RETURN TO HOMEPAGE Frequently Asked Questions on the Taoist Internal Chinese Chi Arts: T'ai Chi Ch'uan

"The Taoist seeks to avoid understanding by reducing any method of artificiality or cleverness"


Overview- T'ai Chi Ch'uan

T'ai Chi Ch'uan and the sister arts -Pakua and Hsing-I are often perceived by the casual watcher as tranquillity and composure in motion. The movements are related to the nature of "gentle wind and fine rain". The movements of Yang style T'ai Chi are slow, smooth, rounded, flowing and gentle, with no perceptible hesitation between upper body movements and stances. The earlier Chen style uses both slow and quick movements which sometimes spring extremely vigorously.

The Yang style being simplified and lighter is more suitable for the aged beginner whereas the Chen is more vigorously athletic. All styles use rounded, spiralling techniques. Ground contact is utilised to develop powerful leverage for every technique and its transformation. If you move with the centre of gravity well under the body a sense of strength and gracefulness develops. See "typical" student progress rate here.

Advanced practitioners achieve of T’ai Chi Ch’uan develop fluidity of free form from movements.A constant stream of martial combinations, counters and movements are easily linked to the other generic names for T’ai Chi Ch’uan, such as Long River boxing and Shadow boxing



Historical Roots of the main schools of T’ai Chi Ch’uan

The earliest recorded School of Tai Chi Ch'uan or Shadow Boxing is rooted in the Chen family through Chen Wanting a warrior of the late Ming Dynasty. Most Chinese martial disciplines developed naturally through family relationships and the knowledge passed on by the lineage’s or clans. Two of the clearest recorded historical treatises on Tai Chi Ch'uan are by Chen Wanting and Wang Chung Yueh(1791-95). Chen Wanting of Chenjiagou village Wen County is accredited as the founder of T’ai Chi Ch’uan’s fundamental document known as the Song of the Canon of Pugilism.

Chen’s work extended to a degree the compilation of Qi Jiguang's(1528-1587) techniques of 16 popular martial schools of the time. Chen's document outlined a clear exposition of the working principles of Chen style Taijiquan. Chen described all kinds of subtle and varied energetic exercises to promote spirited health and powerful boxing skills. After Five generations the Chen family style was passed on by Chen Chanxing (1771-1853) who taught Yang Luchan (1779-1872) of the Yongnian County, Hebi province. Yang Luchan became highly skilled and developed a new school of T’ai Chi Ch’uan commonly known as Yang style, The Yang School flourished. Later the Zhaoboa style of the Chen school developed by Chen Qing-ping was modified into the Wu School. Later the Sun school appeared. (Other schools also proliferated which are beyond the scope of this article.)


Why is T’ai Chi Ch’uan good for health and longevity?

Tai Chi Chuan is renowned for strengthening the central nervous system, improving the blood circulation, increasing nourishment to the heart and the viscera and promoting better digestion, it encourages detoxification and elimination and will prevent many kinds of diseases which are usually contracted by the aging process.

Why is the T’ai Chi form good for Relaxation and recooperation from illness?


Tai Chi Ch’uan is one of the best exercises for relaxation for all ages. Those who practice it gain a healthy body as well as an attentive mind. With the improvement to your health, you may find it easier to concentrate habitual tasks and make decisions more realistically. The form of Tai Chi Ch’uan, in performance, looks like a classical dance with graceful movements and alert actions. It offers a balanced exercise to the muscles and joints through sets of actions (techniques) which, in turn, are regulated by natural diaphragmatic deep breathing. This will ensure that the central nervous system is toned up with time as the exercise continues. It is quite logical to say that the efficiency of the various organs of our body depends largely on the soundness of the central nervous system. In other words, a strong central nervous system is the basic condition of a healthy body.



How do I do T'ai Chi?

Well it takes a while to become a free form Tai Chi bod - but you can make great strides in a short time if you tailor your Tai Chi method to fit your present general health after which your movements are an art!! But seriously that is not so important.

Opposite please find a little fun with T'ai chi movements, please note the cloud of chi is real! and chi is pink because of local pollution.




What are the Intermediate core skills?

Tactile Skills

It is not without significance that T’ai Chi Ch’uan (Taijiquan) is translated as The Great Ultimate Fist or more commonly referred as Shadow boxing. In Shadow Boxing the skilled player develops creative movement skills through visualisation and “wu wei” no-mind or “open” states of mind. The wu wei mind leads to the first step of reactive sensitivity and free form response used within pushing and sticking hands. To develop a particular skill or kung fu level the intermediate practitioner instills a balanced appreciation of stillness interacting with dynamic motion. Moderation in movement is the key to early progress

. Movements can be quiet or explosive, hidden or apparent, yielding or firm, all flowing from within. These opposites provide the basics of Yin and Yang which lie at the centre of internal martial arts. The skilled Shadow boxer should therefore possess integrated actions which divide and reform naturally to meet each situation, providing a range of techniques that are both difficult to control or interpret. Yin and Yang combine, as above so below.

Breathing is important !

Compose the breathing naturally. Join it to the postures throughout each technique. Be harmonious and learn to extend your breathing towards a meditative focus, in part this is somewhat comparable to Indian systems of yogic pursuit. See Qigong. Breathing promotes the Relaxation of body with mind this is nourishing and motivating to the Chi/Qi. The balanced postures of T’ai Chi enable the soft movements to gently release toxins and promote physical freedom of movement for all ages (often beyond the normal capability for ones age). Taoist breathing methodology is worth studying.

