International Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan Association

[Skip navigation]


In This Document:
§ History
§ Theory
§ Philosophy
§ Practical
§ Miscellaneous Information

Ranking Theory Tests Study Material

History

  1. How did Tai Chi begin?
  2. What are the 13 Postures (original name of Tai Chi Chuan)?
  3. How many styles of Tai Chi are there and what are their differences?
  4. Who created each of the 5 styles?
  5. Who did the creators learn from?
  6. What are the original names of the birthplaces for the 5 major styles of Tai Chi Chuan?
  7. What is the History of Yang Style?
  8. How has Yang Style changed from old, medium and small frame and who did which?
  9. What is the current Yang Family lineage?
  10. What is the most popular style of Tai Chi today?

1. How did Tai Chi begin?

There are two theories

Theory #1
Around the Yuan and Ming Dynasty - Chang Sanfeng - about 600-700 years ago lived in Shaolin Temple and went to WuDang Mountain and created Tai Chi. He saw a crane fighting with a snake. The crane was always hard. The snake would yield and follow the crane and did not resist and so he didn't lose his life to the crane. Hard was controlled by soft.
Theory #2
Created by Chen Family about 300 years ago by Chen Wangting.

2. What are the 13 Postures (original name of Tai Chi Chuan)?

The 13 Postures are comprised of 8 energies and 5 steps:

8 energies are: ward off, roll back, press, push, pull, elbow strike, shoulder strike, and split

5 steps are: forward, back, look left, gaze right, and center

3. How many styles of Tai Chi are there and what are their differences?

There are 5 different styles of Tai Chi that are connected with each other. Chen, Yang, Wu, Wu and Sun styles. All 5 styles are connected together; their outside movements are a little different but inside the energies are the same.

Chen Style - is fast and slow combined together with some jumping and stomping movements. Old form and cannon fist was created from the 17th generation.

Yang Style - Yang Luchan learned the old form/frame from the Chen family. Yang movements are slow, even, gentle, big and large. Yang Luchan learned from the 14th generation Chen family member.

Wu/Hao Style - The 1st Wu style came from Yang and Chen styles and is slow, smooth, and small and the posture is high. Wu Yuxiang learned from Yang Banhou, 2nd generation Yang family member, and then learned from Chen Qingping, 14th generation. Wu/Hao is a smaller frame.

Wu Style - 2nd Wu style comes from Quanyu who learned from Yang Banhou. They lean their body to the side but when they lean they think about being straight. Wu learned from Yang Banhou. Later in age Banhou's frame became smaller.

Sun Style - learned from Hao Weijian. Their movements combine 3 styles of Tai Chi together, Wu, Hsing-I and Bagua.

4. Who created each of the 5 styles?

Chen was created by Chen Wangting
Yang was created by Yang Luchan
Wu/Hao was created by Wu Yuxiang
Wu was created by Wu Jian Quan or Wu Quanyu
Sun was created by Sun Lutang

5. Who did the creators learn from?

Yang Luchan learned from Chen Changxin
Wu Yuxiang learned from Yang Luchan, Yang Banhou and Chen Qingping
Wu Jianquan learned from his father, Quanyu
Sun Lutang learned from Hao Weijian

6. What are the original names of the birthplaces for the 5 major styles of Tai Chi Chuan?

The original name of the birthplace of Yang Style is Guangfuzhen town in Guangpingfu area (bigger than county, smaller than province).

The original name of the birthplace of Chen Style is Chenjiagou village, Wen county, Hunan province.

The original name of the birthplace of Wu/Hao Style is Guangfu town, Yongnian county, Heibei province.

The original name of the birthplace for Sun or Wu Styles is not officially known.

7. What is the History of Yang Style?

The birthplace of Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan is Hebei Province, Yongnian County. About 200 years ago, Yang LuChan went to Beijing to teach the Emperor's Family. People would watch and wanted to learn from him. His movements were smooth, slow and even. As it evolved, Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan has had different frames. The original frame style is called the Old Frame. Then came the Small, Middle or Medium Frame and last the Large Frame. The Frame that is practiced now is the Large Frame which we call the "Traditional, 85, 103, and 108 Form." Even though the counting is different, the movements are the same.

