Taijiquan's (tai chi chuan) roots are in the martial arts
There are many pretenders, and few masters. Taijiquan employs a very unique
, counter-intuitive style of body movement
that delivers great power, at great speed, with great effectiveness, if practiced properly. Everything can be explained via the simple laws of physics, but must be practiced in a way that defies mechanics; there are no "secret" powers, as pretenders would have the naive believe (and pay dearly for).
Little known is that Taijiquan, especially Chen Taijiquan has its roots in a fierce tradition of exhaustive training and martial application; it is one of the most powerful and effective forms of martial art, when trained properly. Sadly, most in the Western world, and even China, don't often see the real thing.
Here in America, Taijiquan is usually thought of primarily as a 'New Age' health and meditation exercise, masquerading as a martial art. In fact, regular practice in Taijiquan (also known as "tai chi", or "taiji", or "tai chi chuan") can help to keep one in shape, improve balance, reduce stress, and other benefits - even if some of the essential core principles are missing from one's practice. With correct practice, health benefits are enhanced; more about that, below. Most of the Taiji we see practiced in the West, and even in China, is largely framed as means to better health. That's OK, as far as it goes.
In 1983, martial artists from Chen village received full government support to promote Chen Taijiquan (also spelled as "tai chi chuan") abroad. Some of the best Chen stylists from Chen village became international "roaming ambassadors" known as the "Four Buddha Warrior Attendants". Those four Chen stylists including Chen Xiaowang
; Chen Fake's direct grandson), Chen Zhenglei
(turn down the sound track!), Wang Xian
(in red), and Zhu Tiancai
traveled relentlessly to give global workshop and created an international group of Chen practitioners.
Two of these authentic masters of Chen Taijiquan, Chen Xiaowang and Chen Ziqiang, show how it can be otherwise.
.However there is a little known "other side" to Taijiquan; this "other side" is Chen Taijiquan's martial roots specifically, started in Chenjiagou
, China during the 16th, 17th, and early 18th centuries.
Chen Taijiquan is the style that all other styles of Taijiquan (Yang, Wu, Sun, and Woo) originated from. Watching two of the greatest living masters of Chen Taijiqian, Chen Xiaowang and Chen Ziqiang, showing Taijiquan's martial power, and applications, puts Taijiquan in a class with some of the most fierce martial arts on earth.
In fact, there is a special quality of movement, controlled by the center of the body that is almost impossible to explain in words, but can be very clearly shown by someone who "has the goods" - someone who has learned at the feet of a true master, over years, and willing to to put in the work, or "eat bitter" as the Chinese say. There is no "New Age" here, just hard won counter-intuitive body mechanics and long, hard training and sparring - just like any other martial art
The absolute beauty and beautiful body logic of martial application in Chen Taijiquan has almost been lost, but the few true masters that that have kept its roots alive show otherwise - fierce joint locks, throws, strikes from anywhere on the body, etc. Taijiquan translates roughly to "body as fist", meaning a skilled practitioner can land fierce, bone-crushing blows from almost any part of the practitioner's body, or take control in a grappling match with uncanny speed and efficiency.
Watching a true master do one of the many forms is truly a thing of beauty
; it looks like a serene dance that's full of grace and delicacy. The forms are meant to be practiced very slowly, with great attention paid to the proper body mechanics that operate inside of each movement. All movement is driven from the "center", by "opening and closing" the torso. Every movement having several
martial applications when accelerated to real-time-defense.
The thing to be aware of when watching a real, bona-fide master do the forms (not pretenders who can simply mimic movement) is that *every* movement is controlled by the aforementioned subtle, but powerful "center", or "dan tien". Again, it's hard to put the essential nature of Taijiquan into words, but with a good teacher, and lots of practice, the essentials become obvious.
Sadly, due to the cultural penchant for "keeping things secret", the best Taijiquan has not been seen until very recently. The last 10-15 years have brought a number of bona fide masters to American shores, for workshops and extended training. There are also exchange programs in place that are exposing dedicated Westerners to the power and beauty of Chen Taijiquan, and the Chinese Internal Martial Arts
, in general.
We're going to see more of the Chinese Internal Martial Arts as Chinese culture continues to spread; they are both healthy exercise, and effective martial art (if learned from someone who reall knows how to deploy the martial applications in an authentic way).