View Full Version : true tai chi or personal prefrence.

04-30-2005, 06:21 AM
Following on from Yiantaichis comments and taking Sharks lead, it has been stated Yang Style Tai Chi is the only true form of Tai Chi.

Personally I prefer Traditional yang Style Long Form. I find it challenging, but not so difficult that it is impossible to do.

I wouldm't say it is the true style of Tai Chi as it has evolved over many centuries. There are many styles, some are more dynamic and agressive than others, and some like TCA that are really gentle. Most styles seem t have a root origin that has been lost in the mists of time and the different styles are how individuals percieved and interpreted them. This leads me to believe there is no one true modern style, but many equally good styles.

On this premis, all the people I know who do Tai Chi in whatever form get some kind of benefit from it. We all do Tai Chi for a variety of reasons. For me going to class has social as well as health benefits.

Over to everyone else, what do all of you think?

Dr. Paul Lam
04-30-2005, 07:31 AM
it is always better to compare and comment on other styles after you have learnt it to a reasonable depth. it is not such a good idea to judge from just seeing another style, one should never comment on another style without seeing at least qualified practitioners presenting it (just because you see one person performing this style poorly, it does not mean the style is bad - it may be that person did not express it well)

i was guilty of this, when i first saw Sun style (Tai Chi for Arthritis is based on this style), i was not overly impressed. after i learned and understanding the incredible internal power of these seeming gentle and simple movements my view changed great. it improves my Chen style as well.

while no everyone like practicing several styles, it can be useful for some to try out different styles. take a look at my articles " Diversity:good or bad" and "how to get the best of diversity", and let me know what you think of those two articles.

04-30-2005, 01:22 PM
yes,Dr. Lam's thoughts on this subject are very good, i think;
if i may offer a slight correction to your thread caroline,yin actually said that yang was the only "pure" form of t'ai chi and i take that to mean something a bit different;
this idea intrigued me having read earle montaigue's book some months ago;earl is a somewhat contraversial figure in the t'ai chi world,an aussie teacher with extremely opinionated ideas about t'ai chi chuan;
among other things he claims that Sun was a style
that "never really worked"
and that short forms are useless;i wish i had his exact words to use for this thread but i ended up throwing the book out in disgust because of other ideas of his i rejected;if anyone else shares his theories,this would be a good opportunity to air them.
i have my own theories on the topic of yangs "purity"
one is that it is clearly traceable to it's original creators.
Whereas in chen,for example,the waters get a bit murky when it comes to naming it's originators;at least of the style it has evolved into today.Wu style is also said to have been bastardized beyond all recognition of what was;so this is what i find interesting;i am NOT interested in debating whether one style is "better" than another,i think that should be left up to the indvidual to decide

05-01-2005, 02:12 AM
Originally posted by Shark
among other things he claims that Sun was a style
that "never really worked"
and that short forms are useless;

Sun style was a fairly recent creation. So Erle might have made the comment in the context that it has never been really tested in actual combat, unlike the much older Chen and Yang styles. I think he's focused more on the martial arts aspects of Tai Chi.

05-01-2005, 10:42 AM
Thanks for your replies. You have given me plenty to think about!

05-01-2005, 12:57 PM
Dr Lam, I enjoyed reading your comparison of Tai Chi styles to cereal boxes in a supermarket, and also your description of handwork / footwork / leaning in the different styles.

Speaking of the Yang style, which one is which? The one that Yang LuChan practiced, learned, or taught in 3 different phases of his life? Which version practiced within the family or taught to the public in succeding generations? The 37- or 24-move "short" form? Which version of the Yang style is the pure one?

There are versions of the Yang form taught for martial or for health purposes. You could argue that one version is "classical" and another is "traditional", but people use these terms interchangeably.

There must be hundreds of cereal boxes with Tai Chi on them! :)

05-01-2005, 02:57 PM
that's an extremely good point,here's the deal though;you can point to a yang style and say"that's chengfu"or "that's man-ching or deyin" or (in some cases if you know your stuff)"that's from luchan original style."
but point to chen and you go "that's...uh..hmmm."
wu is a bit more traceable beyond the wu brothers,who learned from luchan according to some sources,but there are huge gaps and it's very vague.
We know sun is,of course, from sun lutang but it's a bastardization of wu that includes bagua and xingyi whome many feel should have nothing whatsoever to do with taiji.
so purity content? as far as my opinion is concerned yang wins every time.
(there are of course other styles such as li and so forth but these are rarely practiced or talked about so i'm just concerned w/the 5 "major styles" for the purpose of this discussion)

05-01-2005, 07:20 PM
Originally posted by Shark
that's an extremely good point,here's the deal though;you can point to a yang style and say"that's chengfu"or "that's man-ching or deyin" or (in some cases if you know your stuff)"that's from luchan original style."
but point to chen and you go "that's...uh..hmmm."

Chen Taiji can be traced back to the time before Chen Wan Ting, many teachings have been handed down by word of mouth but this is by no means nonsense.

