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Taijiquan Styles

Their aspects; internal & external *an exposition*

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#1 Marks of Glory

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Posted 17 August 2012 - 11:04 AM

I was thinking in starting this simple straight foward Topic.

It is not intended for discussion.

It would be nice if everyone could say everything they know about the different taji styles. What is there martial applications differences, and their energetic work diferences, which one is best suited for what kind of person? which one is better for the ones that simply want energetic balance and enlightment, etc...

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#2 ChiDragon

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Posted 17 August 2012 - 12:57 PM

In general, tai ji is good for the body to develop energy by improving breathing problems and martial arts but various styles do emphasize in different area.

1. Chen style is good for development of energy and martial arts.
2. Wu style is good for fighting.
3. Yang style is good for health exercise.

The Chen style always gives a special extra twist in the body movements.

The Wu style was designed for combat, therefore, the distance between the arms and legs, in the movements, are shorter than the other styles. The reason for that was to move the arms and legs faster during combat.

The movements of the Yang style are wider and more elegant. It was designed for person with weaker health conditions or lack of physical strength.
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#3 zerostao

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Posted 17 August 2012 - 01:00 PM

i only know about yang style. so i cannot compare to other taiji styles.
yang style has definite martial applications.
yang style has definite energetics, including micro and macro incorporated into the form.
do other styles also have "grasp the sparrows tail" ?
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#4 zerostao

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Posted 17 August 2012 - 01:01 PM

was a double post but i will edit.
i would think sun style would be good for combat.

Edited by zerostao, 17 August 2012 - 01:04 PM.

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#5 Taomeow

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Posted 18 August 2012 - 10:28 AM

My teacher once said that Yang is like a river flowing over a smooth bed of sand, and Chen is like a river flowing over a smooth bed of sand with some boulders on the bottom -- suddenly it will splash and form whirlpools and vortexes in its way.

To this I would add that if you went swimming in the ocean on the East and West coasts, you could also compare the East coast to Yang and the West coast to Chen. On the East coast the waves can be large or small, depending on the weather, but they have a measure of regularity to them, all going in the same direction, you can sort out what to do with them -- swim over or dive under, and you can keep swimming uninterrupted by them. Yang style ocean. On the West coast, more often than not you can't swim uninterrupted -- it's like swimming in a giant washing machine, you can't go in a straight line, you have to jump, change direction, duck, the waves can collide on you two at a time, turn backward, now push, now pull, tumble you off your track -- they are full of surprises. That's Chen style ocean.

Another thing. As a family, the Chens (most of them, with at least one exception I know of) are tall and long-limbed, and their family style seems to be suited well for this type of physique. Some moves make a lot of sense if you have long arms, not so much if not. :)

Other than that, the differences between the five major styles are in flavor, it's like ice cream -- peach or pistachio, chocolate or strawberry, ice cream is ice cream, taiji is taiji. Or, like in my example, the ocean is the ocean. If it's not cold, it's not ice cream, it it's not wet, it's not the ocean, if it's not based on the fundamental taiji principles, it's not taiji.
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#6 baiqi

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 06:51 AM

2. Wu style is good for fighting.
吴 or w武?

#7 ChiDragon

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 09:18 AM

2. Wu style is good for fighting.
吴 or w武?


It is 吴....... :)
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#8 Taomeow

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 11:44 AM

Absolutely every style is good for fighting if taught correctly and practiced long enough in both form and sparring. You can't fight at all with any taiji style if you are self-taught or if your teacher does not know the martial applications, or knows them but chooses not to reveal them to his or her students. You also take longer to learn to fight with every single style of taiji than with any hard MA. When I was doing taekwondo, I was ready to fight in a year. With taiji, using completely different principles, I'm still learning how to avoid the fight, after several years. :D

You know what the creator of karate wrote after he won every fight against every style of hard MA and went to China to check out an old taiji master? "Karate is a really good art. Superior to all other martial arts for humans. Taiji is for superhumans." :ph34r: :)
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#9 ChiDragon

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 12:55 PM

For the purpose of answering the OP....

In general, tai ji is good for the body to develop energy by improving breathing problems and martial arts but various styles do emphasize in different area.

Edited by ChiDragon, 19 August 2012 - 12:56 PM.

