International Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan Association

[Skip navigation]


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

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

Read "The Ten Essentials of Tai Chi Chuan".

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 © 1999-2015 Yang Family • All rights reserved