Taijiquan

Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan) is without doubt the most popular of all internal styles in the West. The name "Taiji" is often translated as "Great Ultimate" and according to Chinese cosmology refers to the state of the universe from which Heaven and Earth, Yin and Yang are born. The theory of the style is based on this dialectics and uses pairs of contradictory but at the same time complimentary terms like "solid-empty", "hard-soft", "open-close", etc.

There are two theories concerning the origins of Taijiquan: one derives the style from Zhang Sanfeng, legendary Taoist hermit from Wudang Mountains. According to the other the art was developed by Chen clan from Chenjiagou village in 17th century in central China's Henan province. Lack of convincing arguments leads to never ending disputes between followers of both sides.

The art of Taijiquan is divided into five main branches. Chen style is based on "silk reeling energy" and is known for using many fast movements and obvious power. Yang style was created by Yang "the Invincible" Luchan and is the most popular of all branches. It is characterized by slow, flowing movements. Wu (Yuxiang) style is often called "scholar's style" and uses small, compact movements. Wu (Jianquan) style is based on small frame Yang style. Sun style combines Xingyi and Bagua  movements using Taijiquan frame. There is also a style popular in Zhaobao village by some considered an off-shoot of Chen style.

The main feature of Taijiquan are its slow, relaxed, linked movements. Apart from standing and routine practice, one should engage in Pushing Hands - exercises with partner that not only allow to correct all errors within one's own frame, learn all basic "strengths" of Taijiquan, but also the ability to almost effortlessly defeat the opponent by using softness against hardness according to principle "to overcome the power of 1000 pounds with a power of four ounces".

  • Small Frame of Chen Style Taijiquan. While Large Frame of Chen style Taijiquan predominates the current Chen style scene all over the world (thanks to the legendary skill of Chen Fake as well as efforts of "Four Tigers from Chenjiagou" and Feng Zhiqiang), some say that the most treasured part of fighting arts practiced by Chen clan has hardly been shown to outsiders. It is Small Frame (Xiao Jia) that has the most complete theory recorded by Chen Xin in his "Illustrated Explanations to Chen family Taijiquan" and has produced many famous fighters. The article not only introduces the features of Small Frame of Chen style Taijiquan, but also brings to attention many interesting stories as well as historical facts which suggest that it could be Small Frame that the essence of Chen Family Boxing has been kept in. This stands in contradiction to the common view (for the first time published by Tang Hao in 1930s) that Small Frame was created on the basis of Large Frame. The article contains many photos of both past and current practitioners of Xiao Jia.

  • Chen Fake demonstrating First Routine of Chen Style Taijiquan. It was Chen Fake (1887-1957), whose skills shook Beijing in the late 1920s and who made Chen Style Taijiquan popular outside of Chenjiagou village in this century; famous for his fighting skills, he put great emphasis on martial virtue Wude. This article contains historical photographs of Chen Fake performing the First Set (Yi Lu) of Chen Style Taijiquan. According to Chinese martial arts magazines there are only three such sets of photographs and the one published here is the most complete. The first part contains postures 1 to 32 of the 83-movements routine. Apart from viewing the photos you can also read recollections of Hong Junsheng about his study with Chen Fake; Hong Junsheng was one of Chen Fake's earliest students in Beijing. This text contains many little known facts and anecdotes about Chen Fake, his life and teachings.

  • Explanations of Neigong (Internal Skill) principles - excerpts from the book "The True Teachings of Yang Jianhou's Secret Yang Style Taijiquan" by Wei Shuren. Wei Shuren, Yang Style Taijiquan expert from Beijing, in this book wrote down the teachings that he had received from his teacher, Wang Yongquan, and for the first time revealed many secrets of Yang family martial art. Wang, although formally disciple of Yang Chengfu, learnt the style from his father Wang Chonglu (Yang Jianhou's disciple) as well as Yang Jianhou and Yang Shaohou. In his teaching he stressed the importance of using the Intent (Yi) to guide the movements and considered it a decisive factor to develop Nei Jin - Internal Strenght. This translation contains the detailed description of basic requirements for Yang Style Taijiquan practice with strong emphasis on the use of Intent. It is interesting to see how different they are from what Yang Chengfu taught (and was written down by Chen Weiming); one has an impression that Yang family kept secrets of their style very well, and only thanks to people like Wang Yongquan and Wei Shuren we can have a better look at the deeper aspects of Yang Style Taijiquan that for many decades used to be known to only a very few. 

