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.

Advanced martial art

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.

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)

Kung fu

There are many taijiquan martial skills in the syllabus, including:

  1. Shuai jiao (take downs)

  2. Chin na (seizing)

  3. Jing (whole-body power)

  4. San sau (fixed sets)

  5. San da (freeform combat)

  6. Form application

  7. Weapons

  8. Self defence

Taijiquan fighting method

The application of taijiquan always follows the guidelines presented in The Tai Chi Classics.
Even though many of the fighting skills are common to different styles of martial art, a taijiquan student must perform them in a taijiquan way.

Meaning & purpose

Every taijiquan movement, exercise and drill has a purpose. The student must understand what they are doing, otherwise the training is meaningless and most likely incorrect.
What is the exercise for? How does it operate? We ensure that our students gain a comprehensive grasp of the Art.

If you’re looking for something easy, then kung fu is probably not for you.

(Anna Spysz)

The benefits of learning taijiquan

Taijiquan is not just about combat. Daily practice offers a wide range of benefits that will affect your everyday life:

• Get fit
• Youthfulness
• Stay calm
• Feel balanced
• Increased stamina and endurance
• Stress-relief
• Gain functional combat skills that rely upon intelligence rather than brutality
Off-set the effects of aging (e.g. sarcopenia)
• The release of deeply-held muscular tension   
• Boost energy
• A way to use millennia old Chinese wisdom in everyday life  
• Meditation
• Cultivate 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 
• More confidence and resourcefulness

You must get fit

All martial arts require the student to be fit for combat and taijiquan is no exception. There are many lazy tai chi classes in the world. This is naive in the extreme.

A balanced approach?

For many people, their fitness regime does not take into account agility, mobility, relaxed spontaneous movement, balance, ambidextrous body use, joint health, coordination, emotional wellbeing or psychological flexibility.
Often, injuries arise and bodies are pushed too hard. Taijiquan is not like this.

Cross-training tai chi

taijiquan students train: core strength, massage, leg stretches, cardio work, yoga, qigong, neigong, form, partnered work, martial sets & drills, combat and weapons.
The training is done carefully, gently - in a controlled manner - without exertion or strain. It is intended to improve health and wellbeing through frequent, regular practice using low effort.

Motor learning

Motor learning is about the process of using the body, rather than simply exercising the body.
Agility, mobility, relaxed spontaneous movement, balance, structure, alignment, biomechanics, efficiency, ambidextrous body use, joint health, coordination, skill, emotional wellbeing or psychological flexibility.
Taijiquan combines exercise with motor learning.

Looking for a challenge?

In taijiquan, the main challenge lies with understanding Ancient Chinese principles of combat and body use, and putting these into practice.
Sustained, on-going training and a high degree of commitment make this Art both physically and mentally engaging.


You get out of the Art what you put into it. For the earnest student, taijiquan is a lifelong journey: a fascinating adventure of discovery, insight, fitness, longevity and martial power.

There is no concept of an enemy or opponent in taijiquan.
Likewise, the emotions associated with either - anger, hatred, friendship - also have no use and therefore play no role in this art.

(Scott Rodell)

In many martial arts schools the practice was carried out in secrecy and the school's very existence was frequently concealed from the authorities. For example, taijiquan is based on body of theory known to be around 2000 years old yet it was not revealed until 1750.

When a master of taijiquan faces an opponent he brings to the confrontation thousands of years of philosophical, martial and practical thought. He has lived most of his life according to the principles established centuries ago and in the process, he has strengthened his body and probably earned a long and healthy life.

(Howard Reid)

It's difficult to find any sport or activity that can top kung fu as an overall form of exercise.

(Adam Hsu)


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Page created 11 January 1993
Last updated 21 February 2018