Everyday Taiji Cooperative 

Tai Chi Chuan

Tai Chi Chuan
(Taijiquan)

On this page we'll explore Tai Chi Chuan, also known as Taijiquann. We'll look at some theories on where it came from, why it is considered both a martial and a healing art, why there are two spellings for it, and what we at Everyday Taiji Co-op teach.



   


What is Tai Chi Chuan?

Both of these statements are true:
Tai Chi Chuan is a Chinese internal martial art.
Tai Chi Chuan is a meditative and healing art.

Confused? Everyone is at first. That's because Tai Chi Chuan is both of these things and more.

Simply translated to English Tai Chi Chuan means "Supreme Ultimate Fist", but you can never translate anything simply:
"Tai Chi" (Supreme Ultimate), a set of theories and philosophies about the interchange of Yin and Yang energy*.
"Chuan" (Fist), in this context it means martial art.
So the term Tai Chi Chuan translates as the name of a martial art that is based on the theories of Taiji.
But saying that Tai Chi Chuan only means what it translates out to in English does an extreme disservice to an art that has helped bring increased energy and vitality to countless thousands of people around the world.
There's no way to adequately describe or explain Tai Chi Chuan to someone who hasn't done it, but since you're reading this you're interested in learning about it so we're going to do our best to explain a little bit about it for you.

Where did Tai Chi Chuan come from?
 
There are two theories that are widely accepted:
One theory is that a Shaolin monk named Chang San Feng created the martial art of Tai Chi Chuan on Wudang Mountain hundreds of years ago. The most popular version of this story is that he created the art after he observed a fight between a snake and a bird. The bird used brute strength to attack, the snake defended itself by using evasion. When the bird would attack with its beak the snake would twist around and hit the bird with its tail, then when the bird would turn to defend against the snakes tail, the snake would twist around and bite the bird. The snake was able to fight the bird to a stalemate using what Chang San Fang observed to be the Taiji principles of Yin and Yang and from this he developed the rudiments of the martial art known today as Tai Chi Chuan.
Chang San Fang is often credited with writing the first description of Tai  Chi Chuan: "In every movement, every part of the body must be light, agile and strung together. Movement should be rooted in the feet, released through the legs, directed by the waist and expressed in the fingers."
Chang is said to have created the original 13 Postures of Tai Chi Chuan but he is said to have practiced them as individual movements rather than the threaded together series of postures we see today.
The practice of playing the Tai Chi Chuan Postures as a flowing form is often attributed to Wang Zhongyue, the author credited with writing "The Tai Chi Chuan Classics" which outlines most of the theories used in Tai Chi Chuan to this day. Using Chang's 13 Postures as his basis, Wang Zhongyue threaded the forms together in the manner we are used to now. He is also attributed with being the first to use the name "Tai Chi Chuan" to describe the art, which previously was known as "Chang Chuan", usually translated as "Long Fist".
This is a charming story, reflecting the nature of Tai Chi Chuan combat which lends it a hint of truthfulness. However there is no way to verify any of it and many serious scholars of Tai Chi Chuan history don't believe it to be true.

The second theory is that Tai Chi Chuan was invented by a member of the Chen family, Chen Wangting, in Chenjiagou village in China during the 1600's. Chen Wangting was a General in the Ming dynasty, the Commander of the Wen Garrison. When he retired he is said to have settled into his families compound where he invented a martial art using his knowledge of Jinglou channels and Tao Yin, along with his knowledge of local boxing methods and Shaolin martial arts . His descendants continued to pass on this art only to Chen family members for 14 generations, until a stranger came to Chenjiagou Village in the early 1800's.
That stranger is known today as Yang Lu Chan. He learned Tai Chi Chuan from 14th generation Master Chen Chang Xing and went on to found the Yang style of Tai Chi Chuan, the most popular style of Tai Chi Chuan in the world today.
Yang Lu Chan taught many people the Chen family art. Later in his life he worked with other Masters to integrate Taiji theory into the art of the Chen family. Through his efforts and the teaching of his sons and their descendants and disciples, we have the art of Tai Chi Chuan as we know it today.
There are many historical documents that prove the existence of Chen Wangting and his development of a martial art, giving this theory of the origin of Tai Chi Chuan much more validity than the Chang San Fang story. However, opinions vary and there is no way to say for sure if either origin theory is correct.

Either theory leads us back to a warrior who created the art using Taiji theory for the purposes of combat. Whether you believe the first or second theory regarding the origins of Tai Chi Chuan, what is clear is that Tai Chi Chuan was developed first and foremost as a martial art, then later it transformed into the healing art we know it as today.  

How did Tai Chi Chuan become known as a healing exercise?

