Page with general information about Taijiquan.
Taijiquan (Tai Ji Quan) / T’ai Chi Ch’uan:
In modern pinyin it is written as Taijiquan.
In the (older) Wade-Giles transcription it is called T’ai Chi Ch’uan.
What is Taijiquan
Taijiquan is a system of physical exercises emphasizing balance, coordination, and effortlessness in movements. It is designed for attaining bodily and mental control and well-being. And last but not least, it is an extremely effective martial art.
The origin of Taijiquan
Although Taijiquan is attributed to the mythical figure Zhang Sanfeng it is very unlikely that this is really true. It is more likely that various elements of Taijiquan originated from ancient exercises that have been developed over the centuries by martial artists / practitioners of medicine. Taijiquan’s origins therefore remain shrouded in mystery.
Nowadays it is generally accepted that Chen style was the first Taijiquan style. It was developed by Chen Wanting (1580 – 1660) who integrated different elements of Chinese philosophy into the martial arts training to create a new approach that we now recognize as the Internal martial arts. He added the principles of Yin-Yang theory (the universal principle of complementary opposites), the techniques of Doayin (leading and guiding energy) and Tu-na (expelling and drawing energy). In addition, Wangting incorporated the boxing theories from sixteen different martial art styles.
Chen Wanting thus combined his military experience and the theories of Jingluo and Daoyin with the popular teachings of Qi Jiguang. Six generations later Chen Changxing tought Taijiquan to Yang Luchan the first student from outside the Chen family. Yang Luchan took it to Beijing in 1860 and developed the Yang style. He and his son Yang Ban Hou tought it to Wu Quanyou who then developed Wu style Taijiquan.
Yang Luchan also tought Wu Yuxiang (author of influential classics) who, whith his nephew Hao Wei Chen, developed the Wu Hao style. Hao Wei Chen tought Taijiquan to Sun Lu T’ang who developed the Sun style.
The five major styles:
According to family seniority these are:
– Chen-style (陳氏) of Chen Wangting (1580–1660)
– Yang-style (楊氏) of Yang Lu-ch’an (1799–1872)
– Wu- or Wu (Hao)-style (武氏) of Wu Yu-hsiang (1812–1880)
– Wu-style (吳氏) of Wu Ch’uan-yu (1834–1902) and his son Wu Chien-ch’uan (1870–1942)
– Sun-style (孫氏) of Sun Lu-t’ang (1861–1932)
Explanation of some terms:
Qi, Chi, Ch’i:
What is the right one to use? If you would see, and understand, the Chinese character it is immediately clear what the exact meaning is. As a student in Taijiquan it is a good thing that you know a little Chinese. Master Ma Jiang Bao calls during the execution of the form the Chinese names so, if you know a little Chinese, you know exactly what part of the form you need to do. This can be very useful indeed.
Meaning of Qi (Ch’i):
Pinyin: qì (4th tone), Wade-Giles: Ch’i.
气 qì = gas / air / smell / weather / to make angry / to annoy / to get angry / vital energy. Traditionally it was written 氣 qì and the character depicts vapor from a boiling pot of a rice. The word Qì can be found in Qi Gong, (Ch’i Kung in Wade-Giles), Liver-Qi (in TCM) etc.
To initiate the form the teacher might say, 起 qǐ (3rd tone).
This means: to rise / to get up / to set out / to start / to initiate (action).
Others might say, 启 qǐ = to open / to start / to initiate / to enlighten or awaken.
Meaning of 极 jí = Chi (Ji):
Chi, saying ‘chee’, comes from the Wade-Giles system. It usually means, the extreme, depending on the context. But clearly it is not, because there are more than 17 characters for Chi, each with their own meaning. Only when you see the character you know what really is meant.
The traditional Chinese character for our Ji: 極 jí = extreme, pole, utmost, top.
The simplified version: 极 (same meaning of course).
This word can be found in Tai Ji Quan. Also written as T’ai Chi Ch’uan (Wade-Giles).
