The Origin Of Taijiquan
A myth says that Tai Chi Chuan was created by Zhang Sanfeng (1270 A.D.) who was educated in the martial arts of Shaolin. One day on the Wudang Mountain, observing the battle of jaybird and snake comprehended the importance of calmness and softness.
Chang Sanfeng observing the jaybird and snake creates the art of Taijiquan. Wallpainting on Wudang mountain.
Using the principles of yin yang, the theory of I-Ching, Taoist Qi gong breathing techniques, and the principles of Tao. Tai Chi as practiced today is the result of many changes in the last 300-400 years. Certain families developed their own “form” giving their name in their style.
The styles of Tai Chi Chuan
There are five main basic styles in Tai Chi Chuan: Chen, Yang, Wu, Hao and Sun. In the old days it was taught only to the members of Chen family and it was not allowed to others to learn the art.
Yang Lu Chan was somebody that wanted so much to learn, that he went to work in the Chen family as a servant. He worked many years in the family, and each night he was stalking the members, as they were practicing, trying to learn the art. One night they discovered him but when they saw his persistence and sincerity, and that he had learned already enough by observing only, they accepted him as a student.
Yang Lu Chan’s family created Yang style Tai Chi Chuan. Yang Lu Chan’s grandson, Yang Chen Fu, was the creator of the final form “big frame” as it is known today.His devotional student was Tung Tung(Dong) Ying Jie, the great-grandfather of Master Dong Da De (Alex Dong).
Alex Dong is our Tai Chi Chuan Master .He visits Greece at least once a year, giving seminars to the students, bringing them to a higher level.
In our days Tai Chi Chuan has changed a lot of forms and loses his authenticity; so it is very important to be taught from instructors that are closer at its initial roots.
Points of attention in order to get the full benefits of Tai Chi Chuan.
In this art, the guidance of a serious instructor and the continuous and tireless practice, are both very important elements. A Tai Chi Chuan instructor should first be active and conscious in his practice, and should know the way to teach the students. Many beginners are persistent in their effort and reach a good level. During practice one should be aware so that he doesn’t acquire wrong habits.
The first habit is the one that usually certain young persons have, which is a talent to learn the sequence of movements faster than others. Thus they are satisfied and they stop in the middle of their progress, believing that they have comprehended the art.
The second habit is that some students are furious and want fast results. So they just stay in learning movements and not deepen in the art.
Having not conceived the true essence of Tai Chi, their movements are full of errors in the eyes of one who is experienced. It is difficult to correct their movements because they will correct them provisionally, and next day they will return to the same errors. Beginners should dedicate their first year of practice mainly to learn the “form” that is a sequence of movements.
Each school has its own main “form”; some of them last ten minutes, others last longer. In our school we learn the Yang style large traditional frame of the Yang family. The duration of this form is roughly 35 minutes. The student should follow each of their instructor’s movements carefully. Enough patience and persistence is needed for someone to learn and remember the movements. The regular follow-up courses twice per week are essential.
The beginner needs to commit so that he has enough time for the follow-up courses and to dedicate time for his personal practice. Once he has learned the movements of the form (roughly one year) his next work is to continue his practice in order to correct his stances, the way he moves and to deepen into the energy and the basic Tai Chi principles like: use concentration instead of force, be relaxed, use the waist in order to direct the movement, relax the chest, coordinate the upper and lower part of the body and make each movement fluid and soft.
It is preferable to have constant and continuous progress. One can practice outdoors (on a flat ground), in parks and gardens. Avoid windy days and dusty air spaces. Wear comfortable clothes that don’t tighten the body causing breathing problems. The shoes should be as comfortable as possible, soft and flat.
The consistent work and learning in depth of the main “form” can last many years. Patience and persistence are needed. Later on (the soonest in 2 years), if someone wishes, can learn other forms, smaller in duration, like: straight and broad sword, two person forms and push hands. However, all these can be done with the condition of not stopping to practice on the main “form”.
The benefits of Tai Chi Chuan
Tai Chi Chuan helps and strengthens digestion, calms down the nervous system and lowers high blood pressure. It improves the reproduction of cells and rejuvenates the skin. It opens up the breath making it deeper and calm. It can help insomnia. Its movements allow better oxygenation of blood by keeping it clean. Blood circulation is improved and the body is protected from frequent illnesses. It can be also used as an exercise for prevention of illnesses but also for their treatment. It helps depression and improves one’s sense of balance and stability.
Daily Tai Chi practice can keep the body in good natural condition even at a very old age. It develops patience and confidence. It increases the immune system and gives clarity to the mind. Tai Chi helps effectively with back problems, arthritis, osteoporosis, tight shoulders, and heart illnesses. As a martial art (for those who exercise this part of the art) it can cultivate and increase internal energy.
Apart from self-defense someone learns to deepen in his nature, and to be more aware. It can also help to reduce nervousness and worry by bringing internal and external calmness. All these however can be achieved only with continuous and long-lasting engagement to the practice of this art.
Athens Taijiquan Association is under Dong Style International Taijiquan Association