Tai Ji Quan


Tai Ji Quan is probably one of the most famous styles of wushu. There are all kinds of rumors and legends about its origin. Some say that the ancestor of Tai Chi is rightly considered to be the Taoist monk Zhang Sanfeng, who lived in the Wudang mountains during the Yuan or Ming era. According to another legend, Zhang Sanfeng lived in the Song era, and the style he created was revealed to him in a dream. A third legend has it that the foundations of Tai Chi were laid by the master Xu Xuanping even earlier, in the Tang era.


And yet, according to the famous chronicler of the Tang Khao-deng, the earliest Tai Tsi Tsuan was Chen style, whose founder was Chen Wentin, a descendant of the Chen family, who lived in the Wan county, Henan province. Before the overthrow of the Ming dynasty (1644), Chen Wenting was a famous military commander, and after that event he lived in seclusion in his homeland and in his spare time he spent perfecting his craft and creating a new style. Therefore, it is believed that the origins of tai chi were in the Chen family.


The Chen Wenting style created by Chen Wenting was based on three sources:


1. Borrowing and generalizing techniques of various schools of Chinese boxing in the Ming era and rejecting the generally accepted rules described in the treatise "Thirty-two situations fist fight" by the famous commander Qi Tsziguan.


2. Adopting the ancient arts of Tao-yin (lead and stretch) and Tu-na (spit out and hold).


3. Following the most ancient Chinese teachings related to the concepts of yin and yang, and the teachings of traditional Chinese medicine on the jing-lo (the jing-lo are the channels through which the life force Qi, blood and nutrients circulate).


Because of the above, the style created by Chen Wenting is primarily a synthesis of the old heritage and the birth of the new. However, the style of fist-fighting created by Chen was called very differently at that time - Chan-Quan. In this case, when did this style get the name Tai Ji Quan? In the 18th century, at the height of the Qing dynasty, theorist Wang Zongyue, based on the originality of the Chen style, gave a philosophical interpretation of such categories and concepts as yin and yang, the Great Limit and their interaction in the universal cycle of transformations. Since then, a new name appeared - Taijiquan (Great Limit School). But why did Wang Zongyue rename it? Originally, the concept of the Great Frontier in the universal cycle of transformations contained the idea of reaching a certain height or limit.


The Sun era philosopher Zhou Dunya made a diagram of the Great Frontier in the form of a circle. The explanation of it says: "Infinity is the Great Limit. The meaning of this is simple: Infinity is the Great Limit, and the Great Limit is the basis of infinity. The reason for changing the name of Tai Ji Quan can be seen as the following: Firstly, all movements in tai chi without exception have a rounded shape, one cycle of the taolu complex just corresponds to one circle in the scheme of the Great Limit; secondly, exercising Tai Ji Quan, it is necessary in movement to seek rest, in rest to seek movement; clearly distinguish between empty and full, to maintain absolute compliance with the teaching about the Infinity and the Great Limit, about the interaction of the substances yin and yang; Thirdly, movement in tai chi is like one closed circle, in which force is born and accumulates, all forms are intertwined, continuity reigns everywhere, and it is impossible to find neither beginning nor end, just as in the postulate "The Great Limit is the basis of infinity".


In the process of tai chi evolution, many different currents emerged. Although each has its own characteristics, nevertheless all of them have common requirements:


1. The heart is at rest, the will is concentrated, the breath is natural. During the class, thoughts calm, concentrated, mind guides the body, breathing smooth, relaxed.


2. serenity, softness and fluidity. The body remains calm, natural and impartial, the movements are light, smooth, like a stream of water.


3. The movements are arcing, smooth and complete. They are all characterized by continuity, ease and flexibility.


4. Cohesion, coordination, clear distinction between empty and full. All movements are inseparably connected with each other, transitions are soft and smooth, at the same time, there is a clear distinction between empty and full; the loin serves as a directing axis and a transmitting link, transitions up and down follow each other, the center of gravity is stable.


5. Lightness, liveliness, firmness and softness complement each other. In every movement there is restraint, lightness and at the same time liveliness and vigor, the body is not relaxed, but also not stiffened, behind the external softness lurks inner firmness; the application of force is complete, but without tension, elasticity in everything.





During the existence of Tai Ji Quan, many different directions have arisen, and of all this variety have distinguished five most common styles.


