Tao, Tai Chi, and Tai Chi Chuan

by Master Marlone Ma

In Asia today, many people do T’ai Chi Chuan regularly. Most of them are older, retired people who want to improve and protect their health.

These days, people spend a great deal of time and energy pursuing money and status. This lifestyle usually leaves people struggling to cope with a great deal of time, pressure and other stresses. While money and status are rewarding in some ways, many people eventually feel something is missing in their lives. Many discover that practicing T’ai Chi Chuan helps them find a different rhythm and deeper fulfillment in their lives.

Most of the people doing T’ai Chi Chuan today don’t have much understanding of the history of the practice. With each generation, the forms have been modified and interpreted differently. These days, most people don’t understand the origin or intended use of the individual postures. Gradually, things have evolved to the point that most people think of T’ai Chi Chuan as being just another good form of aerobic exercise.

Most people learning T’ai Chi Chuan today are unaware that when our ancestors wanted to learn T’ai Chi Chuan, they first studied the Long Fist forms to develop a strong foundation. The Wu Tang School is working to bring back the original T’ai Chi Chuan forms as they were done generations ago.

The Wu Tang School teaches Batz T’ai Chi. This system includes Yang T’ai Chi, Chen T’ai Chi, Fast T’ai Chi, Ba Ji, and weapons forms. Students learn how to get stronger, how to protect themselves, and how to take care of themselves. The combination of traditional T’ai Chi Chuan, together with the Batz T’ai Chi system has truly achieved the yin yang balance for the people who seek out the journey of T’ai Chi.

In order to understand what’s going on with T’ai Chi Chuan today, it’s helpful to look back at a little of the history of China. The Ching Dynasty was ruled by people who came into China from outside the Great Wall and conquered the area. In an effort to control the population, they inculcated the idea that the most valuable workers were the government workers; and that it was necessary to concentrate on academic learning to achieve this highest status in the society. They taught that martial artists were the very lowest class members of the society. They did their best to create a stereotype of martial artists as being all brawn and no brain. Over the centuries; people started believing this way of looking at things. In spite of this, most men still wanted to learn martial arts and would do so, but in secret. At the same time, there was also a tradition of passing down the martial arts training only to family members, keeping the knowledge as a family secret.

This is in contrast to how things were before the Ching Dynasty, when the ideas of Confucius had more influence on Chinese culture. Confusius taught that learning how to care for yourself and treat others well, and learning martial arts was more important than studying academic subjects. In general, traditional chinese culture has embraced the idea of seeking balance, and has valued learning physical skills as well as academic subjects.

The form of T’ai Chi is from the Sung dynasty about 900 years ago. It started with the 32 postures of sung Empire’s Long Fist as taught by Master Wong. Then it was practiced and developed by 14 generations of the Chen family. Later it evolved through 5 major schools more or less in this order: Chen T’ai Chi, Yang T’ai Chi, Wu T’ai Chi, Sun T’ai Chi, and Wu Tsu T’ai Chi. All versions of T’ai Chi are based on the Long Fist forms(Sung Dynasty Empire’s Long Fist.)

T’ai Chi Chuan can be divided into 4 different types: soft and smooth T’ai Chi is more for improving and maintaining health; Fast T’ai Chi is used for combat; Chen T’ai Chi is used for self-defense because it is so structured; Explosive T’ai Chi gets the power outside the body, uses the power directly, and is taught only to people who have reached a high level of training and skill in the area of T’ai Chi. People who study T’ai Chi Chuan for martial art purposes also receive health benefits from their practice.

Nowadays, T’ai Chi is a combination of Tao and martial art. It is popular all over the world. Over time, it has gradually taken root and become part of Western Culture.

Seven thousand years ago, the study and understanding of Tao and T’ai Chi theory started by Fu She Tzu. This knowledge has been expanded and passed down generation after generation for all these years. because of the Cultural Revolution in China, the tradition of handing this knowledge on was disrupted for a generation. At this point in time, there are only a few people left who understand what Chinese culture was before this loss; only a few people left who have extensive knowledge of Taoist thought and T’ai Chi skills as they were taught before the Cultural Revolution. These people are cultural treasures. We need to appreciate the gifts that was handed down to us, so that we can pass on this knowledge to future generations.

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