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Tai Chi History

There is a belief that nobody really created Tai Chi Chuan, but rather, it was synthesized from various systems of movements and meditative exercises that were already present in China long before its existence. By the turn of the Zhou Dynasty (1122 – 249 B.C.), kung fu had developed into sophisticated systems with profound philosophies and principals of yin-yang, the five elements and the baqua, symbol for the philosophy and principal of the eight directions. Masters of the past used these profound philosophies to create styles of combat that were very similar to what we know as Tai Chi Chuan nowadays. In the old days there were no separation of internal and external kung fu.

A very important development took place when a Taoist master, Chang San Feng (born 1247 AD), completed his training at a monastery on Mount Hua and retreated to Mount Wudang in search for immortality and the ultimate fighting art, one that could render a man immobile with only a single strike during the Southern Sung Dynasty (1127 – 1279 AD). While at Mount Wudang he witnessed a fight between a crane and a snake. This gave him the inspiration to modify his old long fist form into a softer form that would emphasized chi training, meditation and striking weak areas of the body while combining it with his knowledge of traditional Chinese Medicine.

Chang San Feng was a great kung fu master and famous acupuncturist who wanted desperately to invent the ultimate martial system based upon what he then knew about the body and the energy (Chi) system. He wanted an even more scientific approach to know exactly what each point in the body did when either struck, twisted or pressed. During his research, Chang San Feng discovered that different points could be struck with little force that could create great damage and even death. After he was finished, Chang realized that he had invented one of the most devastating striking method ever. He then set out to combined this with his kung fu to invent a new set of movements into a prearrange form so that preferred students could learn these deadly techniques without having to actually hurt or kill someone. He also built into the whole form a way of manipulating each acupuncture meridian, the way that it is activated naturally in the body throughout a 24 hour period. In this way every organ in the body is bathed in life giving Chi. This is how Tai Chi Chuan works in the self-healing area as a preventative as well as a healing art for many disease states.

In order to protect this method from people that might get a hold of this art and use it for evil he hid the moves in a form which was only an abstract way of learning the real techniques. This form was of a martial nature but it was nowhere near as deadly as what the actual internal hidden meaning meant. This fighting art was first known as Wudang 32 Pattern Long Fist, then became known as Hao Chuan (Loose Boxing) and eventually to be called Tai Chi Chuan.

Although internal martial arts were in existence long before Chang San Feng, he was the first recorded to reform, refine and label it as an internal art and therefore he is generally credited as being the founder of the internal martial arts.

Cheng San Feng's form was passed onto Wang Zhong Yue, who wrote a manuscript explaining the entire system of Cheng San Feng called “The Theory of The Internal Art and Explanation in Practicing Internal Exercise” in the years of 1522 – 1566 AD. It was handed down to Jiang Fa who came into the Chen Village around the same time that Yang Lu-ch’an (1799-1872) was living there. Yang Lu-ch’an had heard of the famous Chen Village Boxing of the 9th generation of Chen’s family – Chen Ting, a scholar general of the late Ming Dynasty. He tried to be accepted into the Chen Village to learn their family style, but failed on many occasions. Finally, he acted like a mad-man, lying in the freezing snow outside the village until someone took pity on him and invited him to live there and he became the janitor for the Chen household in lieu of secretly learning their family style. It is said that Yang took every opportunity to learn secretly from the Chen’s even to the point of waking up early and peeping through holes in doors.

When Jiang Fa arrived to Chen village he was asked to demonstrate his fighting style. Chen Ting was so impress with his fighting method that he asked if he could stay and teach them this 'new' system of fighting. Jiang Fa agreed to stay and taught not only the Chen family members but Yang Lu-ch'an as well.

Chen Ting combined this new system with his family style and transformed it into the Tai Chi Chuan of Chen Jia Gou (Chen Family Village) thus founding Chen style Tai Chi Chuan.

Yang Lu-ch'an became so good at the ‘new’ system from Jiang Fa that he eventually left. Among Yang's travels he discovered the original manuscript written by Wang Zhong Yue which helped him to further understand and formulate his own style known at the time simply as Yang style.

Yang Lu-ch’an had six sons and two daughters who were all well versed in the Yang style. The story goes that four of the sons were murdered along with Yang Lu-ch’an in a battle with a rival clan. The two remaining sons were Yang Jian Hou (1839-1917) and Yang Ban Hou (1837-1892). Apparently, Yang Ban Hou went slightly insane after seeing his whole family murdered, while Yang Jian Hou joined a Buddhist monastery.

Yang Ban Hou had few students because he was quite brutal in his training while Yang Jian Hou proliferated the art to his two main sons, Yang Cheng Fu (1883-1936) and Yang Shou Hou (1862-1929).

Yang Cheng Fu learned the original form as taught to his father by Yang Lu-ch'an, but had an urgency to help the Chinese people back to health. So he set about changing this form to a more public version, one that everyone, young and old, sick or healthy could gain from. He improved on the techniques for health by extending and expanding the movements and he changed all the difficult postures (explosive movements along with the jumping kicks and low stances) to slow movements with higher stances. This made it easier to learn and perform without losing any of the essence of the original form, creating the style we teach today known as Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan.

Yang Cheng Fu was invited, along with other great master, to form the famous Nanjing Central Guoshu Institute where Han Chin Tang (1900 – 1979) was ranked number one of only five students that passed the first graduation test. Han Chin Tang became famous for his Longfist Boxing and Tai Chi Chuan. Dr. Kai Chi Leung was Han Chin Tang's favorite student and married his daughter Master Lin Lin Han. Sigung Maury had heard about Han Ching Tang's decedents living in Cambridge Massachusetts so when he moved to Massachusetts he began his formal training in Yang Tai Chi Chuan with Dr. Kai Chi Leung and Master Lin Lin Han in the summer of 1990.

Yang Chen Fu made Yang Tai Chi Chuan very popular and after his death the form was changed even more creating many different versions. These styles or versions are different for different people, that is what the Chinese refer to as “a thousand people, a thousand styles.” Even each posture has its owe different way in performance which resulted in many variations within the style. These variations are more a representative of their different lineages than it is of different styles. It is still Yang style Tai Chi Chuan even though there are many different versions of the same form. One must understand that the forms are only vehicles to learning Tai Chi Chuan. It is each students responsibility for their own individual study and comprehension of what Tai Chi Chuan truly is. The study is that of a life time, but in the process everyone can enjoy its beauty, strength and effectiveness as a martial art and health enhancement system.