YOu can clearly say Chenxiaowang or -Zhong Lei, esp. now where they have their skills eternalized on electronic media.

05-01-2005, 08:24 PM
the only reason we know about chen wang ting is through his association w/yang lu chan as luchan's teacher;but who taught him? or his teacher? the style name chen only refers to chen village where the style supposedly originated but there is no person named chen credited as founder of the style;many Chinese are named chen;sure much of taiji was passed on by word of mouth in those days but practitioners of the current style of yang know exactly whom to credit as originators;this is one argument for "purity" of transmission,if you like

05-02-2005, 12:55 PM
I think we have a semantic issue here. What is Tai Chi? What is pure?

I think we could come to some agreement as to what Tai Chi must have to be Tai Chi. Foundation in Chinese health and martial practice; martial benefit; health benefit; emphasis on internal energy, and a calm, deliberate practice style.

But what is "pure"??? Would the 300 lb Yang Chengfu have insisted that the same exact movements and methods which were effective for him constituted the only possible Tai Chi, or would he have suggested that it be adapted for different martial artists, like "Thin" Yin Fu? Could "pure" Tai Chi REQUIRE evolution, since so many of the major figures in the history of Tai Chi changed it? I have never heard this outside Japanese martial arts, but those arts have a "Classic," "Shu, ha, ri,' or, "Obedience, divergence, transcendence." The master teaches his/her pupil, encourages exploration , and hopes his or her student will someday transcend his /her teachings.

Under this view, although "New Frame" may LOOK quite different from "Old Frame", or the Sun 73 forms may look very different from Yang Luchan's forms, both are "pure" Tai Chi. Bill

05-02-2005, 07:21 PM
good point also but we're dancing around;semantics? possibly;mabe we're trying to put too fine a point on things but to define PURE in terms of this discussion i guess it comes down to the fact that there's an implied continuity between
luchan and chengfu with the handing down of yang;with chen however so many hands have been in the stew
how could we tell whether the chen practiced today has any semblance whatsoever to that developed by it's forbears,whoever they may be?
(pls let me make it crystal clear that i am not out to discredit or in any way criticize chen style taijiquan;and anyway as bill (sort of) put it,anyone's personal interpretation of a style has the potential to be valid)

05-02-2005, 08:18 PM
If am not wrong with my history lesson that I read about Tai Chi web site and the Internet, I would believe the modern Tai Chi, that we learn today has the base to Chen Zhang Hsing (1771-1853),陈长兴, credited with the creation of the "Old Frame" of Chen style Tai Chi. He was considered to be the teacher and Yang Lu Chan.
Chen Wan Ting, (1600-1680),陈王_ , an officer in the Ming Dynasty. He was considered to be the ninth-generation descendent of Chen Bu. He was credited as being the creator of the Chen Fist, broadsword and spear arts.

I am not particularly interested in knowing which is the only true and real Tal Chi, but I still think it comes from the Chen Family but Yang Lu Chan has made tai Chi available to the masses (we must thank him for that, otherwise it may still be in the Chan village secret :) )

05-02-2005, 08:49 PM
Hehe forget something that just came into my thought, I think there are difererent style that has it's own unique quality to them, like from Dr Lam site there are many mention on the Sun style which is good for the older people which may not be able to do the low stances that Chen style require, and the Yang is also popular in Singapore for the older people because you have a choice of low stances and high stances. Same as Aikido, Yoshinkan Aikido is known to be harder as compare to Aikikai style which is more graceful in their techique. but both are equally powerful and effective for the practioner.

For myself I will always recommend Chen style for younger folks and people which have a better fitness level, because I know a teacher who knows both style (Yang and Chen) also will not teach Chen style to beginner who are older that 55 years old, unless they have perhaps some other martial arts background. Anyway this is my own opinion as I am only expose to Yang and Chen style.

05-03-2005, 06:56 AM
(there are some conflicting views as to whether or not chen was the first taijiquan style or that taijiquan did actually originate in chen village)

Dr. Paul Lam
05-03-2005, 08:44 AM
Historically since Sun style is the youngest, it has a more accurate account, as history gets less clear with time. Mr Sun was well known to be a most effective martial artist, at later age he defeated a famous Japanese warrior to gain national acclaim. There is no dispute from people who know something about Mr Sun or Sun style that Mr Sun was well regarded in his time as one of the best martial artist in China, This is why i think it is important to know the style before one comments on it.

While there is little doubt that Sun style has great martial art power. it is for the same reason Sun is most effective for health improvememt. although my key interest is tai chi for health, i feel that the connection is important and i have explained this in my article "Tai Chi and Martial Art Application" at the article page.

as to the point re short forms, Cheng Man Ching says it very well in some of his books comparing his short forms and yang's long forms. in essence he said that it is not the length... it is the substance that makes tai chi.

likewise regarding which is the purest: i would not look at it that way. if you do, the purest tai chi would be the first creator, like the first creation of the computer... the progression in time has made tai chi immensely more effective than the original creation (of course the original creator whoever you believe was - was a genius and had created a great art, like the original creator of computer - but that person would not be able to recognise the computer nowaday). tai chi progresses like other great arts... if we follow the original unchaged, how do this art and in fact our whole society ever improved?

in my articles diversity: good or bad, and how to benefit from diveristy... i discuss some of these thoughts... i think it is most important to understand and integrated the essential principles, instead of seeking what is purest... how do you define purest? and does it mean the best for you?

