"This is Tai Chi, it's like the great river, the Chang Jiang, surging and flowing without interruption."
The Taijiquan Discourse, trans. Dan Docherty
About Tai Chi
Tai Chi, or Taijiquan as it is more properly named (and approximately pronounced "tie-jee-chwen"), is originally a Chinese martial art. However, today it is more frequently practised as a form of physical and mental training which has benefits that go beyond its initial purposes of self-defence and combat. Chen-style Taijiquan has the potential to offer a more challenging exercise session than some types of tai chi, while retaining the calming relaxation effects for which the art is renowned.
Most people, when they hear about Taijiquan today, think of slow and graceful movements being performed in a floaty silk costume. Generally, what they are aware of is essentially a simplified version of Yang-style tai chi (see below) popularised in the early twentieth century. This version of tai chi is not, however, the whole story. Chen-style Taijiquan employs more obvious spiralling movements, alternation between fast and slow movements and occasional bursts of energy to embody the fundamental Chinese principle of balancing both yin and yang.
You can find out more about what we teach in our tai chi classes here.
Or look here for a short promotional film about Chen-style Taijiquan, featuring one of my lineage grandmasters:
Sword practice in China
The Chen family of Chenjiagou village, Henan province, China, together with many scholars and historians, attribute the invention to Taijiquan to their ancestor Chen Wangting (1600? - 1680?), a military commander who lived during the turbulent period of the fall of the Ming and beginning of the Qing (pronounced "ching") dynasties. It is said that he drew upon the fighting techniques that were widely circulating in central China at the time, the bulk of which had obvious connections to the famous Shaolin Temple which is not that far from the Chen village. Blending these with aspects of Chinese medical and philosophical theory, Chen Wangting developed a new system of martial training characterised by spiralling movements, the alternation of softness and power, sensitivity and a subtle use of the physical structure to generate stability and strength.
An alternative theory proposes that Taijiquan resulted from the arrival in the village of outside teaching which was combined with the Chen village's native Shaolin-related self-defence system by Chen Changxing (1771-1853). He then taught the first non-family member to learn Taijiquan, Yang Luchan (1799-1871), who went on to formulate his own version of the art (the Yang style which is very common today). Other family styles, such as the Wu, Wu/Li/Hao and Sun were subsequently developed from the Yang and Chen families' teaching.
There is very little hard evidence regarding the history of Taijiquan, which is therefore contested with some heat by the various vested interests; you should be aware that both on the internet and in printed sources you will find concatenations of legend, speculation and wishful thinking. Whether any of it matters, of course, is debatable; the main thing is whether what you practise is any good, given your reasons for studying the art.