Unique Characteristics of Tai Chi Chuan (taijiquan) written by Mike Patterson
Tai Chi (TaiJi) CHARACTERISTICS
Gentle in nature, subtle in expression, Tai Chi is one of the most heralded forms of exercise today. The Art combines relaxation in motion with precise breathing to stimulate the inner energies of the body, strengthening the immune systems, nervous system, and regulating the metabolic processes. Tai Chi increases the capability to use energy effectively and efficiently. It is a wholistic health discipline and a sophisticated and ancient internal martial art. Chi Kung and other health exercises are integrated into the training at various levels depending on the individual's progress.
Chen Style Tai Chi Chuan has an immediately recognized "flavor" when firstviewed because of the abundance of fah jing (short vibration energy) visible in the forms performance. This is characteristically different from the Yang and Wu styles which have become far more common in the past two decades. Some people, being unaccustomed to seeing this will pronounce Chen Tai Chi as "too hard" but this viewpoint comes from ignorance in what is being witnessed only. The balance of whole body power and springy energy is profound in this style, and becoming much more sought after in the last twenty years.
In the practice of Chen Style, the practitioner will first be instructed in the basics. The method of aligning the body, stepping, the four directions (Ward-Off, Roll-Back, Press, Push) and the four corners (Elbow Stroke, Split, Pull-Down, Shoulder/Body Bump), will all be introduced and discussed in terms of mechanical performance. Then the first Lu (form) will be introduced posture by posture until completed. Generally, about midway through the process of learning the first routine, push-hands will also be introduced with an emphasis on only following the opponent's energy without any attempt to neutralize. Chen style contains five levels of push-hands training, the first four being fixed, cooperative routines and the fifth being a free form combative.
Later, as the student becomes still more proficient, the second routine, weapons and additional two-person work will be introduced. Free-fighting would be the last endeavor that the developing practitioner will engage in, after the proper body parameters have been ingrained and understood to a reasonable level of competency.
The energy of Tai Chi Chuan has been likened to that of a rubber ball. It tends to absorb virtually all of the opponent's energy and then reflect it back at him. Energetically, it is the exact opposite of Hsing I and Pa Kua in that it couples a Yin exterior with a Yang interior. A Tai Chi practitioner will seek to allow the opponent to overextend and then take advantage of the overextension. Of the three internal arts, it is perhaps the most subtle in expression of application.