What is Tai Chi?
Pei Lei Wushu Association offers Tai Chi classes in Sydney. Tai Chi, more correctly known as Taijiquan, is a traditional Chinese exercise and martial art practice composed of flowing and graceful movements. Tai Chi Quan can be translated as “Supreme Ultimate Fist” or “Two Extremes Boxing” and focuses on calming the mind and using mental intention, body mechanics and internal energy to drive its techniques. Tai Chi forms are generally practiced slowly with an even pace as in the Yang style though advanced students may introduce more energetic movements, using “explosive force” or fajin.
The underlying principle of Tai Chi is the Chinese concept of Yin and Yang, symbolising the two complementary but opposite energies that typify human experience eg male and female, soft and hard, light and dark. Tai Chi is about balancing these concepts within the techniques and postures, represented by forward-backward, full-empty, attack-defence, internal-expressive, yielding-unbending.
Because of its gentle, low impact nature, Tai Chi is an ideal practice for any age and level of fitness. It has an extremely positive effect on the elderly or those suffering from ailments such as arthritis, high blood pressure, stress disorders or Parkinson’s disease. For younger and more active individuals, Tai Chi develops flexibility, mobility, enhances muscular and tendon strength and can be utilised as an effective form of self-defence.
Tai Chi can be practiced as a relaxing form of moving meditation, a health and fitness regime, a competition sport and as a martial art. There is something for everyone in Tai Chi practice!
There are many styles of Tai Chi which all include “bare hand” routines, weapons (such as straight sword and sabre) and “pushing hands”. Pei Lei Wushu focuses on promoting Traditional Yang-style Tai Chi as passed to Master Alice Dong by Grandmaster Fu Zhong Wen.
Traditional Yang Style Tai Chi
CARRYING ON THE LEGACY OF GRANDMASTER FU ZHONG WEN
Yang-style, is the most widely practiced and popular of the major styles of Tai Chi. Most modern, standardised forms such as 24-form and 42-form draw heavily on the traditional Yang style but have been modified over the years or combined with other styles. Pei Lei Wushu emphasises traditional Yang-style training in the lineage of Grandmaster Fu Zhong Wen.
While the true origins of Tai Chi are hotly debated, it is known that the founder of Yang-style Tai Chi, Yang Luchan trained in the village of Chenjiagou in the early 19th century where he learned the previously insider-only martial arts practices of the Chen family. Upon returning to Beijing, Yang developed a reputation as an unparalleled martial artist and devised his own unique system of Tai Chi based on his many years of training, teaching it to the Imperial Palace Guards. Yang and his sons were sought out by aspiring martial artists hoping to learn from their skills and attracted large numbers of students.
However, it was Yang Luchan’s grand-son, Yang Cheng-Fu who truly popularised Yang Tai Chi, smoothing out some of the more difficult movements in the style and adopting a larger frame approach to the Tai Chi forms that enabled more people to master the art. Yang Cheng-Fu was extraordinarily popular as a teacher and gathered many dedicated students and famous disciples such as Chen Weiming, Cheng Man Ching and Zhao Bin. It is said by some though, that no other student represented Master Yang’s teaching with as much accuracy and skill as Fu Zhong Wen.
Fu Zhong Wen would travel across China with his master Yang Cheng-Fu, diligently working to spread the practice of Tai Chi and representing the art in pushing hands and other competitions. He achieved an extraordinarily level of attainment in the art of Tai Chi and, upon his master’s death, continued to work to spread Tai Chi to the world, establishing the Yongnian Tai Chi Association, dedicated to the principles of diligence, perseverance, respect, and sincerity.
While teaching in Shanghai, Grandmaster Fu took a number of Wushu athletes as students, amongst them our headmaster Alice Bei Dong. Master Alice studied traditional Yang-style with Grandmaster Fu for many years, becoming officially recognised as a generational successor to the art of Yang-style Tai Chi.
Traditional Yang-style Tai Chi is exemplified by slow, flowing movements and larger frame stances. The bare hand form is performed at an even pace with no stops, each movement connecting to the next. It is a very gentle, low impact practice that will gradually build strength and competency in the student.
The art also includes straight sword (jian), sabre/broadsword (dao), force emission (fajin) and pushing hands (tui shou) techniques. As taught by Pei Lei Wushu, students build their way towards the full 85 movement bare hand form through smaller routines (8, 18 and 28) that introduce new skills and movements and give the student as sense of achievement as they advance through the routines. Basic understanding of the full form leads students to continue to develop skills in weapons and pushing hands.
When teaching Tai Chi movements, Pei Lei Wushu emphasises intent and application to ensure students understand the purpose behind all of the movements. Even if self-defence is not the students goal, understanding the basic function of the techniques ensures the proper attention to detail, structural alignment and maximising the flow of energy throughout the form.
Traditional Yang-Style Resources
Master Alice and her instructors teach a traditional curriculum of Yang-style Tai Chi. Beginner students work their way up through shortened routines (8,18 and 28 Form) to the full 85 movement Traditional Yang form. The short routines are intended to introduce new students to Yang Tai Chi slowly, in manageable sections of increasing difficulty. We also offer training in the traditional 51 Sword (Jian) Form, 13 Broadsword/Sabre (Dao) and Pushing Hands (Tuishou).
Other Tai Chi Forms
In addition to teaching Traditional Yang Style, Pei Lei Wushu Association also provides instruction in traditional Chen Tai Chi and standard competition forms. While focussed primarily on Yang-style Tai Chi, Master Alice Dong has a wealth of experience in a wide range of Tai Chi styles as both a practitioner and judgeÂ and is able to provide correction and instruction in these forms.
Master Alice is skilled in traditional Chen-style Tai Chi having learned the routines and body methods during her time in Shanghai and Japan. As well the traditional routines, Master Alice is highly proficient in the standardised 56 Chen form devised for competition performance. This routine mixes elements from both traditional routines into a challenging form for athletes.
Yang 36 Form
The 36 Yang form is a shortened routine based on the traditional Yang-style 85 form. Yang 36 was created by Master Alice for her own competition and performance. Unlike the short 28 form our school uses for beginner training and demonstration, the 36 form includes the harder movements from the long form – multiple straight kicks, Lotus kick and low postures like Snake Creeps Down.
42 Taiji refers to a compiled form of Tai Chi used widely for competition. 42 Taiji mixes techniques from the major Tai Chi styles: Yang, Chen, Sun and Wu into a single routine and serves as an ideal way for athletes to demonstrate a wide range of Tai Chi skills.
42 Taiji Sword
42 Sword is another competition routine based on Yang-style and utilises the iconic Tai Chi straight sword or jian. While sharing a number of techniques with the Yang 51-Sword routine, 42 Sword contains a number of unique movements and aesthetic flourishes not found in the traditional form and is shorter in length, making it suited to competition.
Tai Chi Kung Fu Fan
While not a traditional Tai Chi weapon in Yang or Chen style, the fan has become a popular weapon for Tai Chi practice. The Tai Chi Kung Fu Fan is a dynamic form, based in a mixed style Tai Chi movements and including Wushu and Bagua techniques.
Other competition forms
Pei Lei Wushu Association students often use their own form choreography for competition, based on traditional or standardised forms. Certain international Tai Chi competitions, such as the World Taijiquan Championships may often prescribe their own routines required for performance.