Tai Ji (Tai Chi) is: the Supreme Ultimate (the Absolute in ancient Chinese cosmology, presented as the primary source of all things).
Tai Ji Tu is: Diagram of Supreme Ultimate. This is the yin-yang symbol.
What about the characters of Tàijíquán:
太 Tài = very, extreme, utmost, biggest, highest, most. It contains the character for person which grows or expands. And there is a spark in the center. We are centered and we ‘grow’. Some say the small spark is a sword.
极 Jí = limit point, extreme, utmost, furthest. The character contains the character for tree. The tree stands for stability and power. The roots go deep into the earth (yin) and the leaves follow the light of heaven (yang). It might also represent the signs for heaven and earth connected by a person. Furthermore, a mouth (mental ability) and a hand (physical ability).
拳 Quán = fist, various forms of boxing. This character again contains the character for hand. Not just meaning, to beat, but beating or boxing with skill.
Have a look at: My YouTube account with many video’s about Tai Ji Quan
Article by Sifu Bart Saris, 1995. Bart Saris on Wu Style Tai Ch’i Chuan
Bart Saris website: Wu Tai Chi Online.
Magazine Lilun by Martin and Freya Bödicker’s Blog and his website.
Glossary of Taijiquan and Gong Fu terms:
Tai Ji Quan / Taijiquan 太极拳
太 Tai (highest) 极 Ji (ultimate) 拳 Quán (fist [with skill])
Si-Fu (Sifu, Mandarin: 师傅 shīfu)
Teacher / Father: Your teacher. Female instructors are also called Sifu.
Teacher / Grandfather: The teacher of your Si-fu.
Teacher / grandfather: The teacher of the Si-gung.
Teacher / ancestor: Teacher of the Si-tai-gung.
Ancestor / Teacher: Title given to the founder of a system or the head of a generation line.
Lecturer of the tradition. This title is usually directed at the head of a living system. It is sometimes also directed to a famous master. (Eg, head of the Wu family style, after Wu Jinghua, now Wu Guangyu / Eddie Wu)
Chen Style Taijiquan
The Chen family style (originally “Chen-Boxing” style, is the oldest style and is the form from which the other main Taijiquan styles have emerged. It originated in Chenjiagou in Henan province. The Chen style is characterized by low postures, visible coiling and typical force explosions (fa-jin).
Grasping and holding. More info here.
The Chinese art of seizing and controlling muscles, tendons and joints in order to neutralize the opponent so that no (permanent) injury remains. Chin Na uses; pressing Qi points, pressing cavities, closing or blocking of blood vessels. Chin Na is divided into: Small circle (fingers/wrist), Medium circle (elbow), Grand Circle (elbow/shoulder).
Fist. Usually used to identify a fighting style.
Dantian (丹田 dāntián)
A Daoist term that refers to a center of energy. An important Dan Tian for martial arts lies halfway between the navel and the pubic bone in the lower abdomen. The Dan Tien is important as a center of balance and is located four finger widths below the navel towards the spine.
See also: Wikipedia: Dan Tian.
Bagua (八卦 bāguà)
The Bagua (the eight trigrams) are the foundation of the Book of Changes, or I Ching. Each of the trigrams, consisting of a pattern of six broken and solid lines, is an element or natural force. The dense or hard lines represent yang, while the broken or soft lines represent yin. In Taijiquan, the eight trigrams are assigned to the eight directions and the eight hand techniques.
In Chinese: Wai
Referring to the use of mechanical energy in the muscle strength or physical body.
Fā Jìn (发 劲 / sending out, energy)
The explosive release of energy (eg by spiral motion) emphasized in the martial aspects of Taijiquan.
Five Elements (Wuxing 五行 / The five elements and their yin / yang nature)
Metal (金, Jin), lungs / large intestine
Wood (木, Mu), liver / gallbladder
Water (水, Shuǐ), kidney / bladder
Fire (火, Huǒ), heart / small intestine, pericardium / Driever warmer
Earth (土, Tǔ), spleen / stomach
A system in Chinese philosophy (including TCM) based on the interactive processes of the natural world. In Taijiquan, the five elements match, the five movements, forwards, backwards, look left, look right and central equilibrium.
