Supreme ultimate fist

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Taijiquan means...

Taijiquan literally means - "martial art that uses the yin/yang principle in combat".
Taiji is supreme ultimate (yin/yang). Quan is fist (combat/martial art). The name is commonly translated as 'supreme ultimate fist'.


'Tie jee chwan'.

4 styles

There are 4 traditional styles of taijiquan: Chen, Yang, Wu and Hao.

Taijiquan is not tai chi for health

Faced with a major health crisis in the 1950's, the People's Republic of China turned to Yang style taijiquan for a solution. They wanted a form of exercise that could be performed by students of all ages.
The simplest way to achieve this was to remove the more demanding fitness component and the kung fu (combat).
Most modern tai chi classes are teaching an Art that an old person could cope with... By definition this cannot conceivably be a martial art.

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 taijiquan was developed by the kung fu legend Yang Lu-chan. Yang Lu-chan's nickname was 'Yang-the-Invincible'.
He is famous for teaching his taijiquan to the Manchu Emperor's elite palace guards.


Taijiquan was designed to be an advanced kung fu method. It cultivates whole-body strength, whole-body movement, fluidity and whole-body power
The muscles do not tense up and the student remains calm and composed.


The combat methods and principles behind taijiquan have been a well-kept secret in China for hundreds of years. Even today very few people
understand how to use taijiquan as a martial art.

Internal martial art

Taijiquan is an 'internal martial art'. What does this mean? Internal martial arts are quite different to mainstream martial/fighting arts.
They utilise a much more sophisticated way of moving and defending yourself that doesn't involve punishing yourself physically at the same time.
The internal martial arts require the student to make a mental effort as well as a physical effort. Consequently, these Arts appeal to a different set of people than many other martial arts.

Concrete skills

A common feature in taijiquan classes is the look of surprise on students' faces the first time they get a taste of how effortless taijiquan can be.
The skills are taught on the basis of body mechanics, not some mysterious channelling of qi...

Use your head

A clear, sharp mind is cultivated in taijiquan. The faster your mind can move, the faster your hand/body can move.

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 slower than normal speed; this is to develop strength, accuracy, balance and control.

Combat is fast.

Kung fu is thousands of years old and is a highly developed system of martial art. The student who locates a good kung fu school will find the training thorough and challenging. Kung fu skills, which have been refined over centuries, are not learned easily or quickly. The sincere student, however, through hard work and dedication, will not be disappointed with the results.

(Adam Hsu)


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Page created 11 January 1993
Last updated 05 November 2018