8. How has Yang Style changed from old, medium and small frame and who did which?

Yang Luchan is old frame
Yang Banhou & Yang Shaohou - small frame
Yang Jianhou is medium frame
Yang Chengfu - large frame

9. What is the current Yang Family lineage?

Yang Luchan, 1st generation (old frame)
Yang Jianhou is 2nd generation (middle frame)
Yang Chengfu is 3rd generation (large form) He standardized the form that is practiced throughout the world today.
Yang Zhenduo is 4th generation
Yang Jun is 6th generation

10. What is the most popular style of Tai Chi today?

Yang Style is the most popular style of Tai Chi practiced around the world today. This is largely due to the Yang family teaching to the public and not keeping it private.

Theory

1. What is the 10 essential of tai chi chuan ?

Following are the Ten Essentials of Tai Chi Chuan Orally transmitted by Yang Chengfu Recorded by Chen Weiming Translated by Jerry Karin

  1. Empty, lively, pushing up and energetic1

    'Pushing up and energetic' means the posture of the head is upright and straight and the spirit is infused into its apex. You may not use strength. To do so makes the back of the neck stiff, whereupon the chi and blood cannot circulate freely. You must have an intention which is empty, lively (or free) and natural. Without an intention which is empty, lively, pushing up and energetic, you won't be able to raise your spirit.

  2. Hold in the chest and pull up the back

    The phrase 'hold in the chest' means the chest is slightly reserved inward, which causes the chi to sink to the cinnabar field (dan1 tian2). The chest must not be puffed out. If you do so then the chi is blocked in the chest region, the upper body becomes heavy and lower body light, and it will become easy for the heels to float upward. 'Pulling up the back' makes the chi stick to the back. If you are able to hold in the chest then you will naturally be able to pull up the back. If you can pull up the back, then you will be able to emit a strength from the spine which others cannot oppose.

  3. Relax the waist

    The waist is the commander of the whole body. Only after you are able to relax the waist2 will the two legs have strength and the lower body be stable. The alternation of empty and full all derive from the turning of the waist. Hence the saying: 'The wellspring of destiny lies in the tiny interstice of the waist. Whenever there is a lack of strength in your form, you must look for it in the waist and legs.

  4. Separate empty and full

    In the art of Tai Chi Chuan, separating full and empty is the number one rule. If the whole body sits on the right leg, then the right leg is deemed 'full' and the left leg 'empty'. If the whole body sits on the left leg, then the left leg is deemed 'full' and the right leg 'empty'. Only after you are able to distinguish full and empty will turning movements be light, nimble and almost without effort; if you can't distinguish them then your steps will be heavy and sluggish, you won't be able to stand stably, and it will be easy for an opponent to control you.

  5. Sink the shoulders and droop the elbows

    Sinking the shoulders means the shoulders relax open and hang downward. If you can't relax them downward, the shoulders pop up and then the chi follows and goes upward, causing the whole body to lack strength. Drooping the elbows means the elbows are relaxed downward. If the elbows are elevated then the shoulders are unable to sink. When you use this to push someone they won't go far. It's like the 'cut off' energy of external martial arts3.

  6. Use Intent Rather than Force

    The taiji classics say, "this is completely a matter of using intent rather than force'. When you practice taijiquan, let the entire body relax and extend. Don't employ even the tiniest amount of coarse strength which would cause musculo-skeletal or circulatory blockage with the result that you restrain or inhibit yourself. Only then will you be able to lightly and nimbly change and transform, circling naturally. Some wonder: if I don't use force, how can I generate force? The net of acupuncture meridians and channels throughout the body are like the waterways on top of the earth. If the waterways are not blocked, the water circulates; if the meridians are not impeded the chi circulates. If you move the body about with stiff force, you swamp the meridians, chi and blood are impeded, movements are not nimble; all someone has to do is begin to guide you and your whole body is moved. If you use intent rather than force, wherever the intent goes, so goes the chi. In this way - because the chi and blood are flowing, circulating every day throughout the entire body, never stagnating - after a lot of practice, you will get true internal strength. That's what the taiji classics mean by "Only by being extremely soft are you able to achieve extreme hardness." Somebody who is really adept at taiji has arms which seem like silk wrapped around iron, immensely heavy. Someone who practices external martial arts, when he is using his force, seems very strong. But when not using force, he is very light and floating. By this we can see that his force is actually external, or superficial strength. The force used by external martial artists is especially easy to lead or deflect, hence it is not of much value.

