The tai-chi-chuan or tàij í quán (in pinyin transcription) or still T’ai Chi Ch' uan (in Wade-Giles transcription) is a Chinese martial art. The sinogrammes of the taiji quan consists of elements Tàij í _ _ (Supreme summit) and quán_ (Fist) and often translated by " boxing of the supreme summit " or " boxs with the shade " because the observer has the impression that the follower fights with a shadow. Another common translation is "the boxing of eternal youth", the supreme summit which can be less literally translated by "immortality" (the supreme purpose). It is a Chinese martial art (Wushu) belonging to the group of the internal styles, such as Hsing I Ch' uan and Bagua zhang.
The taiji quan is often seen by the Westerners as a kind of "gymnastics". It is well and truly about a martial art in that sense:
- the movements are inherited from the military tradition (dodges, parades, strikings, seizures)
- they were worked out by the warriors in order to develop diverse fighting qualities such as balance, quietness, concentration.
- beginners were step by step slighty using weapons in their sequence of movements.
According to the Book of the tai-chi-chuan written by Yang Chengfu (1883-1936) we see that Zhang San¬feng created himself the tai-chi-chuan around the end of the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and transmited it to Wang Zongyue, Chen Zhoutong, Zhang Songxi and Jiang Fa. Even earlier, Li Yishe (1832-1891) wrote is own Brief of introduction on tai-chi-chuan:"The tai-chi-chuan was founded by Zhang Sanfeng from the Song".
The tai-chi-chuan as internal martial art insists on the development of a supple and dynamic strength called jing, by opposition to the pure physical strength.
One of the rules of the tai-chi-chuan is the slackening (song, song kai) which allows the fluidity of the movements and their coordinations : a movement from the first originated from the waist, goes on by the shoulder, then by the arm. Muscles are used in a coordinated way and the penetrating strength results from a fast contraction and impact.
Once the song relaxation was installed, going to develop the peng jing or the internal strength is the following step. It consist in connecting every part of the body by remaining relaxed : a part moves, all the body moves; a part stops, all the body stops. The peng jing is the characteristic strength of the tai-chi.
We can find an analogy with an elastic ball: strike the ball and your blow will be returned and diverted towards you.
More simply, the tai chi checks the movements by exercising tangencials strengths or rotation.
The tai-chi gives a particular attention on the implanting. The energy also has to leave "roots" in feet, because it is generally them who in the majority of the cases are going to throw the hit from the hand, or quite other striking part.
It’s usually said "the foot gives the blow, the hip steers, and the hand passes on". The energy results from feet, then it is steered by the waist before being transmitted to the hands.
Taï chi chuan is a Qi Gong. It implies a work on the internal energy and not on the external muscular strength.That's why the training of the tai chi ch'uan is executed first of all slowly to feel the movements of the vital energy (Qi) with the aim of exercises of internal alchemy more deepened. The gravity centre and the breath must be lowered at the level of the abdomen (dantien).
The exercises of hands pushes allow to apply the principles of the tai-chi with a partner and this in a progressive way: remain relaxed (song) on the push.
The applications can be executed by:
- knocks struck as well with feet or knees and with hands or elbows. Even if the custom of feet turns out difficult to put into practice for the hand-to-hand fight.
- the chin-na which are in fact keys we find in aikido or jujit tsu.
- pressures on the acupuncture points which can hurt the vital energy and pull disorders of the body (mental state, destruction of the internal organs, knock out and even the death). It is applied only under the highest control of master's degree.
The tai-chi-chuan is practised generally without gloves but there are forms of tai-chi with fan, dagger, sword, stick, sabre, which the follower can use after having developed some experience.
Practised in the morning before beginning a day, it allows you to focus on the body and the spirit, creating a form of relaxation by the slackening of the thought, as well as a renewal of energy by the tension and the exactness of the synchronous movements, specially studied.
Tai Chi can be practised at any age. The exercise is excellent for the balance and develops the suppleness. By the control of the breath and the sequence of the movements, the practicer enters in an state of concentration and well-being which spreads itself in the whole body and and mind.