FAQs: Tai Chi Chuan

What is Tai Chi?

 Tai Chi Chuan is an ancient exercise form of China. As one of the most important branches of Chinese Kung Fu, or Martial Arts, Tai Chi emphasizes the harmony, the balance and the unity between people and nature, and promotes the healthy development of people both physically and mentally.

What is the difference between T’ai Chi Ch’uan, Tai Chi and Taijiquan?

 None. They are different spellings and shortened versions of the same term (taijiquan is the modern pinyin spelling and tai-chi is sometimes seen too).

What does Tai Chi Chuan mean?

It has been translated as “Grand ultimate fist” but I prefer “The supreme understanding of one’s self thought the principal of Yin and Yang”

I’ve heard that Tai Chi Chuan is an internal martial art?

Tai Chi Chuan is one of the three Chinese Internal martial arts (neijia). The other two being Xing I Quan and Ba Gua Zhang. It is a characterised by soft relaxed movements and trained at a slower speed than other martial arts.

Which kind of diseases will Tai Chi Chuan be effective to?

What Tai Chi Chuan advocated is to improve the body quality as a whole. Sustaining exercising of Tai Chi Chuan will cure or prevent some diseases relating to cardiovascular, orthopaedics, neurological system, digestive system, breathing system and the organs function decaying.

 Is Tai Chi a health exercise or a martial art? 
It is both (although some teachers teach only the health aspects)! Probably 90% of people starting Tai Chi are there purely for their health, but many go on to embrace the complete art. However if all you are interested in is self-defence there are faster ways to achieve this.

 What should I wear to class?

Bare feet and loose fitting clothing is best. A Chuan-Fa shirt is required. No Jewelery Please.

 How does Tai Chi differ from Qigong?

 If you pay attention to your breath while practicing Tai Chi you will gain many of the benefits attributed to Qigong. In this way, Tai Chi is a sophisticated, high level of Qigong.

 Who founded Tai Chi Chuan?

There was no single founder as Tai Chi Chuan has been developed over many centuries by countless people. From historical records, the earliest mention of the term Taiji in martial arts was made during the Tang Dynasty (618-906) in China. The earliest use of the term Tai Chi Chuan was during the subsequent Later Liang Dynasty (907-923). The master usually credited to institutionalize Tai Chi Chuan as a comprehensive system of martial art was Zhang San Feng who lived towards the end of the Song Dynasty in the 13th century. Zhang San Feng is regarded by many as the First Patriarch — not the founder — of Tai Chi Chuan.

 Are there different types of Tai Chi Chuan?

Yes…. Because of different needs and environments, different styles of Tai Chi Chuan have developed. The oldest known form of Tai Chi Chuan is Wudang Tai Chi Chuan, developed by Zhang San Feng (13th century) at the Wudang Mountain. (Please note that Wudang is pronounced like “Wu-t’ang”.) From this was evolved Chen Style Tai Chi Chuan, and Chen Wang Ting (1600-1680) was its First Patriarch. From Chen Style, Yang Lu Chan (1799-1872) evolved Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan. Combining the best of Chen Style and Yang Style, Wu Yu Xiang (1813-1880) developed Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan. A descendent from the Yang’s linage, Wu Chuan You (1834-1902) developed another Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan. These two Wu’s are pronounced and written differently in Chinese. Sun Lu Tang (1861-1932) combined elements from Tai Chi Chuan, Baguaquan and Xinyiquan into Sun Style Tai Chi Chuan.

Tai Chi Chuan is called an internal style. What are differences between internal and external martial arts?

To be precise, Tai Chi is categorized as an internal soft-style kung-fu. “Internal” means that the emphasis is on strengthening the internal body, the muscles, tendons, bones, internal organs, and it follows a quiet, meditative training that lets the body do the job without forcing it. While external training, such as in gym exercises and weight lifting, works on certain groups of muscles separately, internal training works on the whole body and the mind as one. The mind needs to be empty, clear and calm. The internal system takes longer to achieve, but it is very powerful — and deceptively so, with no obvious or flashy moves like high jumps and kicks. It offers a more practical and economical approach to fighting. At the same time, Tai Chi has a greater healing effect on the body than other systems. Nei Kung also strengthens the body from within and is important for the development of internal martial arts. High-level Nei Kung training is called “iron vest” or “golden bell,” because it develops the ability to withstand a strong force. “Soft” means yielding, pliable, responding. The characteristics of Tai Chi are deep breathing, circular movements, smoothness, and the capacity to be slow-yet-fast, with the nervous system completely attentive. The practitioner of Tai Chi doesn’t try to use force against force, as in other styles. Shing-Yi, for example, is a popular internal style kung-fu that is harder rather than soft. With the sensitivity training of Push Hands, a Tai Chi practitioner learns to yield to an opponent’s force while keeping in contact with his body and seeking an opportunity to strike, instead of matching force against force. This best illustrates the Tai Chi principle of four ounces deflecting a 1,000 pounds, and is the essence of Tai Chi’s power.