What are balanced movements ?

Balanced movements are attained by moving as if pulling a silken thread. Yin with Yang in harmony. Each movement is performed in an unbroken and simple manner. At first the player must make simple interconnections. Then increase the complexity of the waist torso use. Do not twist the spine out of line. Keep joints pliant and soft throughout all the movements. Bones must relate as whole. Energy develops through the legs rooted into the ground. Beware of cumbersome postures with poor leg structure there should be unity throughout. Here is an example from the FirstGate Key Arts Poster Book.











T'ai Chi

A starting method.

Most people need to develop more interconnection between the joints, from the feet to the hands so you can pull, push and press with your whole body. Remember you will be able to do this with small or large movements which can very beneficial as exercise form. Do not be stiff, but practise the appropriate use of strength in different parts of the body. Do not rock the body but balance the leg strength to develop total body exercise for strong health throughout.

Keep happy and calm.

Learn the stances and key postures clearly.






Some Tai Chi Postures and Stances

How is self defence practical in T’ai Chi Ch’uan?

Slow practice and avoiding the use of great strength is necessary for the improvement of our health. This will make the actions more malleable and the muscles of the whole body will relate in a balanced and relaxed fashion. It also centres the nervous system, so that our emotions will be more stable. The Tai Chi principle implies all movements are connected. As are all things.

The postures of T’ai Chi Ch’uan cycle, they 'open and close'. The arms and legs, should present both the 'void and substantiality'. In stepping there is 'continuity' of all actions and the 'softness' of postures should not be compromised following the maxim the “the unbending breaks while the yielding survives.” In yin-yang terms we may likewise view that the promotion of our health belongs to Yin while our self-protection belongs to Yang.

In defence of the self (yang) the principle of T’ai Chi Ch’uan meets the unbending force with the yielding force. The yielding force belongs to Yin and the unbending force belongs to Yang. When combative, we use the yielding force to counteract our opponent's attack and the unbending force to counterattack our opponent. The change of forces from unbending to yielding or vice versa is achieved through some form of “circularity”. Combative T’ai Chi Ch’uan is like many circles spiralling continually without closure. This “circle” is split in reversal. One uses half of the circle as yielding force to counteract the opponent's attack, and the other half circle as unbending force to counterattack the opponent. When using such circles, we can use one hand by itself or both hands together to act upon our opponent directly or indirectly at angles horizontal, inclined or vertical -- depending on the controlling factors.

starting out myself long ago


What are the Energetic Skills of Advanced T’ai Chi Ch’uan for defence of the self ?


In the main one must acomplish gradually the following skills

Learn to TO ADHERE - Chan Energy

To join or adhere with your opposite player so when they advance you retreat in harmony and when they retreat/withdraw you similarly follow. The classics indicate this is an experience where one is likely to notice that when retreating the player feels there is little room for manoeuvre. And when they advance there is too much openness in position to achieve joining effectively. Successful exposition of depends on tactile skill, deft footwork and centred discrimination of the opponents energy and position.

to STICK - Nien Energy

To Stick to merge to adhere, are facets of Nien Energy. Technically ones intent is to guide and or arrest the energy of your opposite player in Taijiquan. You compel and direct the opposite players movements in such a way that they become caught in following your intent. This happens accidentally at first for brief periods which later extended with correct practise.


to YIELD & LEAD IN DEFLECTION - Hua, Neutralising Energy

To practise this energy on must learn how to lose or sacrifice, but with intelligent consideration.

To learn to neutralise the player must understand the saying that there is profit in loss. This is the way to learn how to yield. Clear mind, still emotions, centred wherever you are. You are able to know the opponent but they can never know you. You are open into emptiness and close swiftly. Yielding skills require structured flexibility before adhering energy can be developed. Practise with considered creativity of your shadow opponent and in joint hand exercises. Ones change ability is directed from the will. Focus intent on Hua energy towards gaining a superior position by deft interpretation of the energy of the opposite player through no resistance (in interpreting the opponents energy) followed by no letting go where we use Hua energy in projecting energy of the opposite player. Emptiness is used to extend energy that must go further. The classic technique of Rolling Back frequently occurs in the Taijiquan pattern. Careful testing of how well ones established neutralising energy towards gaining an advantaged position makes pushing hands exercises vital and stimulating to the senses.



to CAPTURE AND DISSOLVE - Chin, Seizing Energy

One must use a variety of techniques to capture and dissolve the opposite players movements. Applied in the classic Taijiquan postures of the Hua, Peng, P'o techniques. Remember, first neutralise where appropriate and then Seize Energy to evolve an attack by use of intrinsic energy through the sinews and tendons


to ENTICE AND DISRUPT - Yin, Exhausting opponents Energy

With meeting a superior opponent in either in height, strength or speed an effective movement requires some trick. With superior capabilities the opponents position must be devalued. To exhaust the energy one can withdraw or rollback energy until a inferior in position is established. Unbalanced, then use of pull down or splitting energy can produce knock down technique. The opponent must be enticed by attitude and feeling. Your position must not betray your intent.

to DEVELOP AND ISSUE ENERGY - Fa, Issuing Energy

To use the energy developed holistically requires unity. The body must utilise sinews and tendons by being relaxed, postured, and alert. Flowing as a whole so intrinsic energy can be developed and expressed at any part of the body. Natural limits are extended BY ONES ABILITY to develop spontaneity and express actionable Chi.

Techniques are infinite in form, this takes time and research.












paul zabwodski FirstGate Chi Arts.