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#10 steve

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 03:59 PM

I was thinking in starting this simple straight foward Topic.

It is not intended for discussion.

It would be nice if everyone could say everything they know about the different taji styles. What is there martial applications differences, and their energetic work diferences, which one is best suited for what kind of person? which one is better for the ones that simply want energetic balance and enlightment, etc...

Thank You


I'll take a different approach to your questions -
To understand Taijiquan, I think it's more helpful to look at how the various styles are similar rather than different. That is, what is at the heart of the art as opposed to how it's expressed by different families and schools with their unique flavors.

From the martial perspective, the basic formula is the same for the different schools though the specific teaching methods certainly vary, not only from school to school but teacher to teacher. The martial components include some common principles:

- Zhan Nian Lian Sui Bu Diu Ding which translates something like touch, stick, connect, follow, don't separate or resist. This is a quality of interaction with the opponent that is at the foundation of the Taijiquan method. All styles teach this skill through a variety of methods, mostly pushing hands practice and drills

- Ba Da Jin translates to eight great strengths and refers to a variety of energetic methods, for example coiling strength, wave strength, folding strength, among others. While the names may differ, the basic energetic patterns are common to the major styles, more or less

- Fa Jin which translates as issuing energy and in English may be better translated as explosive force or short force. In Taijiquan, we are always very close to the opponent and generally touching (see zhan nian lian..., above). Therefore, the typical method of striking used in the "external" arts doesn't work as well so we learn to develop powerful offensive force from a very short distance. Fa Jin is shown explicitly in Chen family forms and hidden in the other styles, but is trained in all styles as an integral part of the the offensive technique. Without Fa Jin there is no Quan in Taijiquan.

- Using the Yi to guide the Qi - coordination of the awareness with the physical body. This is developed through a variety of methods (sitting and standing meditation, neigong) but most obviously in the various Taijiquan forms. This is where coordination power comes from which is at the heart of Taijiquan power (fa jin power as well as the ba da jin mentioned above). This is where we integrate awareness with breath and body. This is where the concept of one Qi is developed as well as principles like controlling with the waist, posture development, distinguishing full from empty, and so on. The various schools have different postures and slightly different methods of moving but the similarities far outweigh the differences, especially when focusing on the internal aspect of form practice.

- Breathing - most styles emphasize natural breathing patterns, although at advanced levels more specific patterns and methods often apply. For example, Fa Jin training is often linked to specific breathing methods

- The Thirteen Gates or Postures - the foundation of martial applications is based on eight upper body techniques (gates) and five lower body techniques (directions): peng, lu, ji, an, cai, lie, zhou, kao, jin bu, tui bu, zuo gu, you pan, zhong ding which are usually translated as ward off, roll back, press, push down, pluck, split, elbow, bump, forward step, retreat step, look left, glance right, central equilibrium. Again, these are the core techniques that are fairly consistent among the styles. In addition, there are sweeping, throwing, grappling, and immobilization techniques contained in all of the styles. This is critical due to the close in nature of the fighting method


In my experience with different styles, the differences are primarily in the forms. Once you get into the pushing hands training and practice (and competition), and the martial training methods, and the neigong, and so on, the difference are much more subtle. The problem is that it is very difficult to find a teacher who will offer training in the martial applications. Most teachers have never learned that part and those who have are not always quick to share...

I would say all are good for energetic development, coordination, balance, well being, many health benefits, and heightened awareness. None are good for enlightenment (whatever that means). While Taijiquan methods often incorporate meditation methods and many of the training methods do greatly improve mind-body integration and awareness, if you want to pursue spiritual development you're better off following that path (Daoist meditation, Buddhist methods, Vedanta, etc..). And finally, none are good at teaching you how to fight unless: 1) you are fortunate enough to find an exceptional teacher, and 2) several like-minded training partners, and 3) you are willing to commit a decade or two to dedicated and consistent training. I've been involved in full contact fighting for a very long time and there are precious few folks that train primarily in Taijiquan that can really make it work when it counts.

Just my $.02, FWIW.

Good luck!

Edited by steve, 19 August 2012 - 04:05 PM.

