Tai Ji Quan’s initial development is attributed to Chang San-Feng, born in 1247. There are earlier practitioners in styles similar to Tai Ji , but it was Chang San-Feng who incorporated the philosophy of the Taoist breathing techniques, the I-Ching and the Tai Ji diagram with the understanding that softness, was superior to brute force in martial & daily life. Chang San-Feng was an accomplished Shao-Lin master, and Shao-Lin is the prototype style for all Chinese martial arts systems. Shao-Lin was invented as an exercise form for chinese Buddhist monks by the Indian Bodhidarma Ta-Mo in the 6th century.
Contemporary Tai Ji was recorded by Chen Wang-Ting around 1664, and the Chen family Tai Ji Quan dominated the style for two hundred years. In the mid 1800’s A Shao Lin practitioner gained entry to the Chen family, working as a house boy. He watched the family practice, and at night imitated the movements. His dedication and talent were discovered, and Yang Lew- Shan (1799-1872) was allowed to study the full system. Yang Lew – Shan eventually modified the style , developing a larger and lighter frame, where energy and secrets were not so obvious. He developed a great reputation for his fighting ability in both form and weapons, and founded the Yang style of Tai Ji Quan.
Yang Lew – Shan’s grandson, Yang Cheng Fu(1883-1936) standardized the form, to the contemporary Yang style form practiced by millions of people today. In this interval several styles have developed from accomplished masters. They are:
Wu Style, a smaller ,compact frame and version of Tai Ji, Guang Ping, a hybrid of Chen and Yang style and Cheng Men Ching style, a shorter,lighter version of classical Yang Style. Sun Style is a hybrid of Hao Style Tai Ji and two other internal martial arts, Pa Kua and Hsing I . It is the most contempory and original style developed in the last 100 years. The style is named after Sun Lu Tang. The movements are a bit quicker and combine the softness of Tai Ji, the circular foot work of Pa Qua, and the direct energy of Hsing I . Each Master has had their own influence,but keep to the principles of Tai Ji Quan, the Great Ultimate Fist. To better understand Tai Ji, Reading the Tao Te Ching, of Lao Tze, the 10 Essences and an understanding 5 element theory , would be a good start. Breathing is abdominal, like a baby. Your mind directs the intent however.
In contrast to many “external/hard styles of fighting, one only improves ,in ability, as one grows older, not weaken . Tai Ji Quan, is not magic, though there are many myths. If Tai Ji were to have a metaphorical mentor, like the Tiger is to Tiger Style, the Crane is to Crane Style, it would be “Water”. It is based on physics and physiology, quantum mechanics, newtonian physics and the “body electric” made alive. Though Tai Ji Quan was invented to be a martial art, and should be practiced with that martial art discipline, it’s applications towards improving one’s health , calming down, developing “Ting Jing”, “listening energy”, listenening to one’s self, nature,others and the universe, are outstanding benefits received from diligent practice.
Bill Swann D.O./2002