History of Tai Chi
Tai Chi was created by Wudang Daoist priest Zhang Sanfeng who is credited with the development of Wudang Tai Chi 13 movements about six hundred years ago in Wudang Mountain, China. Wudang Tai Chi 13 is considered the "father" of all forms of Tai Chi.
Zhang Sanfeng passed down his forms to Wang Zhong Yue in Northern China who in turn passed down the forms to Jiang Fa of Zhao Bao village in He Nan Province, China. He is credited with the development of Zhao Bao style of Tai Chi. Jiang passed the forms down to Chen Wan Ting of Chen Jia Gou village. He created the popular Chen style of Tai Chi. Chen then passed down the forms to Yang Lu Chan who created the Yang style of Tai Chi - considered by most to be the most popular form of Tai Chi in the world. Yang passed the forms down to Wu Quan You who went on to create the Wu style of Tai Chi. Wu's nephew Wu Yu Xiang also created a separate Wu style of Tai Chi. Sun Lu Tang had studied Yang, Wu and Zhao Bao and from those styles he created Sun style Tai Chi.
Internal Principals of Tai Chi
One of the most important principles is that of integrating mind and body. With consistent practice people will begin to feel the internal energy (Qi) that is generated and will be able to use their practice to generate more energy.
The ultimate purpose of Tai Chi is to cultivate this Qi or life energy within us to flow smoothly and powerfully throughout the body. The more you practice the more your internal and external self comes into harmony.
With this harmony comes an awareness of the body - how it responds to the slow, flowing movements of Tai Chi, the feelings in the muscles, ligaments and organs as the Qi energy flows while practicing. The mind and body become one - and the more you practice the closer this connection becomes.
External Principals of Tai Chi (as narrated by Yang Cheng Fu)
1. Elevate the crown and lift the spirit, the head should be upright so the Shen or (spirit) can reach the top of your head. Don’t use Li (force), or the neck will be stiff and the chi (breath) and blood can not flow through to the head. The feeling should be natural and buoyant. Remember, if your head is not up your spirit will not be raised.
2. Contain the chest, expand the back. The chest is slightly sunken so that the chi can sink to the dantien, If the chi gets stuck in the chest, the body will become top heavy and you will be easily uprooted. The back should be lifted or plucked up to avoid promoting kyphosis and also as a way to release power (jin) through the spine.
3. Sung (Relax) your waist, the waist is the commander in charge of your whole body. If you can relax your waist then your legs will have the power and your lower parts will be stable and strong. It is said that the origin of the postures (jins) comes from the waist. If you lack power, the defect is in the legs and waist.
4. Understand the difference between insubstantial and substantial, this is one of the very first things you will learn in Tai Chi Chuan. If the weight is on the right leg, then the right leg is substantial and the left leg is insubstantial. When these can be separated and consciously acknowledged, you will be able to turn lightly without using any tension or stress. If you cannot get this concept your step will be heavy and slow and your stance will not be steady, then you will easily be thrown off balance.
5. Sink the shoulders and drop down the elbows. Your shoulders should be completely relaxed downward and open to the sides, the opposite of this is uptight with the shoulders lifted up and in, this is a powerless state. Sink the elbows, this means that your elbows move downward and stay relaxed, if you raise the elbows the shoulders also go up. Keeping the shoulders and elbows down gives your body internal power that can be used to throw your opponent far. The health benefits of this principle are too numerous to name here.
6. Use the mind (Yi) and not force (Li). When practicing Tai Chi Chuan your whole body relaxes. The tai chi chuan classics tell us to use (yi) the mind, and not (li) force. When you practice tai chi chuan the whole body relaxes, not even letting one ounce of force remain anywhere in the body. When this is achieved you become agile and able to change easily. The classics say when you are extremely soft, then you become extremely hard and strong. A person with these qualities will have arms like iron wrapped in cotton and the weight of them is very heavy. This is a powerful state of being in Yang Tai Chi.
7. Coordinate the upper and lower body. The classics tell us that “the motion should be rooted in the feet, released through the legs, controlled by the waist and manifested through the fingers.” The whole body moves as one unit, nothing broken or disconnected between upper and lower body. Opening the Mingmen on the lower back (yao) and turning from the hip joint (kwa) helps this union between upper and lower body
8. Internal and external coordinate. Called the 6 harmony’s, we will start with the 3 Internal harmony’s (San Nei He) 1. Shen / Yi (Spirit / Mind or Intention) 2. Yi / Qi (Intention / Energy) 3. Qi / Li (Energy / Body)
When the spirit (Shen) is raised the mind/ intention (Yi) can focus. Now that the intention (Yi) is high, the energy (Qi) is full and follows. When the energy (Qi) is activated, the body is pulled, these are the 3 Internal Harmony’s.
The 3 External energies (San Wei He) are 1. Shoulder / Hip. 2. Elbow / Knees. 3. Hand / Foot.
As you move, the external body coordinates as you relax (fang song) the shoulders into the hips, the elbows into the knees and the hands into the feet. Relaxing into the movements sends the energy and blood (QiXue) out to the limbs, now the whole body is nourished, regulating blood pressure, relaxing the soft tissues and veins/arteries and calming the entire nervous system. The mind and body are now working together through the 6 harmony’s as we practice our form. The Tai Chi Classics say the body moves as one unit, however in applying these 6 harmony’s we can see that although the body moves as one unit, it does not all move at the same time.
9. Continuity without breakage. From beginning to end Tai Chi movement is continuous and not broken, after each movement its starts again circulating without any end. It is circular in motion like a continuous wave without limits. The classics tell us the circulation of (jin) is like pulling silk, everything is connected together. The form does allow for a brief rest at the end of the movement before going onto the next. The classics tell us the jin is broken the yi is not.
10. Seek stillness within movement. In Tai Chi we use stillness to control movement, even though we are moving, there is still stillness. It is good to practice your form slowly, with calmness and awareness. Meditation alone always seeks movement is stillness, but in Tai Chi Chuan we seek stillness in movement. Tai Chi is known as moving meditation.