Types of tai chi
   
     

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What is tai chi?

When most people think of 'tai chi' they are usually picturing tai chi for health.
Tai chi for health was adapted from the once famous martial art of taijiquan.


Finding a class

When a new starter scours the web looking for the Art they are faced with an array of approaches that are all called 'tai chi' but are often quite dissimilar.
In truth, there is often little consensus
.
It is important to find out for yourself what taijiquan really means.


Common

Virtually every tai chi school in the UK is teaching 'tai chi for health'.
Usually there is no real syllabus and the material is simplistic.
Some classes may advertise themselves as 'taijiquan' but are in fact teaching tai chi for health.
 

Some styles of tai chi contain all of the information about how the physical body works so that the sophistication of the movements can really go deep into your body. But other styles of tai chi lack this component. Their movements are very loose and are not very sophisticated when looked at from a purely physical perspective. This usually happens because the people who learned did so just by watching someone and mimicking what they did, and were not able to learn the finer aspects of the movement.

(Bruce Frantzis)


Tai chi for health

Faced with a major health crisis in the 1950's, the People's Republic of China turned to Yang style taijiquan for a solution.
They wanted a form of exercise that could be performed by students of all ages.
The simplest way to achieve this was to remove the more demanding fitness component and the kung fu (combat).
Most modern tai chi classes are teaching an Art that an old person could cope with...
By definition this cannot conceivably be a martial art.


Taijiquan fighting method

Classes offering taijiquan (supreme ultimate fist) are very rare indeed.
To train taijiquan correctly you need a highly-skilled martial arts instructor who can offer a very comprehensive syllabus.
It is necessary to train all 13 areas of study.


You must get fit

All martial arts require the student to be fit for combat and taijiquan is no exception.
There are many lazy tai chi classes in the world.
This is naive in the extreme.


Cross-training tai chi
 

Our
taijiquan students train: core strength, massage, leg stretches, cardio work, yoga, qigong, neigong, form, partnered work, martial sets & drills, combat and weapons.
The training is done carefully, gently - in a controlled manner - without exertion or strain.


Other approaches

Common approaches to tai chi you may encounter:

  1. Tai chi for health

  2. Tai chi for fitness

  3. Tai chi tailored for the elderly

  4. Tai chi tailored for specific medical problems i.e. arthritis

  5. Tai chi-style exercise

  6. Tai chi as performance art

  7. Numbered forms (i.e. 24 step)

  8. Tai chi as dance

  9. Qigong referred to as tai chi (shibashi)

  10. Taijiquan offered alongside other martial arts by an instructor who practices a variety of external martial arts

  11. Tai chi classes offered by a so-called instructor who 'learned it from a book' or has a 'fast track' or 'long distance' qualification

  12. Tai chi as an add-on to something else, e.g. Alexander Technique "Let's do a bit of tai chi"

The differences between these approaches are worth some consideration.


How can I tell?

You can easily gauge the credibility of a taijiquan
instructor without challenging them to a fight.
Participate in a number of lessons.
Watch the class carefully, see how well they know their stuff, determine how easily and comfortably they can apply their art.
Look for a thorough and convincing show of
skill.


4 styles

There are 4 traditional styles of taijiquan: Chen, Yang, Wu and Hao.


Other styles

In addition to these 4 styles there are derivations such as Cheng Man Ching style and Sun style (taijiquan, baguazhang, xingyiquan combination).
Some teachers create their own system, based upon a traditional style.
This is fine providing they adhere to The Tai Chi Classics.


Not taijiquan

The People's Republic developed tai chi for health forms e.g. 24 step.
These are not taijiquan. They are just choreographed forms. They have no martial value.


Principles


Style is not the main concern in taijiquan.
What matters most is the correct
application of the
taijiquan
principles at all times.
Ultimately, the 4 styles simply reflect differences of interpretation, preferences and individual emphasis.
It is good that people practice different styles; it adds diversity and variety to the Art.


Styles

It is important not to get too hung up on taijiquan styles.
The Tai Chi Classics were written by
Chang San-feng, Wang Tsung-yueh and Wu Yu-hsiang.
Wu created Hao style, but there are no known styles attributed to Chang or Wang. How come?


Self defence applications

Self defence moves do not qualify as taijiquan.
They are simply not enough.
You can learn a few self defence techniques quite easily but this does not make you a
martial artist.
A credible taijiquan martial artist should have the same standard of skill expected of any martial art: karate, taekwondo, judo, wing chun, ju jutsu, aikido etc.


What does your school teach?

We specialise in teaching taijiquan as a martial art.


Worth reading

Authenticity
The essence of the Art
Taijiquan principles
13 areas of study
A copy or a way?
Similarities & differences
The lost art?
Common misconceptions
Taijiquan as a supplement
 

When both the self defence aspects and the methods of training internal power are seamlessly integrated, you are doing taijiquan.

(Bruce Frantzis)
 


Page created 9 January 1996
Last updated 17 July 2017