Supreme ultimate fist

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What is taijiquan?

Taijiquan is an advanced Chinese martial art based on the yin/yang principle. The taijiquan 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). 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.

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, alignment, spatial awareness, strategy and timing, not some mysterious channelling of qi...
Taijiquan is a physical art, so the skills must also be physical, tangible, real.

5 missing pieces

Many taijiquan classes lack 5 important elements necessary in order for taijiquan to function as a martial art:

  1. Neigong (whole-body strength)

  2. Martial concepts (what combat constitutes and how to do it effectively)

  3. Chin na (the art of seizing)

  4. Shuai jiao (take downs)

  5. Jing (whole-body power)

Without these 5 components, taijiquan is lacking something and may not work in combat.

Use your head

A clear, sharp mind is cultivated in taijiquan. The faster your mind can move, the faster your hand/body can move. Taijiquan requires both concentration and expansive awareness.
These skills are vital for both combat and everyday life.

Isn't tai chi 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 tai chi. Authentic tai chi practice follows specific guidelines.
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.

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 05 June 2020