History of Tai Chi

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The origins of Tai Chi are mixed with both history and legend. Popular folklore describes how the philosophy and techniques of Tai Chi were developed by Zhang Sanfeng, a Chinese Taoist priest, who is believed to have lived for about 200 hundred years between 1247 to 1447 AD. Legends describe him as an immortal (Xian 仙 仚 僊) who lived near Longhu Shan "Dragon Tiger Mountain," one of the Four Sacred Mountains of Taoism located in the Wudang Mountains of southeast China.


One day while practicing Shaolin Kung Fu, Zhang observed a snake being attacked by a bird, and was greatly inspired by the snake’s ability to defend itself. The snake remained still yet alert, circling, using it's soft yielding Qi (energy or life force) and relaxed tension (sōng 鬆) to avoid the attacks, until finally counter-attacking with a sudden burst of explosive movements (fā jìn, 發勁).


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Seeing this display, Zhang was inspired to create Tai chi (taiji), short for Tai Chi Chuan (taijiquan; 太极拳) or “The Supreme Ultimate Fist.” The concept of the Taiji ("supreme ultimate") is part of Taoist philosophy, seen as absolute and infinite potential, prior to the emergence of Yin and Yang and the 10, 000 things that follow. Thus, tai chi is a blend of many Chinese philosophical principles, including those seen in Traditional Chinese Medicine.



Yang Style Tai Chi

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About 300 years ago Tai Chi Chuan was a very unique fighting style, and closely held family secret of the Chen clan of Henan Province. In the 1820’s Yang Lu-Chan learned the Chen style, and after 10 years of study, become known as “Yang the Invincible,” due to his superior fighting skills.

Yang Cheng-Fu (1883-1936) the grandson of Yang Lu-Chan later developed the popular Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan seen today. Other common styles include Chen, Wu, and Sun. Each has different stances, and movements, but the basic principles remain the same for all.

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Yang Cheng-fu and his senior disciple Chen Wei-Ming practicing Yang style Tai Chi Set One.