What is Tai Chi Chuan?

tai-chi-chuan-1The art that is now known as Tai Chi originally began as Tai Chi Chuan.  Tai Chi Chuan literally translates as Grand Ultimate Fist.  The fist aspect of Tai Chi Chuan referred to fighting arts or pugilism and not so much the idea of striking with the fist.  There are punches in Tai Chi Chuan but there are many more moves that are open hand strikes than there are fist strikes.

Tai Chi Chuan includes strikes such as heavy hands, pressure and vital point strikes, grappling, anti-grappling (escapes and releases), pokes, throws and all other manner of fighting techniques.  Tai Chi Chuan is rich in its diversity of movement and applications.  Each Tai Chi Chuan move has a minimum of over 75 applications.

Tai Chi Chuan is known for the way that it utilizes and transmits power.  The study of applied force and energy is at the heart of Tai Chi Chuan.  This includes but is not limited to the study of relaxation vs tension, physical power, applied body mechanics, the transfer of force, whole body power and the transfer of whole body weight.  Tai Chi Chuan also makes a study of body structure including finding structural mistakes and inefficiencies in others.  This study of structure is also part of the health system of Tai Chi Chuan.

Tai Chi Chuan practitioners also study how to receive, dissolve and dissipate incoming force thereby drawing their adversary into emptiness.  An old Tai Chi Chuan saying is “I know my enemy, he does not know me.”  If I am soft and pliable and he is rigid and inflexible when he pushes or strikes me he will only find emptiness and when I push or strike him he will be immediately be pushed or struck by me.

The analogy I like to use with students to help them understand Tai Chi Chuan is to have them strike a shower curtain as hard as they can.  They can not hurt it because it only waves out of the power of the strike and the force is easily dissipated.  Now hit a piece of brittle rigid plywood.  It is easy to break because it is rigid and brittle and the contact point gives you access to break the board because as soon as the board bends a little it is broke.  Practice to move softly and you will certainly be on your way to understanding Tai Chi Chuan.

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