  7. Synchronize Upper and Lower Body

    In the taiji classics 'Synchronize Upper and Lower Body is expressed as: "With its root in the foot, emitting from the leg, governed by the waist, manifesting in the hands and fingers - from feet to legs to waist - complete everything in one impulse." * When hands move, the waist moves and legs move, and the gaze moves along with them. Only then can we say upper and lower body are synchronized. If one part doesn't move then it is not coordinated with the rest.

  8. Match Up Inner and Outer

    What we are practicing in taiji depends on the spirit, hence the saying: "The spirit is the general, the body his troops". If you can raise your spirit, your movements will naturally be light and nimble, the form nothing more than empty and full, open and closed. When we say 'open', we don't just mean open the arms or legs; the mental intent must open along with the limbs. When we say 'close', we don't just mean close the arms or legs; the mental intent must close along with the limbs. If you can combine inner and outer into a single impulse*, then they become a seamless whole.

  9. (Practice) Continuously and Without Interruption

    Strength in external martial arts is a kind of acquired, brute force, so it has a beginning and an end, times when it continues and times when it is cut off, such that when the old force is used up and new force hasn't yet arisen, there is a moment when it is extremely easy for the person to be constrained by an opponent. In taiji, we use intent rather than force, and from beginning to end, smoothly and ceaselessly, complete a cycle and return to the beginning, circulating endlessly. That is what the taiji classics mean by "Like the Yangtze or Yellow River, endlessly flowing." And again: "Moving strength is like unreeling silk threads". These both refer to unifying into a single impulse*.

  10. Seek Quiescence within Movement

    External martial artists prize leaping and stopping as skill, and they do this till breath (chi) and strength are exhausted, so that after practicing they are all out of breath. In taiji we use quiescence to overcome movement, and even in movement, still have quiescence. So when you practice the form, the slower the better! When you do it slowly your breath becomes deep and long, the chi sinks to the cinnabar field (dan1 tian2) and naturally there is no deleterious constriction or enlargement of the blood vessels. If the student tries carefully he may be able to comprehend the meaning behind these words.

Philosophy

  1. How is Chinese Culture incorporated into Tai Chi?
  2. What is the difference between Internal and External martial arts?

1. How is Chinese Culture incorporated into Tai Chi?

Chinese culture is developed from I-Ching and different schools of philosophy.
Tai Chi (one thing) eminates from wuji (ultimate nothingness). Tai Chi is the origin of dynamic and static states and separates into two - yin and yang. When there is movement, yin and yang separate. When there is no movement, they combine and become one.

Wu Sheng = 5 elements/principles. 5 elements are: fire, water, metal, wood and earth Each develops, controls and balances each other.

Earth is nourished by fire
Metal is created by earth
Metal dissolves to feed water
Water nourishes wood
Wood feeds fire

Water quenches fire
Fire tempers metal
Metal cuts wood
Wood restrains earth
Earth holds back water

Chinese medicine uses yin and yang. For example: Heart = fire; Liver = wood;
Kidney = water. When we are sick yin and yang are not in balance. Chinese medicine also uses Wu Sheng elements

2. What is the difference between Internal and External martial arts?

With external martial arts one must be harder and stronger than their opponent in order to overcome the opponent.

Internal martial arts include Tai Chi, Hsing-I, and Bagua. We train to use soft ways to make body soft, follow opponent's energy. Like cotton - yielding. Inside and outside are coordinated together.

