Taijiquan kung fu
Supreme ultimate fist

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What is taijiquan?

Taijiquan is an advanced Chinese martial art based on the yin/yang principle. The syllabus teaches a wide variety of powerful, functional skills, along with an in-depth philosophical background.
It encourages a calm, focussed mind and trains a supple, strong, flexible body. A student of taijiquan discovers how to neutralise and incapacitate the opponent without sustaining any injury to oneself.

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/boxing). The name is commonly translated as 'supreme ultimate fist'.

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)


'Tie jee chwan'.

4 styles

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


Taijiquan was created in the Wudang Mountain range in Hubei, China. This mountain region is famous for Taoism.
Although baguazhang and xingyiquan are often referred to as 'Wudang', neither of those styles originated in the Wudang Mountain range. Only taijiquan is from Wudang.

Taijiquan is not tai chi for health

When most people say 'tai chi' they mean tai chi for health. Tai chi for health is a simplified, non-martial exercise adapted from taijiquan.
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 taijiquan

Yang style taijiquan is a fluid, dynamic, exciting martial art style that involves a wide range of 'counter-intuitive' methods.
The art is thought-provoking and insightful; with lessons about living as well as about fighting. There is nothing macho, aggressive, confrontational or competitive about taijiquan.

Legendary skill

The Yang style of taijiquan was developed by the martial arts 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 created more than 1000 years ago.

(Yang Jwing-Ming)


Taijiquan was designed to be an advanced 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. In the melee of combat, the aim is to become 'the eye of the storm'; unflustered and focused.


The combat methods and principles behind taijiquan have been a well-kept secret in China for hundreds (if not thousands) of years.
Even today very few people understand how to use taijiquan as a martial art. Although the exact origin of taijiquan remains a mystery, it employs insights and principles that are ancient.
New taijiquan students are faced with the challenge of exploring these ancient practices in order to discover how and why the art works.

Self defence

Taijiquan teaches you how to defend yourself from harm. This means less fear, greater confidence, and the ability to identify (and avoid) dangerous situations.
The aim of self defence is to incapacitate the attacker and walk away; ideally unharmed. Discover how to keep a cool head, avoid conflict and cope with hostility.

Basic fighting skills
Martial arts classes teach people how to punch, kick and grapple, along with self defence skill and martial concepts (what combat constitutes and how to do it effectively).
Taijiquan students start out by learning these 'generic' martial arts skills. But must perform them in a taijiquan way. This means no aggression, and no tensing-up, bracing or forcing.

Taijiquan fighting method

Having laid the martial foundation, taijiquan diverges from mainstream martial arts... cultivating more complex, sophisticated abilities that require an advanced use of the body.
The application of taijiquan always follows the guidelines presented in The Taijiquan Classics.

Isn't taijiquan just slow motion exercise?
No. Some of the training methods are slow, and some are not. Slow motion movement, chilled out exercise or dance cannot be considered taijiquan. Authentic taijiquan practice follows specific guidelines.
To quote The Taijiquan 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, smoothness and control. Combat is fast.

Why did they make the forms long in the old days, like the taijiquan forms? Because the longer you can keep your intent awake and mind-body unified and focus on your movements, the stronger your mind is, the better chance you have of winning a fight.

(Tim Cartmell)


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Page created 11 January 1993
Last updated 15 July 2022