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#11 Harmonious Emptiness

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 07:44 PM

You can't fight at all with any taiji style if you are self-taught or if your teacher does not know the martial applications, or knows them but chooses not to reveal them to his or her students.


Silk reeling teaches a person quite a bit about body movement, just on its own, and putting the entire waist and legs into one coordinated movement, so if a person works on this I think they can get quite a bit out of it, quickly even, if they learn properly.


Somebody would have to remind me of his name (was it Chang Sang Feng?), one of the earliest lineage starters was said to have first learned Tai Chi by watching someone practice through a fence... So I think at least something can be learned from this if one is willing to invest enough time in understanding the principles of Taoism and Chi Gong.

Edited by Harmonious Emptiness, 19 August 2012 - 07:46 PM.


#12 GreytoWhite

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 08:24 PM

I will only talk about Chen style in detail here as that is what I have studied.

Chen is the "original" style but this is debated heavily. There are influences from tongbei, Taizu chang quan, Shaolin quan, and also a heavy influence from Qi Jiguang's 32 postures. The perception that it is like a wave crashing against boulders and causing eddies is an apt description for what is often demonstrated. It depends on the practitioner as to how the art is expressed.

The first form is often played very smoothly with different parts emphasizing fa jin. Some like to fa jin in different parts of the form, some don't fa jin at all, whereas some more advanced practitioners will try to fa jin in every movement. This is the first frame or liaojia yilu. The focus is that the hands follow the body to develop the different shen fa or body skills that power taiji. The intent should be even and calm, somewhat happy and relaxed to avoid excess adrenal stress. The Yang style public forms are based off of this frame, there is much debate as to what was taught to Yang indoor students and also what was practiced by the family itself. The Wu style is also based off of Yang.

The second frame or liaojia erlu is more martially oriented. This is very similar to many Taizu Chang quan or other pao chui frames. In this set the idea is the the body follows the hands and then powers the strikes after the hands reach the opponent. This focus allows the practitioner to develop gradation of striking and throwing power and develop the "hard" aspect of the art. Going from extreme softness to extreme hardness is the focus of the first frame whereas this frame's focus is to transition from the extreme hardness back to the softness developed from the previous frame. The intent or yi should be fierce and every strike should be performed with the will to be a finishing or killing move.

There is another group of Chen artists who also practice the xiaojia frame which is usually done with a higher stance but greater focus on chansijin and the other body methods. The movements are typically compact and not overtly martial. This frame was mainly practiced by the elderly members or those injured. It seems the form was lost at one point but was recovered by a female in modern times to Chen village. Wu/Hao style taiji is based on the xiaojia frame. Also Zhaobao and Huleijia taiji were both heavily influenced by the xiaojia frame. Sun style taiji is based on Sun Lutang's learning of Hao style, xingyi, and bagua.

There is still more to the Chen piece of the puzzle because of the last hundred years' development of the art. Chen Fake created the Xinjia frames to help develop gong fu skill and in my opinion the focus for martial application of the new frames is mainly geared toward qinna. There is a much greater focus on integration of chansijin and chansigong exercises were created as well to accelerate the learning process. The xinjia frames have caused something of a political rift in Chen village as many of the villagers were not taught these frames and exercises while Chen Fake was away. There is also some speculation as to the formulation of these frames, Chen Fake had a lot of interaction with other high level martial artists and seemed to have been a friend of a bajiquan master, that style also focuses greatly on chansijin.

Two students of Chen Fake have also created their own styles of taiji. Hong's Practical Method of taijiquan is best represented in my opinion by Chen Zhonghua to Westerners and is mainly pre-xinjia with a Wu style influence from Hong Junsheng's first teacher Liu MuSan. There is still a great focus on chansijin. The next offshoot from Chen Fake is Feng Zhiqiang's Chen shi Xinyi Hunyuan Taiji. Most of the frame is post-xinjia and there are influences from Feng's xingyi, tongbei, and qigong learning from Hu Yaozhen. It wasn't until Feng was teaching in Chen village that zhan zhuang practice was introduced to the village. Previously the focus had been more on ding shi or transition between movements in the frame as opposed to pole standing.

