Happy Post Memorial Day weekend! I hope you had fun and/or relaxing plans to reward yourselves and your loved ones. We're already 5 classes into learning the Sanfeng style Taiji 13. Next week is the last of the large movements, then smooth sailing from that point on as the rest of the form is mostly the basic movements.
It's been asked before where does this style come from. This style of Taiji, specifically Taiji 13, is said to be the original form designed by Zhang Sanfeng, the creator of Taiji; this style is dated back to 1247. There are many different theories of where Taiji comes from, but no doubt Zhang Sanfeng holds the strongest connection to creating Nejia - the art of internal energy control and is the direct legendary figure to have taught Taiji to Wang Zong and leading up to Chen Wangting, the creator of Chen style. Plenty of Taijiquan eventually grew into their own style, all with different intentions - no one system is perfect. Every style has something different to offer, and it's up to the student to find what they're looking for. Sanfeng style is slower, more basic and has daoist philosophy tied deeply into it, which I feel would help students get a firm foundation of taiji before studying other styles. For those who also practice Master Lu's Old Yang Style Taiji, they already see an immediate difference. What are the differences with all the styles though? Referencing my school in Wudang and other references, here are brief introductions to the 5 main styles of Taijiquan:
Chen Style: The oldest style of Taiji among the 5 branches, and the 3rd most popular. This was the first style created after Zhang Sanfeng's lineage of students besides the 7 Wudang Disciples. "There are old and new body postures. It’s said that it combines the theory of Chinese Medicine, Yi Ching and even Sun Zi’s “The Art of War”. Chen style has certain hard movements such as foot pounding the ground and the fist hitting the palm, which shows a bit of external boxing." It combines soft with fast actions to create bursts of power - fa jin, used in Sanfeng Baghuazhang and Sanfeng Kungfu forms such as Xuanwuquan.
This style was created by Chen Wangting (陈王庭).
Yang Style: The 2nd oldest style, but the most popular style of Taijiquan. It's widely practiced and the Yang family itself has many branches within it. "There are big and small body postures. The current styles are mostly big body postures. All the movements are very smooth and long, which look really beautiful." This is the style practiced at Master Lu's, though Master Lu's style is considered "Old Yang" and known to be an older form. Those who practice this form at Master Lu's know of the kicks and single leg holds, as well as a good portion of balancing and flowing movements.
This style was created by Yang Luchan (杨露禅).
Wu (Hao style): The 3rd oldest style, but the least most popular of styles due to its availability to learn it. Known to be "Relatively soft". It has distinctive small, subtle movements with focuses on "balance, sensitivity and internal chi development." There are no longer Hao family members teaching it, only students.
This style was created by created by Wu Yuxiang (武禹襄).
Wu Style: The 4th oldest style, and the 2nd most popular style of Taijiquan. It's considered to be "relatively conservative". This style uses small circle hand techniques and has a focus on grappling, throws, footsweeps and pressure points, with feet positioned closer than other styles, making it more applicable to self-defense and more popular among students.
This style was created by Wu Quanyou (吴全右).
Sun Style: The 5th oldest style and the 4th most popular style of Taiji. "Smaller steps combined with Xing Yi and Ba Gua steps, which makes it more like Martial Arts (external style)." Incorporates small circular movements with "gentle postures and high stances".
This style was created by Sun Lutang (孙禄堂).
Thanks for taking the time to read this informative post. A lot of us blindly practice Taiji, and I feel understanding the origins and intentions behind your practice will only benefit you. You'll appreciate the art and understand what the creator behind that style had in mind.
I look forward to seeing you all tomorrow night.