The Tai Ji Quan Today


Nowadays there are thousands of Kung Fu styles in China. This is because, even in the same original stock, e.g. the Mantis, there are many sub-schools (seven stars mantis, plum flower, six harmonies, jade door, etc) and, should this be not enough, the masters, even coming for the same school, have a very personal style, very different one from another, also due to the different geographical areas they come from.

This creates a situation of total anarchy, that we can also find in the Tai Ji Quan ( considered in China as a special kind of Kung Fu): in fact, even if the official styles, therefore acknowledged and approved by the Chinese government, are only five, as a matter of fact the existing styles are much more numerous and unknown, because they remain what they always have been in the history: a secret tradition of family, handed on from father to son.

Obviously the situation has quite changed in the big cities nowadays, thanks to the opening of China towards the markets and the western tourism. Nevertheless the basic mentality is still very narrow. The Tai Ji Quan styles officially acknowledged today are five:

1)   the Tai Ji Chen (Chen Wangting, beginning of 1600)
2)   the Tai Ji Yang (Yang Lu Chan, 1799-1872)
3)   the Tai Ji Wu (of Wu Yuxiang, 1812-1880)
4)   the Tai Ji Wu (of Wu Quanyu, 1870-1942)
5)   the Tai Ji Sun (Sun Lu Tang, 1861-1933, but he created the Sun style only around 1914)

In the brackets are shown the names of the five official Tai Qi Quan styles and the respective founders, in chronological order.

The Tai Ji Chen works and is characterized mainly by the spiral movements. Its execution is not constant, because it alternates slow, soft phases and sudden explosions of power with very swift and quick motions.

The Tai Ji Yang is mainly based on wide circles of arms and legs, extremely flowing and harmonious movements that are always made at the same speed and should be executed with great lightness, opening the body as much as possible without contractures.

The Tai Ji Wu ( of Wu Yuxiang) is marked out by a movement of the hands with small spirals and small circles, short steps mostly rectilinear. There are sudden explosions of power, but the greatest part of the movements are slow and harmonious.

The Tai Ji Wu (of Wu Quanyou) is very similar to the Yang, from which it comes from, but it is marked out by positions of the body more inclined than in the Yang. The speed of execution is constant.

The Tai Ji Sun is very peculiar because, while it is partially similar to the Wu (of Wu Yuxiang),  it contains innumerable elements of Pa Kua Zhang ( Boxing of the Eight Trigraphs) and Shing Yi Quan ( Boxing of the Mind’s Form). In fact its founder, Sun Lu Tang, was a great expert of these styles and, combining them together, he created a style of fight that puts together the straight and rectilinear movements of the Shing Yi, some evasive steps of the Pa Kua and the fluid and soft movement of hands of the Tai Ji Chuan.

The Tai Ji Quan in general, apart from the practised style (and assuming that it is correctly practised), joins together all the health benefits of the Qi Gong (better known in the West as “Chi Kung” ) work on energy: different static and dynamic exercises to learn how to control the energy stream, and in this sense the Tai Chi Chuan can be properly considered as dynamic Qi Gong or a Yoga in movement) with the martial aspects typical of the Gong Fu (Kung Fu) of the internal styles, more sophisticated and difficult to learn in comparison with any other external style. In addition, exactly like the Kung Fu, it develops the will and the patience of those who practise, who have to try and try again many times and slowly the various movements, before they can control them.