What Is Taijiquan?

This is a question I have been asked many times.
Taijiquan (also known as Tai Chi Chuan) is an ancient Chinese internal traditional martial art. 
Quite a mouthful.  So let's break it down.
Tai meaning Ultimate or Supreme
Qi (Chi) meaning Energy
Quan (Chuan) meaning Fist

According to ancient Chinese philosophy Taijiquan was founded by a legendary Chinese Taoist named Chang San-Feng, who was also considered to be the greatest teacher of Taijiquan.  Over the centuries many styles of Taijiquan were developed, none more popular than the Chen Style and the Yang Style.  Taijiquan was kept secret by the Chen and Yang families and these secrets were passed on from generation to generation.  Eventually over the years, the Taijiquan forms became simplified routines and accessible to the Chinese population and worldwide.  At present, the simplified Yang Style Taijiquan is the most widely practised form throughout the world, as a health exercise and not as a traditional martial art.

Taijiquan is a series of fast and slow body movements, combined with combat techniques designed to improve the flow of qi (chi) throughout the body.  It is a martial art that involves discipline, strength, dedication and commitment to training.   It encourages personal growth on every level.     

Taijiquan is also considered as meditation in motion because of it's continuously flowing movements, never pausing or impeding the flow of qi (chi).  Because Taijiquan is an internal martial art, one can defend one's self from internal attack, such as diseases on the internal organs.  Through practising Taijiquan we develop a strong body and mind, balance, co-ordination and through this we can enjoy harmony and relaxation.

There is a Chinese phrase - "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step".
Taijiquan is that first step.


The Quan Of Taijiquan?

Quan is the combat or boxing (also known as shadow boxing) part of Taijiquan.  Developed as a form of self-defence, unfortunately not many people teach this part.  Unlike many other martial arts which are aggressive and external, Taijiquan is a 'soft' combat that absorbs an opponent's attacking force (energy) and uses it against him.  This is the balance of opposites (yin and yang) where soft overcomes hard.  

Taijiquan is used as a fighting art for close combat which is calm and relaxed, from whence comes great speed.  I call this my SST (speed, surprise, technique).  SST is used to overcome an opponent rather than the use of aggressive force.   Even though Taijiquan is a 'soft' combat art it was designed to maim and kill.  However, being a defensive martial art, rather than an offensive one, one uses minimum effort for maximum result to defend one's self and neutralise an opponent. 

The story goes that on one occasion Chang San-Feng (the founder of Taijiquan) watched a bird attacking a snake and was inspired by the snake's defensive tactics.  It remained still and alert in the face of the bird's onslaught until it lunged and fatally bit it's attacker.  This incident inspired him to create the internal martial art of Taijiquan.

These are the original Chuans of Taijiquan;
- Dragon Chuan - training attention and spirit, emphasising lightness, stillness and change.
- Tiger Chuan - strengthening the bones, emphasising jumping up and down.
- Leopard Chuan - practising the application of force, emphasising jumping and fighting.
- Snake Chuan - practising inner breathing, prolonging the body, becoming very sensitive and active.         
- Crane Chuan - training concentration, stability, accuracy and determination to defeat the opponent.

Taijiquan is steel wrapped in silk.


The Effects Of Taijiquan On Your Health

One cannot reap all of the potential health benefits of Taijiquan if one does not practise the martial part of Taijiquan.  Most diseases are stress related and Taijiquan treats these diseases first, going to the root of the cause, treating from the inside out.  There are 12 major meridians throughout the human body.  These are vessels through which our qi (chi) or life force flows.  If we block this flow of qi (chi) in any way we become sick or die.

Different postures in Taijiquan forms affects a different organ in our body.  Every movement carries qi (chi) to a certain organ starting from the base up, ie. colon,  liver, lungs, heart, etc. and heals the mind.  A strong foundation is the key to good health and longevity.  And not to mention, an intense boost of energy.  Practising Taijiquan encourages harmony and balance of the body and mind and promotes internal strength for the young and the old.


COVID-19 And Taijiquan 

The health benefits one gains from practising Taijiquan is immensely beneficial during this COVID-19 pandemic.  It strengthens the immune system,  improves organ health,  increases physical and mental strength, alleviates aches and pains and boosts general energy levels.  It stimulates the flow of qi (chi) and promotes overall balance and vitality.


Silk Reeling

Silk Reeling is a set of repeated circular arm movements of the expansion and compression of the bridges, with the knees bent and lower body rooted to the floor, with the Dantian driving the rotation of the entire body in a smooth up and down coiling motion  and weight changing from left to right.     The name derives from the twisting and spiralling movements of the silkworm larva as it wraps itself in its cocoon.  In order to draw out the silk successfully the action must be smooth and consistent without jerking or changing direction sharply.  Too fast, the silk breaks, too slow, it sticks to itself and becomes tangled.  Thus silk reeling movements are continuous, cyclic, twisting and untwisting actions.  

Silk reeling is the core method of movement of Taijiquan and is greatly emphasised in the Chen Style.  In combat, Silk Reeling contains aspects of both Yin and Yang, which can be used to absorb and neutralise (Yin - female) the incoming force of an opponent and then bounced back and discharged (Yang - male) on the opponent with a frightening force of momentum.