What is Yang-style t'ai chi?
T'ai-chi ch'uan has become known simply as t'ai chi. It is now more commonly used for its health benefits than as a martial art. As a martial art it can take a long time to learn. It is a sophisticated style of self-defence. Its use for general health and wellbeing is renowned and today it is common for people to practice t'ai chi without learning the application of the postures.
How does t'ai chi help someone?
T'ai chi promotes calmness and awareness. It is a balance for all the modern day confusion and fast pace of our lives. Its use as a basis for all other activities is underestimated. The poise and focus learned from t'ai chi is invaluable.
What's the history of t'ai chi?
T'ai-chi ch'uan evolved during the late Ming and early Ch'ing, approximately 300 years ago. It combined and developed the various boxing styles that were popular among the people and the army during the Ming, and added to this the ancient tao-yin and breathing techniques, absorbing classical philosophy, yin-yang theory and medical knowledge concerning blood circulation, and the flow of ch'i, to form a martial art which trains the internal as well as the external.
T'ai chi is somewhat mythically immortalised as a subtle and profound martial art invented by Chang San-Feng (who may not have been real), an ancient Taoist possessed of the highest wisdom. Although history of the origins is confusing, the first teacher to be recognised was Ch'en Ch'ang-hsing. He taught the sons of a rich man from Ch'en Village. Yang Lu-ch'an, who waited on Ch'en Ch'ang-hsing, absorbed much of the techniques over many years and began to prompt the students. The master was so impressed that he formally instructed Yang Lu-ch'an, and also bought his freedom. The Wu family (prominent men in Yung-nien) came into contact with Lu-ch'an and broke class barriers by studying with him. They were so keenly interested in martial arts that they sought out his master, Ch'en Ch'ang-hsing. (The original form contained thirteen postures.) It is a mild embarrassment in Chinese history that the Yangs were responsible for the transmission of the Ch'ens famous martial art, and is often covered up by historians.
The grandson of Yang Lu-ch'an was Yang Ch'eng-fu. His student Ch'en Wei-ming produced the first Yang style manual called "Art of T'ai-chi Ch'uan" in 1925. As the Dean of Instruction at the Chekiang Martial Arts Institute, Yang Ch'eng-fu produced his own manual "Self-Defence Methods of T'ai-chi ch'uan", with the help of some of his educated students, in 1934. Later, in 1946, Master Cheng Man-ch'ing wrote "Thirteen Chapters on T'ai-chi ch'uan" and paid homage to his teacher Yang Ch'eng-fu, even while elaborating and modifying the techniques.
What are the basic principles of t'ai-chi?
There are many profound and important principles which, when learnt, make the practice of the art possible.
This is not so easy. In order to sense your own body and to be able to feel your opponent it is necessary to remove all tension from your body. This is unique to internal martial arts.
Weight must be lowered and the attention of the mind also must be dropped towards the centre of the body, known as the Tan-t'ien. The breath is also taken to this centre.
- Use your mind
To use the mind and not strength is also difficult. External martial arts require great physical strength and hardness. T'ai-chi ch'uan requires softness and stillness and this means a calm clear mind instructing the ch'i of the body to flow and not stagnate.
There are many more principles to learn but without these three basic steps it is impossible to learn.
Where can I get more information?
Ashfield and Wynyard Jin Ho Guahk
Phone: (02) 97166119
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Bondi Andrew Haneman
Phone: (02) 9328 3245