Above we mentioned the terms "Jinglou" and "Tao Yin" as being some of the basis on which Tai Chi Chuan may have been based.
Jinglou is the Chinese word for "meridian", the channels of the body in which Taoists believe Qi circulates. Manipulation of this series of meridians is what the healing arts of acupuncture and acupressure or based on. By interrupting, redirecting or freeing the flow of Qi through the Jinglou, Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners believe they can cure many illnesses.
Tao Yin is an ancient Taoist method of Qi cultivation through of a series of exercises that, when paired with breathing techniques, are said to increase the body's Qi and keep the practitioner healthy.
We know Tao Yin and Jinglou theory existed as Taoist healing methods long before Tai Chi Chuan was invented because of many historical documents on their practice. The much older theories and exercises of Tao Yin bear a remarkable resemblance to the arts of both Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong as they are practiced today and Jinglou theory long predates the existence of either Tai Chi Chuan or Qigong.
From this we can see that techniques similar to but predating Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong have long been considered to be health regimens.
Beyond the origin history though, scientific research both in China and in the West has proven repeatedly that Tai Chi Chuan as it is practiced today has many health benefits. So whether you believe in Qi and it's healing and restorative powers or if you believe that exercise of any kind will help to both make and keep you healthy, Tai Chi Chuan is clearly just as effective of a healing art as it is a method of self defense.
Since Tai Chi Chuan for health and vitality can be learned in a relatively short period of time by anyone with the desire to learn it, while learning the martial art takes years or even decades of dedicated practice, the health aspects of the art hold a greater appeal for a much larger audience than the martial aspects. Because of this there has been a natural transition to teaching the art for health far more often than teaching it for the martial art.

So what's up with spelling it two different ways?

The two spellings, Taijiquan and Tai Chi Chuan, both mean the exact same thing. The reason for the two English spellings is because of the two most popular ways that Chinese calligraphy is converted to English letters and words.
One method, known as Wade-Giles, was used throughout most of the the 20th century and is the one that most Americans will recognize. This method translates the Chinese characters to English as Tai Chi Chuan, or sometimes T'ai  Chi Ch'uan.
Another method, known as PinYin, was developed and formalized by the Chinese government in 1958. This newer method is more accepted in China and gives the English translation as Taijiquan.
Everyday Taiji Co-op recognizes both spellings but for expedience we use the more recognized Tai Chi Chuan more often. 

What does Everyday Taiji Cooperative teach about Tai Chi Chuan?

Everyday Taiji Co-op recognizes that most people today wish to learn Tai Chi Chuan mostly from the "healthy, meditative" perspective so that is how we teach most of our classes. We do demonstrate a few martial applications for every form to help our students more properly learn and understand the original intent of each posture, which allows you to perform it more correctly, but we do not expect anyone to learn to use the applications for combat unless they want to.
If you wish to learn the self defense methods of Tai Chi Chuan we can accommodate you with private lessons. Please email info@everydaytaiji.com or call 502-320-1329 for further information about training this aspect of the art.

At Everyday Taiji Co-op we proudly teach Traditional Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan:

Yang style Tai Chi Chuan comes from Hebei Province, Yongnian County, China and was created about 200 years ago by Yang Lu Chan. Yang Lu Chan learned the root of his art from a martial arts family known as the Chen Family. Yang Lu Chan studied with one of the Chen Families top Masters until he was given permission to teach their martial art on his own, he then took what he learned from the Chen family martial art and combined their family style with Taiji theory received from a text known today as the "Tai Chi Chuan Classics" and created his own unique style of martial art known and practiced today as "Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan".
His sons, grandsons, great grandsons and great-great-grandsons, as well as countless Disciples and students, have continued to improve Yang style Tai Chi Chuan and continue to teach their art all over the world to this day. Yang Cheng Fu, the grandson of the Founder Yang Lu Chan, has had the most influence on the family art since it was created. He established what is known as the "Large Frame'" method of Tai Chi Chuan, wich is the most popular version of the Yang family Tai Chi Chuan today. In fact it is currently the most popular method of Tai Chi Chuan in the world and this is the Yang style taught by Everyday Taiji Co-op.
Yang Cheng Fu's Large Frame of Tai Chi Chuan is characterized by large, open, round, gentle and flowing movements that are performed at an even speed. The Yang Cheng Fu style we teach combines hardness and softness, lightness and heaviness. Yang Cheng Fu's form can be done in a high, medium or low stance depending on your level of health and development in the art, so the degree of difficulty is easily adapted to each person's unique needs.
At Everyday Taiji Co-op we primarily teach Traditonal Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan for health purposes but we maintain the Arts original aspects of attack and defense. Because of this the Art as we teach it is suitable for strengthening the body and improving overall health by helping to prevent and cure illness as well as for self defense.

If  you have any further questions regarding Tai Chi Chuan or Everyday Taiji Co-op please contact us for the answers:
Email: info@everydaytaiji.com
Phone: 502-209-8501 

*See our Taiji page for an in depth explanation of the term "Taiji".

   


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