Practical

  1. After learning the hand form, what else do we learn?
  2. What is Push Hands and its basic principles?
  3. What forms and types of Push Hands is taught by the Yang Family?
  4. What weapons are part of the original Yang family Tai Chi?
  5. What is a Bow Stance?
  6. What is an Empty Stance?
  7. When practicing Tai Chi, should we concentrate on our breathing?
  8. What are some other things we should remember when practicing Tai Chi?
  9. How does the body move while practicing Tai Chi chuan?
  10. How do we keep upper body light and lower body solid?
  11. How do we keep our chi sinking down?
  12. What does it mean to be double weighted?
  13. Sometimes Tai Chi is referred to as the Long Fist. What is the meaning of Long Fist?
  14. What are the three treasures of the human body?
  15. What is Jing (Essence)?
  16. How does Jing (Essence) relate to Chi (Qi)?
  17. What is Shen (Spirit)?
  18. How Can we Raise our Shen (Spirit)?
  19. What is Wu De?
  20. What morals should we be adhering to?

1. After learning the hand form, what else do we learn?

Students learn the Hand Form, Push Hands, and Weapons (sword, saber and staff). The hand form is the foundation for all other forms. After learning the hand form the student progresses to learn push hands. Push Hands teaches the student to apply the 8 energies taught in the hand form with an opponent/partner. The sword and saber teaches the student how to use a weapon. The sword and saber still follow the 10 essentials while maintaining the large, graceful, and even pace. The sword techniques are clear, light, flexible, lively and flowing and the saber techniques are heavy, powerful, and energetic and show strong spirit.

2. What is Push Hands and its basic principles?

The basic principles for push hands is sticking, adhering, connecting, following with no resisting or separating from the opponent. If your opponent doesn't move, you don't move. When your opponent begins to move, then you move late and arrive/control first.

3. What forms and types of Push Hands is taught by the Yang Family?

We have two forms of Push Hands - Fixed step and moving step. In Yang Style it includes 5 different types of push hands - single arm fixed step, double arm fixed step, moving step - straight footwork, moving step - cross footwork and big rollback.

4. What weapons are part of the original Yang family Tai Chi?

The traditional Yang style actually doesn't have many weapons. In the main they are divided into two groups: long and short handled weapons.

The short weapons are the 67-move sword and 13-move saber.

For the long weapons we used to include the long spear (or Yang style 13-move spear), but later for safety reasons, removed the spear head so that it became a long staff. The techniques for the staff remain the same as the original spear form. Later the long staff practice turned mainly into a way of training to emit energy (fajing). This is usually referred to as dou gan or 'shivering staff.'

5. What is a Bow Stance?

A bow stance is like the shape of an archer's stance. Knee follows the toe direction and doesn't go past the toe. Back leg is straight but not locked. Shoulder width between feet. Forward and back feet are rooted. If feet are too narrow (not shoulders width apart) you are not stable. Back foot points to corner or 45 degrees. Weight is 60% front, 40% back.

6. What is an Empty Stance?

An Empty Stance is when your back leg and foot is pointed to the corner and the front foot is forward. The front foot touches with either the toe or heel. More weight is on the back leg and the front leg takes just a little bit of weight. The back leg knee is in line with toes. Do not cross heels. Stay on the other side of the centerline between the heels. Footwork is narrower. Weight is 30% front, 70% back. Do not lean back - keep centered.

7. When practicing Tai Chi, should we concentrate on our breathing?

Breathing is natural, even. Sink your chi to the dantian. We don't talk too much about coordinating breathing with movements. With long movements you must breathe naturally - don't stop breathing because your energy will stop, chi will stop, and so movements and breath should be natural. Movements have to be coordinated with breath with simple movements.

8. What are some other things we should remember when practicing Tai Chi?

Mouth: Keep mouth closed but not closed. Naturally closed. When mouth is dry, yin is not enough then cannot have yang.

Tongue: Touch tip of tongue to the roof of your mouth. This helps keep the mouth moist.

Shape of hand: Lift slightly, extend, bend your fingers, slight space between fingers. Same shape of palm. Don't go too soft or hard.

Relax: Remember to open the joints, tendons and bones while unifying the entire body during your practice. Tai Chi is a "whole body" exercise. The waist is very important as it leads your entire body. Energy is led from your root, which is located in the feet, exploded by the legs, controlled by the waist and expressed by the hands.

