Tai Chi History & Lineage
The story and principles of Tai Chi Chuan have been handed down through the past millennium both orally and through the traditional writings of Tai Chi which are collectively referred to as the Classics. According to legend, Tai Chi Chuan was created at the end of the Sung Dynasty by a Taoist by the name of Chang Sen Feng. A Shaolin disciple, Chang left the temple because he felt that the fighting techniques developed there had become too harsh and brute strength oriented. In order to find a suitable martial art for himself and other Taoist monks, he journeyed to Wu Tang mountain and spent many years as a hermit, observing the habits of long-lived animals such as turtles and cranes. Learning and adapting these natural movements to the mechanics of the human body, and connecting them with the guiding principles of Taoism, Chang Sen Feng at last developed his Grand Ultimate System.
Eventually, Chang Sen Feng returned to the Shaolin temple where his new internal art (often called Wu Tang Boxing) was taught to Chang Sun Chi. At this point, the art consisted of only three techniques, with many fighting applications, and was called Lao San Dao (Old Three Cuts). Chang Sun Chi in turn taught Wang Tsung Yueh, who changed the art by developing it into 13 postures. The modified forms were taught to Jiang Fa, who later journeyed to the nearby Chen village and taught Chen Wang Ting.
Chen Wang Ting had been an army officer in Shan Tung Province in 1618, and had become an accomplished martial artist. When he returned to the Chen village in 1644, Chen took the Wu Tang internal boxing methods learned from Jiang Fa and began to refine and perfect them. He added postures from Sung Tai Tzu Quan and various Shaolin forms, and combined all these with classic Chinese internal health theories of passages of blood, air flow, and energy. His new art became Chen Chia Quan, now called Chen Tai Chi Chuan.
For generations, the art of Chen Tai Chi was a secret heritage of just a small number of families. Almost exclusively, parents passed the knowledge on to their children. During the 1700’s, Chen Wang Ting’s style had developed into the Five Routines of Pao Chuoi, a 32- and a 108-posture Tai Chi form, and one Duan Da (short strike) form. By the end of the century, the art had been passed to Chen Chang Shing who united and simplified the various routines.
Word began to spread about Chen Chang Shing’s martial art, and in the early 1800’s, reached Yang Lu Tsan (1799-1872). Yang Lu Tsan was a master of the Hung Quan Shaolin style, and became fascinated with the stories of the new internal art and it’s health benefits. Eager to learn, Yang Lu Tsan travelled to the Chen village to seek instruction from Chen Chang Shing. Officially, no outsiders were allowed to learn Chen style Tai Chi Chuan, so Yang Lu Tsan was forced to learn in secret. After mastering the art through 14 years of training, Yang Lu Tsan moved to Peking, where he began teaching Tai Chi. He noticed that the Chen style was very difficult to learn for the average practitioner, so he modified it for health purposes and ease of flow. His new system, formally called the Yang style, has since become the most common of the Tai Chi styles in practice today.
One of Yang Lu Tsan’s students was Wu Chan Yo (1831-1902). An accomplished master of the Shuai Chiao style, Wu Chan Yo began to build on the foundations of Chen Tai Chi, adding throwing and grappling techniques and attention to protecting one’s body, while retaining its soft, natural characteristics. This resulting art became known as Wu style Tai Chi.
Wu Chan Yo passed his art on to his son, Wu Ching Chan (1870-1972). In 1928, Wu Ching Chan moved to Shanghai. Two years later he met Wei Hsiao Tang (1896-1982), third generation grand master of Ba Bu Tang Lang (Eight Step Preying Mantis Kung Fu). Grand master Wei and Wu, both being leaders of their arts, taught each other their respective styles completely, holding nothing back.
Master Wei later moved to Taiwan, where he passed his art on to his leading disciple James Shyun, who is now the fourth generation grand master of Ba Bu Tang Lang. Master Shyun taught Wu style Tai Chi to a few select students, but taught openly, without holding back any information. The Wu family, upon learning of this, did not approve. Out of respect for the Wu family, Master Shyun stopped teaching Wu style Tai Chi.
However, realizing the tremendous health benefits of Tai Chi, Master Shyun felt that he must spread Tai Chi to the masses. Using his background as a medical doctor, and his expertise in the martial arts, he set out to create a new style of Tai Chi. After many years of research, reading the ancient manuscripts, and analyzing many forms, he finally developed Shyun Style Tai Chi.
Shyun Style Tai Chi identifies itself in that it is very open, to allow for maximum flow of Chi. Shyun Style Tai Chi consists of three sets of forms: the high set, the low set, and the fighting set. The high set is mainly used for relaxation and general health. The low set emphasizes strength and conditioning. The fighting set combines principles from the high and low sets to develop defense skills. The high set is taught openly and without any restraints. The other two sets are kept as secrets of the system, and are only taught to the most trusted students.