05-03-2005, 09:09 AM
When I des-
cribed Yang style as the only "pure Tai Chi" style, I was thinking
not in terms of family history or lineage, but about the essentials
of the art. I muse over this topic and am trying to commit some
ideas to writing. Firstly, I think of Tai Chi as a way of moving the
body. I discount all martial applications except that of (accurately)
imagining an opponent during solo form. It's not for nothing that
Tai Chi has been described as a 'Taoist Dance'. It is a way ( WAY)
of embodying the Tao and its action (Chap. 40, TaoTe Ching).
If I may expostulate a bit, take the ful-ness of a yang move like
PRESS...just as that yang movement is reaching its fulness, the
rear knee gives slightly. That is the 'seed' of yin entering the
movement. Then, at the full-ness of yin, in WITHDRAW, the for-
ward knee gives a bit and introduces the forward motion of yang
again. The smooth occillation between yang and yin in this way is, I bel-ieve, an essential element of Tai Chi.

05-03-2005, 03:16 PM

good idea(s). the main point is that when teaching taijiquan we have to define things beforehand so that the audience is 'on the same page', as it were.
as u c, there r as many interpretation as there are tai chi styles!

yang and yin also has contxt and colour. it can refer to substantial/insubstantial, deficeincy/excess, etc.

05-03-2005, 07:11 PM
Re: training with weights...years ago I tried clipping a couple of
weights to my ELBOWS ! (I used two small C-clamps on the shirt sleeves )Then I got what 'hanging elbows'
really means. Once, I did Tai Chi i water up to
my neck. Then, I realized that when 'they' speak about the air
feeling thick like water while doing form, they weren't kidding.
In water, the torso turns and the arms follow -in their own time.
What, in my opinion, makes for "pure" Tai Chi?
Movements are led by MIND.
Meditation in motion (mindfulness)
Smooth transitions between yin and yang is the basic . Balanced/ not gripping with the toes
Full-body slow- motion whipping motion
Body alignment/mechanics
Moving around/with the joints of the body
Engaging the tendons not the muscles
Breath follows expansion and contraction of the body
Having the goal of spiritual expansion/enlightenment
Not holding postures or holding the body in any but the simplest
way( tendons and body mechanics and balance).

05-03-2005, 08:18 PM
(you might want to stick that last post where it belongs in the discussions,
on the "leg weights" thread
by stephen williams)
ok,so you still haven't extrapolated any explanation concerning your theoretical assertion that yang may be the purest form of taiji,why in your opinion is it so?
are you saying that other styles don't quite measure up to the qualities you talked about?
other styles embody yin yang movement,fullness and emptiness,"engaging the tendons",body mechanics,mind intent etc.;why single out yang?
does yang embody these characteristics better than other styles?

06-03-2005, 08:15 AM
Perhaps for a beginner and someone first introduced to tai chi through Yang Style it may be easiest to grasp the concept of Taoism through Yang style. I can certainly understand this.

It does lend itself to that, especially with the "ward off series". I often use this part of the sequence of yang style to demonstrate how practicing the art of tai chi can relate to maintaining balance in life.

Once you get to full Yang (as in ward off) you begin to retreat into full Yin (roll back) then again to full Yang (Press) and back again to full Yin (wipe off) and so it goes. It is the perfect series to illustrate this concept of the alternating of Yin and Yang. All the more perfect for beginners because there in no moving of feet, only shifting of weight, so immensly easier to grasp!

This can be more difficult to discover in the other styles (although of course it is there) because of the footwork involved.

To say that one style is more "pure" than another style. I don't see how a statement like that can have any validityl

All of the styles have their inheirent beauty. It is like saying one tree is more pure than another. A pine tree wouldn't grow well in the desert and a palm tree might not do so well in the snow.


02-21-2006, 08:14 AM
my thoughts, for what it's worth...

"what is the purest form of tai chi?"
question: is this equivalent to
"what are the principles of tai chi, and which movements embody this in the best way?"
there is the assumption that a "best way" exists.
from what i can see, "style" doesn't really come into it. otherwise, if there are aspects of a style that are good and aspects that are bad, then the purest form would be a combination of many styles...

from what i have seen in martial arts, i have always thought that all martial arts have the same *end goal*; it is just the ways of getting there which is different!

02-21-2006, 08:29 AM
Some of these developed either before good written accounts were the norm, or without good or consistent accounts being extant today, so several of these questions cannot be answered by "history." On the other hand, we have teachers with established traditions, we have the TC "Classics," and we have players worldwide identifying for ourselves which approach works best for our needs, and reaping great benefits which we are moved to share. Isn't that enough?

Richard Livingston,MD
Shrink Not Historian