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