See also: Wikipedia Wu Xing.
Dàolù (道路 / path, way)
A formally defined posture, movement or set of movements to improve the coordination and technique of a student. In Taijiquan is spoken about ‘the form’ as being the performing of the style.
Gong (功 / exercise)
Exercise(s) used to develop a skill or strength. There are many types of gongs, both internally (neigong) and external (waigong), leading to many different types of skills or powers.
Gong Fu (Kung Fu 功夫 / skill, reached)
A term for (fighting) skill that originated in China. Kung Fu is a relatively modern term from the 20th century.
Intent (yi 意 / intention, thought, desire, anticipation)
What is in the stored in the mind. In Taijiquan, it can refer to the right intention of the mind when performing the form, but may also refer to having (distracting) thoughts during pushing hands or a combat situation.
Internal (内 营 力 Nei Ying Li / internally acting force)
Referring to intrinsic energy generated by Qì in the body. In the internal martial arts (Neijia) the use of the internal energy is of the utmost importance.
Jing (精 / Essence)
Jing is vital essence, meaning compact energy that gives people their earthly shape. The Jing is the most elementary nourishing power of the body. In Daoism are Jing, Qi and Shen (spirit) the three treasures, which are maintained by ‘being natural’.
See also: Wikipedia Jing.
Qì (气 / Life Energy)
The vital force, the basis for the universe and everything in it. It is the basic form from which matter and energy are formed, and the expression of the life force in all living things. It is an energy that permeates everything and nourishes all living things.
More info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qi
Qì Gōng (气功 / breathing exercises)
Body and breathing exercises to improve coordination skills, and develop or enhance Qì.
Qì is one of the “Three Treasures” Jing, Qi and Shen. Jing is the power and energy that a person has inherited at birth. From this original jing, and the jing from food and air, comes Qi. Shen is the spiritual force that arises from qi and jing. Qi gong works these three levels.
Qi gong regulates the body and brings relaxation and stability, deepens the breathing and brings peace to the mind.
See also: Wikipedia Qi Gong
and Wikipedia Baduanjin Qi Gong.
A term used in many martial arts to describe the skill of ‘proper standing’ and to indicate how power is efficiently transmitted into the ground, creating maximum stability and balance. Well rooted one has the proper condition to take in energy (defense) and send out energy (attack).
Shen (神 / Spirit)
Shen can be translated as’ what comes from heaven and goes through man. ” It can be understood as consciousness, as well as the spirit or soul of the man which resides in the heart. It is said that by practicing Taijiquan Shen is cultivated.
Silk Reeling (纏 絲 功 Chan Si Gong – Winding silk thread exercise)
A class of exercises in the internal arts (Qi Gong) to develop coordination, strength and flexibility. In order to wind a single thread of silk one needs continuous and uninterrupted pressure. The development and application of internal force requires the same concentration.
Song (松 / relax)
The quality of the flexibility and the ease of movement in internal martial art.
The operation of Yin and Yang as represented by a circle divided into a dark and a light part. The Taiji symbol represents two complementary forces in nature. It is a simple but not easy to understand concept of apparent duality while it also means absolute synchronicity.
Yin the feminine force, centrifugal (expanding), passive, receiving, negative, earthly, dark, cold, empty, ortho-sympathetic, space, moon, wet, thin, long, soft.
Yang the masculine force, centripetal (astringent), active, caring, positive, heaven, light, warm, full, Para-sympathetic, time, sun, dry, thick, short, hard.
A Chinese internal form based on the principles of Yin and Yang and Daoist philosophy, and dedicated to the internal physical training. Taijiquan is herein represented by the five family styles: Chen, Yang, Wu, Wu (Hao) and Sun.
Taijitu (太极 图)
The Yin and Yang symbol.