Forms training is then informed by push hands or tui shou. Push hands was originally designed as a less dangerous training method than free fighting. Push hands allows one to develop skills such as "listening" and also force redirection and revectoring. There are different patterns and levels of intensity and much of what is practiced now at higher intensity is very similar to shuai jiao practice. Somehow modern versions of this have become competitive, which is confusing considering that the idea was to gradually ramp up to free fighting or san shou. Striking practice seems to have been de-emphasized in many of the Chen village lineages however Feng Zhiqiang's students seem to have a healthy development of that skill as do some lineages from the Wu style.

The modern focus of the art is now on empty hand but it is important to understand that the "martial" aspect of this art was intended for use on the battlefield or in mercenary engagements. The weapons forms are where one really refines one's skill and also these weapons were what the art was designed to power. Keeping the shen fa when wielding a large spear or sword can be extremely difficult but also very effective. While it is difficult to practice safely with a live blade or weapon this is the ultimate goal and will produce much precision in one's practice as well as increased strength and ability to project intent through an opponent.
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#13 Taomeow

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 09:52 PM

Silk reeling teaches a person quite a bit about body movement, just on its own, and putting the entire waist and legs into one coordinated movement, so if a person works on this I think they can get quite a bit out of it, quickly even, if they learn properly.


Somebody would have to remind me of his name (was it Chang Sang Feng?), one of the earliest lineage starters was said to have first learned Tai Chi by watching someone practice through a fence... So I think at least something can be learned from this if one is willing to invest enough time in understanding the principles of Taoism and Chi Gong.


Yang Luchan, watching the Chens practice, so the story goes. Yes, a lot can be learned just doing silk reeling, and the forms of course, but not fighting. I didn't say there's no other benefits to taiji, there's plenty. But Yang Luchan, according to the legend, didn't learn it all by watching through the fence -- he eventually got caught, and begged the Chens to teach him, and they did. Sheesh, I wish I could make progress in taiji by just watching it done by others -- I'm pretty lazy! :D
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#14 Harmonious Emptiness

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 09:29 AM

Yes, a lot can be learned just doing silk reeling, and the forms of course, but not fighting.


I still disagree here. In western boxing you spend quite a bit of time perfecting the skill of putting your body into a punch. Silk reeling is, among other things, a repeated micro-analysis of this. In western boxing, you turn your hip, heel, and shoulder before throwing a punch. Silk reeling is basically repeating this motion but more like a push than a punch. This can be very useful for fighting, even from a fairly beginner level, imo. It's the difference of pushing or striking someone from your shoulders and chest, versus incorporating heels, hips, thighs, calves, etc, etc,. Of course it helps if they learn some fa jin silk reeling early on, so a teacher of Chen Tai Chi might get to this quicker than say Yang or Wu, since there are fa jin movements throughout the Chen form.
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#15 Taomeow

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 11:39 AM

I still disagree here. In western boxing you spend quite a bit of time perfecting the skill of putting your body into a punch. Silk reeling is, among other things, a repeated micro-analysis of this. In western boxing, you turn your hip, heel, and shoulder before throwing a punch. Silk reeling is basically repeating this motion but more like a push than a punch. This can be very useful for fighting, even from a fairly beginner level, imo. It's the difference of pushing or striking someone from your shoulders and chest, versus incorporating heels, hips, thighs, calves, etc, etc,. Of course it helps if they learn some fa jin silk reeling early on, so a teacher of Chen Tai Chi might get to this quicker than say Yang or Wu, since there are fa jin movements throughout the Chen form.


HE, are you talking from experience applying silk reeling to fighting or is it all theoretical?

Take a look at Steve's post up the page. I'd take it to heart. :)
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#16 zerostao

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 12:01 PM

Yang Luchan, watching the Chens practice, so the story goes. Yes, a lot can be learned just doing silk reeling, and the forms of course, but not fighting. I didn't say there's no other benefits to taiji, there's plenty. But Yang Luchan, according to the legend, didn't learn it all by watching through the fence -- he eventually got caught, and begged the Chens to teach him, and they did. Sheesh, I wish I could make progress in taiji by just watching it done by others -- I'm pretty lazy! :D

i heard a slightly different version. that yang luchan was a slave owned by the chen family and was the guy that was used in the demonstrations , or the guy who got practiced on by granddaddy chen. then when granddaddy chen passed on, grandma chen gave yang his freedom.
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