Tai chi ch'uan or taijiquan as it is written in Pinyin, is a Chinese martial art that is used both for defense and as a system to improve one’s health. Many people taking China trips with me often ask for a class to be included in their trip as it has spread from it’s origins in China to a worldwide audience. Almost all modern styles of Taiji that are practised around the world derive from one of five main traditional schools. These are the Chen, Yang,Wu, Sun and Wu (Hao) schools.
Taijiquan, I will refer to it in it’s pinyin for this article, translates as “supreme ultimate fist or boxing” This is referring to the fusion of Yin and Yang into the single ultimate that is represented in the symbol from China that we al know so well of the black and white opposing “fish” known as taijitu. The Chi, as written in Wade-Giles, is often mistaken to be the word ”qi” which is the Chinese word for life spirit or energy. Pinyin helpfully splits these into “qi” and “ji”.
Taiji 5 main elements
Taiji is split into 5 main elements of training which are “taolu” meaning solo hand and weapon forms, “neigong” and “qigong” which are related to breathing and movement exercises as well as meditation. “Tuishou” are response drills while “sanshou” relates to techniques of self defence.
It is categorized in China with the Wudang group of martial arts, those concerning internal power rather than those related to the Shaolin group which are external power martial arts. The name Wudang is only used to differentiate the martial arts not to indicate that the Wudang mountain was where these martial arts came from, although there is a legend Taijiquan was created by the Taoist hermit Zhang Sanfeng, who lived in the Wudang mountains.
The Three Aspects of Taijiquan
The study of Taijiquan takes in three different aspects. These are Health, Meditation and the Martial Art itself. The Health side is to help those who are unhealthy that find it difficult to use meditation or taiji to achieve a mental focus. By relieving the effects of stress on the mind Taiji can improve one’s physical state to allow you to improve your self defence. Meditation is the second aspect. In that physical health helps one to improve your mental focus, meditation is necessary to achieve the ultimate physical strength. finally the martial art itself used as a form of self defense can test the students understanding of Taiji. Using Taiji as a martial art is incredibly challenging as it requires you to yield to an attack and reuse its force rather than meeting that attack with an equal or greater force.
So on your China tours, make sure you take in a class of Taiji either in one of China’s city parks or in an amazing location such as Yangshuo or in Yunnan province. You’ll find the experience incredibly rewarding as well as giving yourself an amazing memory from your trip to China that will stay with you forever.
Article posted by Phil Stanley & Headseast: 4th June 2014