Tui Shou (推 手 / pushing hands)
Pushing hands. A two-person exercise that teaches you how to follow the opponent (stick and push). Tui Shou is said to be the gateway to truly understand the martial aspects of the internal martial arts (内 家 Neijia). It teaches appropriate leverage, reflex, sensitivity, timing, coordination and positioning.
See also: Wikipedia Pushing Hands.
Yang style Taijiquan
The most well-known style of the world. Yang Lu Chan learned his art from Chen Chang Zhing. His grandson Yang Cheng Fu replaced the varying tempos and the rising and falling postures of Chen style by more uniform motion in speed and attitudes.
Wu Style Taijiquan
Wu Chuan-yu was an officer in the imperial guard of the army in the Forbidden City. Yang Lu Chan was the military instructor and he also taught Taijiquan. Wu Chuan-yu was one of his students. Wu-style is characterized by the parallel footwork in the major part of the form.
Wuwei (无为 Wu Wei / inaction)
Originally: wei wu wei, “acting by not acting”. Answering to the principles of the cosmos, non disturbing and not interfering bringing forth naturalness ‘by itself’.
In Taijiquan, the art of relaxation and moving-along. Martially it is an ‘inactive act ” where the action should come from the opponent. This naturally moving-along brings the advantage that one can use the power of the adversary.
Wǔshù (武术 martial art)
The collective term for martial (full contact) sports and exercises.
See also: Wikipedia Wushu.
Zhan Zhuang (站桩 zhàn zhuāng / standing, stake)
Tree Posture / standing like a stake.
An exercise in which the practitioner stands motionless ‘as a tree’.
Note: Use natural tension only! Once the stance is made, hold it, rise only to stop.
Start with a short period of time (5 minutes) and try to lengthen it as you get better in it.
The more one is forcing to ‘hold’ the position the more difficult it will get. After a while you will have to let go unnecessary tensions. This is where the real exercise begins, you will deepen your relaxation into the stance and are capable to let go more and more. An optimal structural physical balance is developed which provides a base for effortless power in martial applications.
Further information about Chinese Martial Arts through Wikipedia Chinese Martial Arts.
For information about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Wikipedia TCM.
More about Qi Gong Wikipedia Qi Gong.
Classical text by: Chang San Feng.
The body must move as a whole, light and agile.
Encourage the qi flow, concentrate the shen.
Allow no imperfections, avoid protrusions and indentations and do not interrupt the movement.
The movement is rooted in the feet, is passed through the legs, controlled by the waist and is reflected in the fingers.
Feet, legs and waist must act as a whole. Only then you can, at the right time and in the best position, step forward or backward.
Up, down, forward, back, left or right: if the moment of action and the position is not correct, the body is in disorder.
Find the error in the waist and legs.
It is not the outward form of the movement
but our intent (yi) which leads the movement.
If there is up, there is down. If there is advance there is reverse. If there is left there is right.
If you want to go up, you must first go down.
When you first push and then pull, something gets slightly uprooted and you can easily overthrow it.
Distinguish empty and full.
Yin and yang are constantly changing with each movement.
All parts of the body are completely connected to each other.
Taijiquan is like a mighty river, flowing on continiously.
Form and muscles:
The muscles that curl the body are yin muscles called flexors.
The muscles that stretch the body are yang muscles called extensors.
Excessive tension of the one affects the operation of the other
and will disturb the balance. The correct co-operation is as in a “balloon”.
It needs outside pressure because otherwise it explodes
but the balloon also needs pressure from within, otherwise it is compressed.
The balloon (the body) undergoes yang (expanding, outgoing)
and yin (contracting, ingoing) and is shaped by these two forces.
If the yin and yang (muscle) forces are in balance (contracting and expanding)
the posture is correct and movements are smooth and round (like a ball).
The analogy with the balloon is also particularly because
the Chinese word for balloon is qì qiú 气球 literally ch’i ball.
A long list towards lots of information is found here Taijiquan , Qi Gong and more.
It also contains links to booksales!
Traditional Chinese weapens and their English manuals and lots of videomaterial.
Sorry, it also has some bad links!