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Characteristics of Tai Chi
origins, meanings, lineage, analyses and exploration

Tai Chi Family Tree

The true creation; principle and fundamental techniques; structural framework and historical verification of Tai Chi Chuan is extremely difficult to authenticate. However, the following "family tree" is believed to be a path leading to the present modern day Yang style of Tai Chi. Other styles being the Chen, Wu, Ho, Sun systems.


Legends mention that the founder and acknowledged patriarch of Tai Chi was a Taoist Priest by the name of Chang San Feng (1270-1364) . He lived as a recluse on Mount Wu-Tang in the Hupeh Province. He reworked the original Forms of Shao-Lin with a new emphasis on breathing and inner control. It is reputed that he learnt and created the so called "internal" boxing method either as a result of a dream, or, by watching a fight between a bird (crane) and a snake. The snake protected itself by using soft, circular, flowing movements. From this he deduced that despite the clearly different 'nature', size and shape of the two animals there was no clear winner as each canceled the other out with specialist moves appropriate to and in keeping with their own abilities, nature size and shape. Other scholars contest that Chan San Feng was himself no more than a mythical figure.

It is a distinguishing feature of oriental cultures that fact, fiction, truth and myth are allowed to mix or merge. For instance, bridges there are either curved arcs or, if horizontal, the crossing is zigzag. This is not for structural engineering purposes; in fact this makes construction more difficult! The reasoning behind it is that evil spirits can only travel in straight lines. This also explains the shape of the roofs there. Furthermore, at each end of these curved rooftops there is usually a Dragon ornamentation. This is not any old Dragon; it is specifically a Water Dragon and put there to protect the building from fire.

Given all of this it perhaps better to assume that in Tai Chi - nothing is 'real' and nothing is fact and bear in mind the wise words of the Tao Teh Ching that tells us "value lies in what is not there and not in what is".


Chang San Feng then started a school which was known as the Wu-Tang School of Internal Boxing. The most ancient style of Tai Chi is the Chen style - after a garrison commander named Chen Wang Ting (1557-1664) who expanded the original ideas. The Chen style contained jumps, leaps and explosion of strength all within a circular path. The Yang style, formulated in the mid-l9th century, is however the most popular system.

Yang Lu-Chuan (1799-1872) lived in the Chen village of the Honan Province. He was a servant of a drug merchant and secretly watched, from a hidden vantage point through a crack in a wall, for ten years the training sessions being conducted by members of the Chen family. During the night he would practice what he had seen during the day, and so he became very efficient at fighting using this art (boxing system) . As a result he was invited to practice with the Chen family. Later Yang Lu-Chuan went to Peking where he became the chief combat instructor for the Manchu Imperial Guards. Yang Lu-Chuan was the founder of the Yang style of Tai Chi. He gradually changed the fighting style, which he had learnt, into a system of keeping fit.

Yang Lu-Chuan had two sons: Yang Pan-Hou (1837-1891) and Yang Chien-Hou (1841-1917)

Yang Chien-Hou had two sons: Yang Shao-Hou (1862-1929) and Yang Cheng-Fu (1883-1936) . (Grandsons to Yang LuChuan).

Yang Cheng-Fu started teaching in 1928 and developed the modern day Yang style of Tai Chi; the Long Form consisting of one hundred and eight movements and thirteen sequences. The Form became at this point in time a set of slow, continuous and harmonious movements, performed at a constant speed. This became the foundation of Tai Chi as we know it today. He relegated the fighting aspect to a less prominent role.

Chang Yin-Lin (born 1887) . Started studying Tai Chi at the age of fourteen with Yang Cheng-Fu.

Cheng Man-Ching (1901-1975) was a student of Yang Cheng-Fu. Cheng Man-Ching took the fighting art of the Yang style and combined it with his vast knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine and philosophy. The result was a shortened Form consisting of just thirty seven postures. The main reason for the development of the Short Form was that few people had the time and patience to study the formal one hundred and eight posture classical Yang style. His Form was renowned for its soft and relatively small movements, compared to the larger movements of previous styles. Cheng Man-Ching studied "pushing hand techniques" from Chang Yin-Lin. In Japan and China, Cheng Man-Ching was acknowledged as a Master and Professor of medicine, painting, calligraphy, poetry, and martial arts.

Wang Yen-Nien (born 1914) studied Tai Chi from Chang Yin-Lin.

Peking Form (Yang Style) After the founding of New China, Tai Chi has undergone unprecedented development. In 1956, a simplified set of Tai Chi based on the most popular sequences of the Yang style was issued by the Sports Committee of the People's Republic of China. This series consists of twenty-four sequences which progress logically from the easy to the difficult, and take five minutes to complete. In 1957 a long Form was added, with eighty-eight sequences. These simplified versions have proved to be a great stimulus to the popularization of the art, and has brought about a resurgent interest in Tai Chi both in China and throughout the Western World.

text attributed Ray Wood (possibly from an an original unknown author)

 

 

 
It is reputed that [Chang San Freng] learnt and created the so called "internal" boxing method either as a result of a dream, or, by watching a fight between a bird (crane) and a snake. The snake protected itself by using soft, circular, flowing movements. He then started a school which was known as the Wu-Tang School of Internal Boxing.
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