When people think about Taiji, the image of slow exercises performed by old people is what most readily comes to mind.
The tranquil, uniform speed seems so unrelated to western ideas of exercise, and so far removed from a martial art, that claims for its literal translation: “Supreme Ultimate Boxing” seem greatly exaggerated!
To solve this puzzle, it is helpful to have an historical perspective on the origin of two Taiji styles : The Yang and The Chen systems.
Yang LuChan (17799-1872) was taught Chen Taiji, Pushing Hands and Weapons by a famous master of Chen family : Chen ChangXing.
After thirty years, Yang left the Chen family village in Henan province, to teach Taiji in Beijing.
In order to popularize Taiji and make it more accessible, he gradually deleted the difficult actions which involved jumping, leaping, explosions of strength and foot stamping.
Yang’s grandson, Yang ChenFu continued this trend to develop what is known as the ‘Big Frame’ of Yang style Taiji.
Yang ChenFu should be given full credit for the continued popularization of TaiJi.
The Chen family style of Taiji still retains its original forms, complete with the vigorous explosions of energy.
The first set of the Chen old-style contains the twining ‘silk reeling’ energy and the changes of tempo and vigor which truly gives a balance of yin and yang which seems to be missing from the more recent styles.
For students who already possess some knowledge of the other schools, practising Chen style Taiji is extremely interesting. They begin to appreciate how their old style was devised, and fill in the missing details.
But be warned; your old style may well come to feel so dull and uninteresting in comparison that, like me, you will become ‘hooked’ on Chen style TaiJi!