Art of tai chi.
Subject: T'ai chi ch'uan (History)
Author: Herzog, Trysta
Pub Date: 09/22/2011
Publication: Name: Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association Publisher: American Psychotherapy Association Audience: Academic; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 American Psychotherapy Association ISSN: 1535-4075
Issue: Date: Fall-Winter, 2011 Source Volume: 14 Source Issue: 3
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 277270197


Tai Chi History

By watching the slow, deliberate, and graceful steps of tai chi, the last use you might envision for the beautiful art form would be as a self-defense tool. However, out of the development of martial arts about eight centuries ago, tai chi was brought about for just that purpose: creating a balance between mind, body, and nature, while encouraging a heightened state of health and wellness.

Tai chi opponents are not met with the same rigidity of other Chinese martial arts--force meeting with force--but with deflection and using the attacker's own force against him.

The five leading tai chi styles--Chen, Yang, Wu/ Hao, Wu, and Sun, respectively--are connected in their history as well as the energies they attempt to stimulate within their practitioners; they differ, however, in their interpretations of the original 13 movements and form.

Tai Chi Philosophy

For 20 years, Yang Jun said he's taught many different types of students, but sees a commonality between them.

"People come to try to understand life--try to find balance and understanding from tai chi," he said. "You are following the philosophy of the kite in practice.

It is through constant practice, he said, that this inner peace can be reached, especially when you're practicing with another person.

"Movements come from outside of things; it is the balance between you and another. Tai chi is very simple, but two things that keep changing--movements like left hand, right hand, left hand, right hand--it becomes very complicated."

Tai chi is about creating a foundation with the form, building on the method with movements, and creating a relationship between movements, all the while developing the Jing, or essence; Chi (Qi), or vital energy; and Shen, or spirit, within.

"If you just know the movements, there's no meaning behind it. First you have the philosophy to guide you, and then the steps will gradually show you how to do it. Nurture your energy, your skill, and your foundation."


Master Yang Jun

Originating in the Hebei province of China during the early 1800s, the Yang style was first developed by Yang Lu Chan, who had been sent at a young age to train with the 14th generation Chen family. He later was hired to train the Chinese Imperial family. Now, six generations later, Master Yang Jun is keeping alive his family's tradition of teaching others the martial art.

"At the beginning it was not my intention to start practicing tai chi," he said. "I was actually just scared to be by myself."

At five years old, Yang lived in China with his grandfather Master Yang Zhen Duo, who like many other Chinese residents practiced tai chi early each morning.

"My grandfather would lock me in the room and leave. I was scared, so the next day I ask, 'Please take me with you.' Sometimes after school, I wanted to play with the other kids, but my grandfather made me practice. I didn't know it then, but he wanted to have someone to continue the family art."

Now proficient in tai chi chuan, sword, saber, push hands, and many other forms of tai chi, 43-year-old Yang Jun has operated a tai chi school in Seattle, Washington, since 1999 with his wife, Fang Hong--also a tai chi instructor--and their two children. The year before that, he began the International Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan Association.

He is also the first in the Yang family to live outside of China, taking with him the Yang style to teach across the United States and the world.

5 Tai Chi Styles

CHEN: Fast and slow combined together with some jumping and stomping movements. Old form and cannon fist was created from the 17th generation.

YANG: Started from the old form/frame from the Chen family. Yang movements are slow, even, gentle, big, and large.

WU/HAO: First Wu style came from Yang and Chen styles and is slow, smooth, and small, and the posture is high with a smaller frame.

WU: Second Wu style comes from Quanyu who learned from Yang Ban Hou. They lean their body to the side, but when they lean they think about being straight.

SUN: Movements combine three styles of tai chi together, Wu, Hsing-I, and Bagua.

Yang Family Tree

Yang Lu Ch a n (1799-1872)

Coming from a poor family in China's Hebei Province, Guangping Prefecture, Yongnian County, he started practicing martial arts with the employer of the pharmacy at which he worked, who sent him to study with tai chi originators, the Chen family. In the 1850s, he was hired to teach the Imperial Chinese Family, which he did until his death. He was also known as Yang "The Invicible."

Yang Yu (1837-1892)

From an early age, he practiced tai chi with brother Yang Jian under the direction of their father Yang Lu Chan. Nicknamed Ban Hou, he was skilled at sparring and adept at using a staff in his fighting style.

Yang Jian (1839-1917)

Despite trying to run away several times to escape his father's strict requirements, he became a skilled tai chi master; his sword skill became renowned. He was nicknamed Jian Hou.

Yang Zhao Xiong (1862-1930)

Son of Yang Jian, and called Shao Hou, he learned much of his skill from his uncle, Ban Hou. He developed a tai chi form that was high with small movements; sometimes sudden and sometimes slow.

Yang Zhao Qing (1883-1936)

Also called Cheng Fu, this son of Yang Jian established the family's large frame, setting the standard for the current Yang style. His form can be performed in a high, medium, or low stance. Thus, the degree of difficulty can be adjusted according to the one's requirements and condition.

Yang Zhao Peng (1872-1930)

The only son of Yang Ban Hou, he studied with cousin Yang Cheng Fu and opened a school in Guangxi before passing away.

Yang Zhen Ming (1910-1985)

Following father Yang Cheng Fu, he traveled China teaching tai chi as a young man. Also called Shou Zhong, he finally opened up a martial arts school in Hong Kong in 1949, where he also taught.

Yang Zhen Ji (1921-)

Also a son of Yang Cheng Fu, he began teaching tai chi in the 1940s, traveling the world to educate people on the craft.

Yang Zhen Guo (1928-)

The last son of Yang Cheng Fu, he has studied tai chi from an early age, teaching the art around the Hebei Province, in the Handan City area.

Yang Zhen Duo (1926-)

He started practicing tai chi with his father, Yang Cheng Fu, and his brothers at age 6, becoming a patient and meticulous student. He founded the Shanxi Province Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan Association in the 1960s, which has now grown to tens of thousands of students all over the world. His grandson is Yang Jun.

Yang Jun (1968-)

The 6th generation master studied under his grandfather Yang Zhen Duo, moving to the United States in the late 1990s to carry out the mission of his International Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan Association.

10 Essentials of Yang Tai Chi Chuan

Orally transmitted by Yang Chengfu; Recorded by Chen Weiming; Translated by Jerry Karin


1. Empty, lively, pushing up and energetic

'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--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; it will then 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 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 waist 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 No. 1 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 arts.

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 that 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 and 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 that 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

According to the taiji classics, "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 bodies 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 I 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.

tai chi TIPS

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 principle?

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 were part of the original gang 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 bandied 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 naturally closed. When mouth is dry, yin is not enough then you 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 our 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 sinkinq 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, and 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 following 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 rise 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 mindset 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.

13 Tai Chi Postures

8 energies

Ward off

Roll back




Elbow strike

Shoulder strike


5 steps



Look left

Gaze right

steps Center
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