What is Tai Chi?

Tai Chi Forms Unveiled — Exploring the Dynamics of Movement

In the simplest of terms, a Tai Chi form is a series of postures and movements that are connected together so that a continuous chain of movement occurs. Each posture or movement has a name and originated from an unarmed self-defense or fighting technique.

One analogy for the Tai Chi form is that it is like a map: each posture is like a town on the map and the connecting movements are like the roads between the towns. This analogy may help to explain why there is often confusion as to whether Tai Chi is a martial art, a healing exercise, or a path to spiritual development. The map doesn’t change; how we use the map will determine where we go and what will be our destination. Whatever destination you choose to pursue, your journey will always start the same: you need to have the map. You will need to learn the Tai Chi form.

When first viewing a Tai Chi form, it appears as though the practitioner is “swimming through the air.” There is a visual appeal to the motions, almost as though something inside of you says, “Hey, that looks relaxing. I should do that!” Often the next feeling is, “How will I ever be able to learn that!”

The reality is that each student of Tai Chi needs to be aware of the three phases in their learning. The first phase is the Mechanical/Physical Phase: memorizing where each hand or foot goes and in what order. The second phase is the Balance Phase: The student remembers the physical movements but needs to work on their balance and posture to keep from wobbling. The third phase is the Relaxation Phase: The student knows the movements, is keeping their balance, yet needs to release the tension from their shoulders and body and be able to move in a completely relaxed manner. Reminding yourself of these three phases will enable you to be kind to yourself and truly enjoy the Tai Chi experience.

We will also teach you several other tools along the way to help you get the most out of your Tai Chi experience: Qi Gong, the shorter 10-posture and 24-posture Tai Chi forms, breathing techniques, and two-person partner exercises.

The History of Tai Chi — From Ancient Roots to Modern Forms

The history of Tai Chi is shrouded in legend. Chinese legend states that Tai Chi was created by a famous philosopher, Chang San Feng around 1300 AD. Yet scholars have found images and writings referring to the movements of Tai Chi that date back nearly 2000 years. However, the Tai Chi forms as we know them are generally believed to be a more recent innovation.

Sometime during the seventeenth century, Chen Wang Ting redesigned or combined the existing movements into a series of forms and passed them on to members of his family, thus creating the “Chen style” of Tai Chi.

In the early 1800s, a servant of the Chen Family named Yang Lu Chan learned the Chen style, moved to what is now Beijing, made significant changes to the art and began teaching his own style. This became the “Yang Style.” In the late 1800s and beginning of the 20th century, his grandson Yang Chen Fu introduced the healing aspects of Tai Chi to the Western world.

All the other major styles of Tai Chi were based on variations of either the Chen or the Yang styles. “Wu style” was created by Wu Yi Xiang who studied under Yang Lu Chan in the mid 1800s. He combined Yang style with a newer version of the Chen style and created his own style which focuses on smaller internal circles.

In the early 1900s, Sun Lu Tang developed the “Sun style” by taking the Wu style and combining it with two other Chinese martial arts: Ba Gua and Xing Yi Chuan.

The Tai Chi “long forms” are generally agreed to have either 108 or 88 postures depending on how they are counted. However, in the 1930s, many Tai Chi masters found that the forms took too long to learn and practice in the busy modern world and began shortening them. They began eliminating many of the repetitions and kept the most basic and important of the postures. The Chinese Communist government also continued this trend and officially produced the 10-posture and 24-posture Yang, the 37-posture Wu, the 37-posture Chen, and the 48-posture Combined style.

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