9. How does the body move while practicing Tai Chi chuan?

The upper body is light, the middle body is flexible and the lower body solid and heavy.

10. How do we keep upper body light and lower body solid?

Do not use too much force to keep the upper body light.
Keep your chi sinking down to keep the lower body solid.

11. How do we keep our chi sinking down?

Do not hold your breath - keep breathing naturally. When you are calm, then your chi automatically sinks down.

12. What does it mean to be double weighted?

Double weighted means that your "empty" and "full" are not clear. It makes it so you are not able to transfer between empty and full so you are not able to be flexible and agile. It makes your breathing unnatural, your energy stiff, and your whole body not flexible.

13. Sometimes Tai Chi is referred to as the Long Fist. What is the meaning of Long Fist?

In the Tai Chi form the energy is continuously moving - no stopping. Like clouds moving, water flowing - it never stops.

With other forms of martial arts the meaning is the form is fast, movements are large but with Tai Chi it means that the energy continues like water, like clouds.

14. What are the three treasures of the human body?

Jing (Essence)
Chi (Qi) (Vital Energy)
Shen (Spirit)

"Accumulate Shen to promote Chi
Accumulate Chi to promote Jing
Refine Jing until it becomes Chi
Refine Chi into Shen
Refine Shen to emptiness
This is the way to strengthen, support and increase the Jing, Chi and Shen of the body."

15. What is Jing (Essence)?

Jing is a basic component of the human body and serves as a basis for vital activity. It is what we get from what we eat, the sun, the moon. In the Jing/Chi pair, Jing is more like Yin.

16. How does Jing (Essence) relate to Chi (Qi)?

The meaning of Chi is simply, life! Life is due to the coming together of Chi, and death is due to the dispersion of Chi. It is a force promoting the activity of the human body. Chi coexists with Jing. Where there is Chi, there is Jing. Where there is Jing, there must be Chi. Chi is like energy. Chi is more like Yang.

17. What is Shen (Spirit)?

Shen is derived from Jing and Chi, plus it has a substantial basis (Jing + Chi = Shen.) Shen is the outward manifestation of the cooperating action of Jing and Chi. Where Chi is strong, there will be Shen. Where Chi is absent, Shen will weaken. Shen moves along with Chi and Jing. The substance of Shen manifests itself in bodily appearance.

18. How Can we Raise our Shen (Spirit)?

By follow the 10 Principles of Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan, the entire body is loose (song) and open allowing the (Jingshen) Vital Energy to be cultivated and be able to raise. Your spirit comes from your heart and shows out through your eyes. You must use your attention and concentration to help your spirit raise up.

19. What is Wu De?

Wu De (martial virtue) is the established code of conduct (morals) for martial artists and covers two main areas: the actions and the mind set of the Practitioner.

In The Action, one should express Humility, Respect, Righteousness, Trust, and Loyalty.

In The Mind, one must have Will, Endurance, Perseverance, Patience, and Courage.

20. What morals should we be adhering to?

Be a nice person. Respect each other, especially your elders.

Miscellaneous Information

1. Recommended Reading and Study Material

Art of War by Sun Tzu
I/Ching
How to Practice Tai Chi Chuan by Yang Chengfu
Yang Style Taijiquan by Yang Zhenduo
Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan by Fu Zhongwen
Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan Traditional Form (103) DVD by Yang Jun
Chinese Medical Books
Chinese Cultural Books

Footnotes

[1] This four-character phrase is probably the most difficult one in all of Tai Chi literature to translate. I have chosen to regard each of the four words as filling the function of a predicate or verb-phrase. Another fairly obvious approach would be to take the first two as adverbial and the last two as subject-predicate: "Empty and lively, the apex is energetic." Many other interpretations are possible.

[2] In Chinese thought the waist tends to be regarded as the space between two vertebrae, rather than a circle girdling the middle of the body.

[3] External martial arts such as Shaolin are thought to use energy from parts or sections of the body, as opposed to the 'whole-body' energy of Tai Chi.

[*] Literally "one chi". This could also be rendered as "one breath".


Reprinted with permission from Master Yang Jun - January 2003


International Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan Association • Copyright © 1999-2014 Yang Family • All rights reserved