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Discovering Tai Chi Styles: Yang, Chen, Wu, Sun

Tai Chi, also known as Tai Chi Chuan, is a Chinese martial art that has gained popularity worldwide for its health benefits and meditative qualities. It has evolved into various styles over time, each with its unique characteristics and history. Let's discuss the main styles of Tai Chi: Yang, Chen, Wu, and Sun.

Tai Chi group - YMAA Orientsport

1. Yang Style Tai Chi

Yang style is the most popular and widely practiced form of Tai Chi. It was founded by Yang Luchan (1799-1872), who was a student of the Chen family. Yang Luchan modified the Chen family movements to make them more accessible and less physically demanding, making the style suitable for people of all ages. Yang style is characterized by its slow, fluid, and graceful movements, emphasizing relaxation and the integration of mind, body, and breath.


Real Story: The founder, Yang Luchan, was not initially allowed to learn Tai Chi from the Chen family due to its secrecy and exclusivity. However, he was persistent and learned by observing the family members practicing in secret. He would practice during the night and finally gained enough skill to impress the Chen family, earning their recognition and respect.


2. Chen Style Tai Chi

Chen style is the oldest and original form of Tai Chi. It was developed in the 17th century by Chen Wangting, a martial artist from the Chen family. Chen style combines slow and explosive movements, incorporating both soft and hard techniques. It is known for its spiral movements, rapid changes in tempo, and lower stances.


Real Story: Chen Wangting was inspired to create Chen style Tai Chi after witnessing the movements of a snake and a crane engaged in combat. He integrated their fluid and agile motions into the traditional martial arts of his time, resulting in the birth of a unique style that became the foundation for all Tai Chi styles.


3. Wu Style Tai Chi

Wu style Tai Chi was founded by Wu Chuan-yu (1834-1902). He was a military officer who studied both Chen and Yang styles and created his own style, incorporating elements from both. Wu style focuses on smaller, more compact movements and has a slightly higher stance compared to other styles. It is known for its emphasis on subtle internal energy and its therapeutic effects on health.


Real Story: Wu Chuan-yu was known for his exceptional martial arts skills and his ability to perform advanced techniques with minimal effort. Legend has it that once, while he was visiting a village, a group of bandits tried to attack him. Wu Chuan-yu calmly demonstrated his Tai Chi skills, effortlessly neutralizing their attacks without injuring anyone. The grateful villagers were in awe of his mastery and named a form of Tai Chi after him.


4. Sun Style Tai Chi

Sun style Tai Chi was created by Sun Lutang (1861-1932), who was already a highly skilled martial artist in Xingyi and Bagua styles. Sun style integrates elements of these styles into Tai Chi, resulting in a unique synthesis that emphasizes agile footwork, smooth transitions, and gentle movements. It is particularly well-suited for improving joint mobility and coordination.


Real Story: Sun Lutang was a master of various martial arts, and his knowledge extended beyond the physical aspects. He was also an accomplished calligrapher, painter, and scholar. His deep understanding of Chinese philosophy and the internal arts allowed him to create a Tai Chi style that not only benefited the body but also nurtured the mind and spirit.


Each of these Tai Chi styles has its own charm and benefits, attracting practitioners from all walks of life. Through the practice of Tai Chi, people not only improve their physical well-being but also cultivate a sense of tranquility, mindfulness, and inner harmony, making it a truly holistic and valuable art form.


In this article, we delve into the fascinating world of Tai Chi, exploring its main styles – Yang, Chen, Wu, and Sun. Each style is a testament to the art's evolution and unique attributes, from the graceful, fluid movements of Yang style to the dynamic blend of soft and hard techniques in Chen style. We also delve into Wu style's focus on internal energy and the agile footwork of Sun style. Furthermore, we shed light on how Yang style enthusiasts can embark on their Tai Chi journey with expert guidance from YMAA, a renowned organisation for martial arts education.


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