I. Chen style



This style is subdivided into two subspecies - the old and the new. The old one, founded by Chen Wenting, had five taolu complexes. During more than three hundred years of development, this style was continuously polished, and only two complexes have survived - the first and second strands. The first chain of the Chen style contains eighty-three forms. The second chain of Lu was originally called pao-chui (cannon punch), it now has seventy-one forms. Its main features are as follows: 1) a large number of crushing kicks; 2) movements compared to the first chain are faster and harder, the punch stronger; 3) an abundance of jump kicks, a large number of leaps, dodges, lightning turns and moves - there is a mighty power in everything.


There are also two subspecies of taolu. The first resembles the Chen style, created by Chen Tszyagou, the order of movements is similar to the old trend, just omitting some of the more difficult elements. It is also called xiao tsüan-tsüan (fist of a small circle). The old style is called so called da quanquan (large circle fist). The second subspecies of the new trend is the style created by Chen's pupil - Chen Wuqingping. Its calling card is gracefulness, conciseness and slowness. As the exercises are mastered, the circle gradually increases, reaching the highest degree of complexity. Since this complex was originally distributed in the village Zhaobao in Wen county, Henan province, it was called zhaobao-jia.


II. Yang style



This style was founded by Yang Lu-chang (1800-1873) from Hebei province. His family was poor, so in his childhood Yang was a hired help of Chen Jiagou's family, worked as a servant for Chen's teacher as a young man and mastered his style. In adulthood he returned to his homeland and began to practice Tai Ji Quan. He persistently trained, modifying the Chen style, adding to it gentleness combined with determination and strength. His contemporaries called him zhan-myan-tsuan (gentle fist), zhuan-tsuan (soft fist), hua-tsuan (vanishing fist). Later Yang Luchan, applied to the requirements of ordinary people, simplified the force, jumps, shaking kicks and other comparatively difficult elements. His son Yang Jianhou further revised this style in the direction of simplification. In this form, the Yang style has become the most widespread.


The founder of this style was considered to be Quan Yu, a Manchu who lived in Hebei province during the late Qing dynasty. Quan Yu first learned from the famous Yang Luchan, and then he became a student of his son Yang.banshi and became a first-class master of soft styles. His son Jian Quan changed his surname to the Chinese Wu and continued the family tradition of studying and spreading Tai Chi Quan. Having modified and enlarged the arsenal of techniques more plastic and soft, having removed difficult tricks and jumps, Wu Jian Quan created his school, which later evolved into the Wu style.


III. Wu style (first)



The founder of this style is considered to be Quan Yu (Manchu) who lived in Hebei province during the late Qing dynasty. Tsyuan Yu first studied under the famous Yang Luchan, then he became a student of his son Yang.banshi and became a first-class master of soft styles. His son Jian Quan changed his surname to the Chinese Wu and continued the family tradition of studying and spreading Tai Chi Quan. Having modified and supplemented the arsenal of techniques more plastic and soft, having removed difficult tricks and jumps, Wu Jian Quan created his school, which later evolved into the Wu style.

IV. Wu style (second)



This style was founded by Master Wu Yuxian who lived in Hebei province, late in the Qing dynasty. He first learned from Yang Lucian and then studied the old Chen style. He became a master of the Chen style, its new and old directions. Later, he studied the yang style in its directions of big yes and little xiao. Practicing and changing these directions, he tried to combine them together, choosing the best of these directions. So another trend of tai chi arose, which was called the Wu style.


V. Sun Style



The founder of this style was Sun Lutan from Van county, Hebei province (1861 - 1932). Sun was a passionate wushu fan: he studied sin-yi chuan, then bagua-chjan, and finally the Wu Tai Ji Quan style. Having penetrated into the essence of each of these styles and combining them, he founded a style close to his own in spirit Sun.


This style is distinguished from others by its shuttle back and forth movements, flexibility and calmness, speed and agility. Its taolu complexes resemble floating clouds, an endless and uninterrupted flow of water. The principle of each body turn is similar to the unfolding "kai" and twisting "hee", so friends of the master called this style kai hehobu (quick steps of twisting and twisting). It is not only evasions, turns, jumps, and movements borrowed from obagua-zhang, but also ups, downs, and flips borrowed from xing-quan.