A Brief Description of T'ai Chi Ch'uan

T'ai Chi Ch'uan, literally Supreme Ultimate Fist, is a Chinese martial art rooted in Taoist philosophy of living in harmony with nature and practiced today primarily as an exercise for health. It is an extraordinarily subtle system and is one of the so-called soft style or internal martial arts. T'ai Chi Ch'uan requires relaxed natural movements that integrate the whole body with the mind. T'ai Chi Ch'uan relies on the intrinsic strength of functionally aligned postures, in contrast to muscular strength normally exhibited by hard-style or external martial arts, such as Karate.

There are styles of T'ai Chi Ch'uan (notably the Chen Family Style) that incorporate some fast, explosive movements. In general, however, the Solo Form practice of T'ai Chi Ch'uan is characterized by slow fluid movements. To the unpracticed eye, it might look like slow motion Karate. Acting like a form of moving Yoga, T'ai Chi Ch'uan improves health and well-being. It can be practiced by people of all ages and is frequently cited for the improved health and vigor it gives older practitioners. The body moves slowly in the Solo Form so that the mind can attend to training/correcting the body to the precise configurations required. The principles on which T'ai Chi Ch'uan is based offer a distinctive approach to martial arts, physical fitness, and philosophy of life.

T'ai Chi Ch'uan approaches the ideal for a form of physical education. It is oriented to finding maximum efficiency though integrating the mind and body in harmonious movement, and does so in ways that promote overall health and well-being. The movements all have meaning, so they can sustain interest as their subtleties are explored. Practice requires no large space, special dress, or equipment. Moreover, T'ai Chi Ch'uan can be done individually as well as in groups.

T'ai Chi Ch'uan has antecedents in health exercise that pre-date written history and has roots in martial arts from around 500 or 600 AD The most popular fables attribute the creation of T'ai Chi Ch'uan to the quasi-mythological Taoist, Chan San Feng, from the Wu Tang Mountains circa 600 AD. The modern forms of T'ai Chi Ch'uan all derive from the teachings of the Chen family of Chenjiaogou in Henan Province. Yang Lu-chan (1799-1872) learned from the Chen family and popularized T'ai Chi Ch'uan in Beijing. His grandson Yang Cheng-fu (1883-1936), choreographed the Yang-style Form that is widely known today. Professor Cheng Man-ch'ing (1901-1975), who studied with Yang Cheng-fu, choreographed the Yang-style Short Form (more properly called Professor Cheng Man-ch'ing's Simplified T'ai Chi Ch'uan) that I have been studying - primarily with Ben Lo. Currently, I am also studying Wu (Wu Chien-chuan) Style with Anthony "Tony" Ho (Square Form of Wu Kung-yi as transmitted through Pei Tsu-ying). In addition to the various Chen, Yang, and Wu styles, the other major traditional Forms of T'ai Chi Ch'uan include Wu (Wu Yu-xian, aka Hao style) and Sun family styles.

Lee N. Scheele
Costa Mesa, CA

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