiders. Eventually, after being discovered, he was taught the Chen style by Chen Chang Xin who
- in addition to learning the Chen village system - was taught by Jiang Fa who was in turn taught by Wang Tsung Yueh;
all supposedly composing a separate lineage to the Taoist Wu Dang Temple and
Chang, San-Feng. Some historians theorize that this is why it was acceptable for
Chan Chang Xin to teach him, since it was not the family style being taught, but
a separate Taoist T'ai Chi Ch'uan from Jiang Fa. Following the mastery of this
Yang, Lu-Chan became a martial arts teacher for the Manchu government, but also
Old Yang Style: The old version of Yang style T'ai Chi is sometimes
called the "Tsung Version" since it is said to have originated with
Jiang Fa, whose teacher was Wang Tsung Yueh. This style of Yang T'ai Chi is also
called "Large Frame," since it employs deeper stances and bigger, more
open movements than the "New Yang Style," taught by Yang, Lu-Chan's
grandson Yang, Cheng-Fu (and further modified by Cheng, Man-Ch'ing). This style
is our primary focus of T'ai Chi study at TAMA Martial Arts.
Left: Micah performs "Rhinoceros Gazes at Moon." Right:
Greg, Deb and Cindy execute "Single Whip."
Old Wu Style: Founded by Wu Yu-Hsiang in the 1800's, after studying
both Yang and Chen styles. Wu wrote th textbook about T'ai Chi entitled
"Expositions of Insights Into the Practice of the 1 Postures. This style is
credited as the foundation of the next three systems:
Li Style: Founded by Li I-Yu, Wu's main disciple. This style
is documented in several texts, including "The Five Character Secrets and
Essentials of the Practice of Form and Push Hands," and is considered the
first of th Small Frame T'ai Chi styles (styles using tighter, small-circle movements
and short stances).
Hao Style: Founded by Hao Wei-Chenn, in the late 1800's and early
1900's. This is also a small frame style. Hao was influenced by studies in
several T'ai Chi styles including Li, Yang and Sun.
Sun Style: Founded by Sun, Lu-T'ang, who coined the phrase
"Nei Jia." This style is another small frame style but is noted for
having replaced jumps with small steps also called "lively pace."
This was due in part to the integration of Bagua techniques (Sun also
implementing Hsing-I techniques, as he was a master of all three internal
arts). This style is the first documented system to have been passed on by a
daughter; Sun Shu Rong (third generation).
Left: Micah executes "Snake Creeps Down." Right: Cindy
and Deb practice Push Hands.
Yang, Cheng-Fu Style: Founded by Yang, Cheng-Fu, the grandson of Yang,
Lu-Ch'an. He taught T'ai Chi in the form that many of us know it today, at the
Central Kuo Shu Institute, and then later in Shanghai. He is credited with
emphasizing the health benefits of the arts and popularizing it amongst the
Cheng, Man-Ch'ing Style: Founded by Cheng, Man-Ching, a chief disciple
of Yang, Cheng-Fu. He was one of the first to bring T'ai Chi to the United
States, and subsequently popularized it; emphasizing the health benefits and
ease of learning the "Small Frame" Yang, Cheng-Fu style. Cheng, Man-Ch'ing
further modified the form of his teacher by eliminating repetitions of the same
movements, and condensing it into a shorter variation.
Chen, Pan-Ling Style: Founded by Chen, Pan-Ling. An engineer by trade, Chen,
Pan-Ling sought to refine all existing styles of T'ai Chi to their mechanical
perfection. He extensively studied Yang and Wu style, then spending extensive
time at the Chen village to incorporate their variations of movements as well.
Like Sun, Lu-T'ang, Chen, Pan-Ling was a master of all the three well known
"Nei Jia," and there is some evidence of them in the Chen, Pan-Ling
form; as well as hybridization of Yang, Wu and Chen movements. At TAMA Martial
Arts, we also teach Chen, Pan-Ling style T'ai Chi to students of Old Style Yang,
Lu-Ch'an T'ai Chi.
Click here to read Grandmaster Huang's article from T'ai Chi Magazine, on T'ai Chi Ch'uan and Chen, Pan-Ling.