Taijiquan means “Boxing of the Supreme Polarity”. This martial art applies the daoist principles of Yin and Yang and, together with xingyiquan and baguazhang, is one of the three Chinese internal martial arts. The graphic representation of taiji is universally known: two drops, a black and a white one, following each other; each drop containing a sphere of the opposite colour, to show that in yin the yang is always present, and viceversa. This representation is called taijitu or taiji diagram.
Taijiquan is therefore the boxing method based on the principles of taiji: it is a fighting style that in training prefers a slow, continuous movement and a soft power, but that hides in its folds an elastic, explosive power and spiral movements.
Though mostly known as a health exercise, taijiquan originally was an efficient martial art, and is still studied as such. The practice is developed from a prearranged pattern of movements, called form or loom, e exercises in pairs to increase rootedness, adaptability and flexibility (tuishou).
The style of taijiquan we practise is the cheng ming taijiquan, also known as the “taiji of the authentic synthesis” or “orthodox taijiquan” (zheng zong taijiquan), composed in 1929 by a committee of masters in Nanjing from the main classical styles of taiji, with the aim of preserving technical passages and martial content that was being lost in the course of time.
This taijiquan is also called “complete taijiquan” or “unified taijiquan” and was also practised by Chen Panling, a taijiquan and martial arts expert.
Master Wang Shujin transformed and improved the quality of this form, by adding to it the contents of xingyiquan, baguazhang and of the postures (zhan zhuang) that constitute the basis of dachengquan (yiquan), thus creating the form practised at present.
Cheng Ming taijiquan is based on a sequence of 99 movements, of high energetic content and of powerful martial content: the name zhen zong taijiquan is therefore rightly deserved.
Apart from developing energy, sensitivity and allowing martial applications, the study of our taijiquan strengthens the quality needed for moving to the study of xingyi and bagua. At the same time, by training in these styles, one develops the content of taijiquan.
Taijiquan is famous worldwide for its characteristic softness, which makes it a veritable “meditation in motion”, useful to the mind and the body. It can be practiced by people of all ages.
In the young, it promotes the harmonious development of the body, guiding growth in a steady way through postural alignment and a balanced work of the lower limbs. It increases focus and concentration, developing will, self discipline and determination.
In the adult and in the old age, taijiquan has a global preventive action and fights some pathologies such as cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. It favours coordination, balance and steadiness, postural alignment. It increases strength, especially in the lower limbs, blood flow and oxygenation in internal organs and tissues, thus favouring reparative processes and the elimination of toxins.
The attention to the details and the memorization of the chain of movements favours the preservation of cognitive functions.
In martial artists, the practice of taijiquan favours continuity and fluidity, leading to a physiologically more natural movement. Apart from its martial applications, people from all fields and discipline can find its energy work interesting.
Much like the great part of traditional Chinese martial arts, the birth of taijiquan cannot be clearly dated and attributed to a single person. In the past and in recent years, many researches and studies have created hypotheses on the real origins of this art.
The vast majority of students of taijiquan, though, thinks that taijiquan was created by the Daoist hermit Zhang Sanfeng (張三峰) , who probably lived during the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368).
Zhang Sanfeng, retired on Mountain Wudang, understood the principles on which the style is built by watching a fight between a crane and a snake. At that time, his art was called “thirteen forms boxing”. The thirteen forms are the sum of the 5 elements (wu xing) and of the 8 trigrams (bagua) from the Book of Changes (yijing), called in taijiquan the “eight gates” (bamen). Other scholars believe that taijiquan could have been born from he union of Daoist martial techniques and philosophical principles with the boxing methods of the Shaolin Temple.
Taijiquan, like the most other Chinese martial arts, was passed down through different family lines, whose names it took: thus we have some main families, like the Chen, Yang, Wu, Wu/Hao family… who have contributed to spreading the principles of taiji boxing.
It seems that the name taijiquan was first adopted by Yang Luchan and, following the style’s popularity and diffusion in China, it was adopted by the other styles. The treatise by Wang Zongyue is the most ancient text on taijiquan discovered until now.