Tai Chi Chuan is a martial art and fitness regime using the Taoist principles of Yin and Yang to develop a healthy body and tranquil mind.
The most widely held belief is that Tai Chi Chuan was devised by Chang San-feng, a renowned Taoist teacher who is thought to have lived during the 13th Century, spending part of his life in the remote Wudang Mountains. Today Wudang mountain is a pilgrimage destination for Taoists and tourists and there remain statues of Chang San-feng in temples on the mountain.
In more recent times it has been suggested that the art was actually developed by the Chen family.
Although we can never know the source of Tai Chi Chuan, there are some well-documented facts about the history and development of this art through to modern times.
The most famous practitioner of Tai Chi Chuan was Yang Lu-Chan (1799-1872) who learnt his art from Chen Chang-xing (1771- 1853) while living in the Chen family village.
Yang Lu-chan took his art to Beijing where his fighting ability was in great demand and resulted in him being appointed combat instructor to the Royal Court.
Over the years Yang Lu-chan taught many students and from those students new styles developed, the five main styles are Chen, Yang, Wu, Sun and Hao, with variations including the widely practised Cheng Man-Ching style, and Wudang (Cheng Tin hung – Hong Kong ).
As society became more settled and the state took on greater responsibility for personal security and military power the need for martial arts among the population diminished. Tai Chi evolved to the new situation with the emphasis moving to the physical, mental and health benefits of practising the forms.
Tai Chi Chuan is accessible to people of all ages and physical abilities and can be practised on many levels, from a simple ‘meditative’ exercise to a realistic martial art.
With the rise in popularity of Tai Chi Chuan, we also see many interpretations of the art. There are teachers who cover the full curriculum with form, pushing hands, self-defence applications and weapons, and others who are predominately interested in developing the health aspects of Tai Chi Chuan. These may concentrate more on the hand form, Qi Gong exercises and meditation.