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(4 pages total)

Page 2 - Various Styles of Taijiquan: Which One is For Me

Sample Postures

Author demonstrates single whip posture for each style. Left photo: Chen style. Full Gongbo (Bow stance) as in Yang style; or Mabo (horse stance) as in Wu style but the arms remain outstretched. One hand forms a hook with five fingers together. Eyes looking toward front or side. Right photo: Lee style. Half Gongbo (Bow stance) with feet apart a little wider than the shoulder width. Arms outstretched and palms facing downward.

To set the stage for this discussion, I shall present a brief historical perspective of Taijiquan. A Taoist (Daoist) Monk named Zhang San Feng (Chang San Feng), ca.1300s, was purported to be the father of Taijiquan. The first major written work was the "Treatise of Taijiquan" attributed to Wang Jong Yue of the Qing Dynasty (1736-1759). This work of only 315 characters has been the basis for many subsequent written works.

Prior to Wang´s work, another written record was the "Origin of Soong´s Taijiquan" which was in the possession of a Soong Shui Ming, a high official in late Qing Dynasty. This work was written in Soong Dynasty, some 400 or more years before Wang´s treatise and pre-dated records of the existence of Zhang San Feng. There is ample evidence pointing to the contribution of Zhang San Feng to martial arts, but there has been no record that he had ever written anything on Wushu (martial arts) including Taijiquan. The legendary Zhang San Feng remains a legend. What then transpired the writings of Soong or Wang?

Although the early history of Taijiquan is far from lucid, it can nevertheless be summarized as follows. Zhang San Feng organized the various moves into a system of exercise and self-defense skills. Wang Jong Yu then wrote his classic treaties. Wushu masters in Chen Village then formulated this form of martial arts into a formidable self-defense technique. Afterward, Yang Lu Quan (1799-1872) made it possible for the general populace to learn the art by eliminating the powerful and fast moves, thus slowing down the tempo. He had woven the movements into a fabric of exercise art on which other schools of Taijiquan were subsequently based. From this time on, family members of the Yang and Wu have popularized Taijiquan because they have been professional martial artists. Taijiquan has undergone changes, improvements, and refinements in recent time. The forms that are now practiced can be traced accurately back to mid-Qing Dynasty. Taijiquan as we know today is in reality no more than 150 years old. In fact, the postures and the sequence of movements of the most popular Yang style was standardized by Yang Qing Fu in 1930.

Instead of discussing each style separately, I shall group them into four categories.

Category 1 encompasses the most strenuous styles. They are Chen, Zhoubao, and Wudong Taijiquan. Each of these styles includes leaps and jumps. The extensions of the legs are high with powerful kicks. Some fist, palm and elbow strikes are also powerful and fast. Fast moves are intermingled with slow ones; powerful moves are intermixed with soft ones. They lack the gentle flow and lightness of other groups. These styles are more suitable for younger individuals with good health and agility. I have in fact known that some teachers of the Chen styles advised those with cardiac discomfort or in general bad health not do the Chen styles. Zhoubao and Wudong styles have not yet made their inroads in America. Chen styles has recently made great strides but still not as popular as Yang or Wu styles here in the West.

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