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What is tai chi chuan?
Tai chi chuan is a style of kung fu once practiced by the Manchu Emperor's elite palace guards.
There are 5 traditional styles of tai chi chuan: Chen, Yang, Wu, Hao and Sun.
The art is quietly challenging; requiring patience, hard work, commitment, mindfulness and composure.
Students work towards the cultivation of a high degree of physical skill and can reasonably expect to practice the art for most of their lives.
Supreme ultimate fist
The martial art of tai chi chuan uses the yin/yang concept in combat.
Taiji means supreme ultimate (yin/yang). Quan means fist (combat/martial art/kung fu).
Yang style has something of the
feeling of 'killer energy' about it; it is more martial in appearance.
A spectator can see the applications of the movements when they watch the form.
(Master Xu Shu Song)
Yang the invincible
The Yang style of tai chi chuan was developed by kung fu legend Yang Lu-chan.
Yang Lu-chan's nickname was 'Yang-the-Invincible'.
The combat methods and principles behind tai chi chuan have been a well-kept secret in China for hundreds of years.
Very few members of the general public understand how to use tai chi chuan as a martial art.
Schools offering the complete tai chi chuan martial syllabus are rare in the UK.
Does tai chi chuan combat take place in slow motion?
To quote the Tai Chi Classics: "If the opponent's movement is quick, then quickly respond; if his movement is slow, then follow slowly."
Some of the training methods (i.e. form) are slow; this is to develop strength, accuracy, balance and control.
New skills are often slowed down for safety until the student gains familiarity.
As the student becomes adept, the kung fu speeds up considerably.
Combat is usually fast.
Martial skill (kung fu)
In combat, tai chi chuan uses evasion, stickiness and sensitivity rather than brute force.
The muscles remain relaxed at all times and the body moves as one whole unit (neigong).
There are many tai chi chuan martial skills in the syllabus, including:
Shuai jiao (take downs)
Chin na (seizing)
Jing (internal power)
San sau (fixed sets)
San da (freeform combat)
Even though many of
these skills are common to different styles of
kung fu, a tai chi chuan student must perform them
in a tai chi chuan way.
This means that the essence must be true.
The application of tai chi chuan always follow the guidelines presented in the Tai Chi Classics.
Every martial artist in the world seeks to defeat their opponent in combat.
But at what price?
Blocking, struggling, forcing, striking a balanced opponent... these are also harmful to your own body.
In defeating your opponent you may also harm yourself.
Tai chi chuan is different.
All movements are performed in a manner that ensures the greatest effect for the least amount of effort.
The internal martial arts aim to incapacitate the opponent without sustaining any injury to yourself.
Is tai chi chuan easy to learn?
As a form of exercise tai chi chuan is quite gentle.
It does not strain the body and no one should be sweating.
The challenge lies with coordination, balance, focus and memory.
Performing the art skilfully is not so easy.
A high degree of awareness, biomechanical skill and physical sensitivity must be cultivated.
This requires time, patience and regular practice.
It is not about anger, it is about peace.
It is not about power, it is about grace.
It is not about knowing your enemy, it is all about knowing yourself.
Tai chi chuan is not just about combat.
The art offers a wide range of benefits that will affect your everyday life:
• Get fit
• Increased stamina and endurance
• Gain functional combat skills that rely upon intelligence rather than brutality
• The release of deeply-held muscular tension
• Boost energy
• Improved balance
• A way to use millennia old Chinese wisdom in everyday life
• An unusual form of strength
• Emotional composure in the face of confrontation and crisis
• Philosophical study involving some of the most influential books ever written
• Cultivate confidence and resourcefulness
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Page created 11 January 1993
Last updated 14 March 2015