  • Interview with Mr. Feng Zhiqiang, Chen Style Taijiquan expert from Beijing. Mr.Feng Zhiqiang, one of the most famous Chen style Taijiquan experts in China, student of Chen Fake (Chen Style Taijiquan) and Hu Yaozhen (Xingyiquan), has combined the teachings he received from his teachers into his own system of Chen Style Xinyi Hunyuan Taijiquan. In the interview that I conducted in March he not only speaks about his system, but also talks about Qi, Dantian, Internal and External martial arts, Taijiquan practice. You can also read his biography as well as short biographies of Chen Fake and Hu Yaozhen.

  • Brief Analysis of Chen Family Boxing Manuals. While Yang and Wu (Yuxiang) Taijiquan classics are rather popular among Taijiquan enthusiasts, Chen clan boxing manuals were kept secret for a long time. Only in the beginning of 1930s, thanks to Chen Ziming's help, Tang Hao and Xu Zhen were allowed to see and/or copy some of them. Even a short look at the names of postures or rhymed formulas in these books shows their close relation to Shaolin martial arts. Although the name "Taijiquan" appears in these manuals, further research shows that it started to be used not earlier than in 1858, e.g. six years after Wang Zongyue's "Taijiquan Classic" were brought into light. In the   footnotes you can also find biographies of such personages like Xu Zhen, Tang Hao, Qi Jiguang, Tang Shunzhi and Chen Ziming. Next articles will explain how Tang Hao determined that Taijiquan was created/compiled by Chen Wangting.

  • Excerpts from Chen Xin's "Illustrated Explanations of Chen Family Taijiquan". This book (Chinese reprint is available through this site - have a look at Products-Books page) is considered, together with the texts by Chen Wangting and Chen Changxing, a classic of Chen style Taijiquan. Chen Xin (1849-1929) was the first one to write down the theory and detailed practical instructions on Chen family Taijiquan. Read the biography of Chen Xin to learn more about his life and the book he became most famous for. Moreover you will also find not only "Illustrated Explanation of Silk Reeling Essence of Taijiquan" which is a general and "philosophical" introduction to silk reeling, but also "Illustrated Explanations of Silk Reeling on Human Body" and "Theory of Silk Reeling Essence of Taijiquan" along with Chen Xin's poems. In next articles there will be more detailed and practical information on silk reeling in Taijiquan practice.

  • "The Origins and Development of Taijiquan" includes already three parts of a whole series about the origins and development of Taijiquan. The latest, third part, talks about Jiang Fa, but his relation with Chen Wangting does not seem to be very clear. If Jiang Fa was accepted by Chen Wangting as brother, then how could he become Chen's disciple (which is more like father-son relation)? The texts are translations from the book "Chen Family Taijiquan - Ancient and Present" (Chen Shi Taijiquan Gu Jin" published by CPPCC (the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference) Culture and History Comittee of Wen County (where Chen Family village, Chenjiagou, is situated) in 1992 in only 2000 copies. The book presents the history of Taijiquan from the point of view of those historians who agree with the opinion of Tang Hao and Gu Liuxin that Taijiquan originated in Chen village. The story below, especially its first chapters, in a literary form discuss the history of Chen clan and development of Taijiquan, so I hope you should like it.

  • "Important Words on Martial Applications" (Yong Wu Yao Yan) is my translation of a famous text attributed to Chen Changxing. The text can be found in the book "Chen Family Taijiquan Handed down through Generations" (People's Sports Press, Beijing 1990) written by Chen Xiaowang. The text is, in my opinion, a compilation of sentences taken almost directly from Xinyi Liuhe boxing manuals, and can be considered a proof of the influence Xinyi had on Taijiquan. My guess is that "Important Words on Martial Applications" originally come from "San San Liu Quan Pu" (Three Three Six Boxing Manual) which was kept by Chen clan and lost in the thirties or forties of this century. This manual, also called "Six Harmony Boxing Manual" (Liu He Quan Pu - although some say that San San Liu Quan Pu was a re-written version of Liu He Quan Pu according to Taiji principles; it was done by Chen Xin) is, along with four volumes of "Chen Family Boxing and Weapon Manuals" (Chen Shi Quanxie Pu), a written documentation on martial arts kept by Chen clan. "Six Harmony Boxing Manual" was shown to Tang Hao by Chen Chunyuan, Chen Xin's nephew, however Tang was only allowed to copy the table of contents and did not see what was inside. The book also included "Six Harmony Ten Important Introductions" (Liuhe Shi Da Yao Xu) which appear, under different names, in all Xinyiquan manuals. The interesting thing is that the names of these "Introductions" are not very different from "Ten Important Theories of Taijiquan" (Taijiquan Shi Da Yao Lun) also attributed  to Chen Changxing. The latter can also be found in Chen Xiaowang's book.

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