History of Tai Chi Chuan

Tai Chi Chuan in Antiquity:

The martial art of Tai Chi Chuan (Taijiquan) was developed by the Daoist priest Zhang Sanfeng, in the Ming dynasty (1368 to 1644). In his youth, Zhang Sanfeng developed a high level of skill in Shaolin Lohan kungfu.

He left the Shaolin temple and travelled to the mountains of Wudang, where he studied Daoism. He was considered by many, included the Emporer, to be an incredibly wise man, and many sought him out for advice.
One day, whilst resting beneath a tree, Zhang saw a Crane attacking a Snake. He watched the contest intently, and was impressed by both the Crane's soft, fast & accurate strikes, as well as the Snake's ability to evade the strikes of the Cranes beak. It was this experience that led Zhang Sanfeng to change his Shaolin kungfu, which he softened and rounded. The resultant art was commonly known as Wudang ShibaShi (Wudang 13 Postures).

The term '13 Postures' is a source of some confusion to those who are new to Tai Chi training. Many people believe that the '13 Postures' refer to 13 prototype movements, however this is not the case.
The 13 postures refer to Eight different expressions of power, and Five methods of stepping.

The 13 Postures are at the core of all Tai Chi styles that are practiced today. Zhang Sanfeng passed his art onto Wang Zong. For several generations, the line is lost, until Wang Zongyue who passed the art onto Jiang Fa. It was Jiang Fa who was responsible for passing Tai Chi Chuan onto Chen Changxing - thus beginning the time of the 'Family Styles' of Tai Chi Chuan.

Chen Style to Yang Style:

Born in Kuang-p'ing, in 1799, Yang LuChan (also known as Yang FuKui) was destined to be the man to initiate the spread of the, hitherto secret, Chen family boxing to the public of China.

As a young man, Yang learned a village version of Chang Quan (Long Fist) and became well known locally as a skilled boxer. 
He heard of the superlative skill of Chen Chanxing in Chen Village, and travelled there to beg permission to study the master's art.
Initally, he was met with refusal, for the art had always been kept secret, within the Chen family. After earning the trust of Chen Chanxing, Yang Luchan was granted permission to study the family boxing, and became highly skilled in a relatively short period of time.

On leaving Chen village, Yang travelled the country challenging other martial arts masters. In every match, he was able to soundly defeat his opponent, without causing them serious harm. This was seen as the highest level of skill, and earned Yang the title of 'Yang Wudi' - or 'Yang the Invincible'.

Moving to Beijing, he quickly established his reputation as an eminent martial arts master, and came to the attention of various officials.
After winning several matches, he was granted a position as martial arts instructor to the royal guard of the imperial family.

His sons, Yang Banhou and Yang Jianhou, went on to become highly succesful martial arts masters themselves.
Yang Chengfu, the son of Yang Jianhou, is the man who is considered to be responsible for the modern face of Tai Chi. It was he who softened the movements of his father and grandfather's methods. He removed the vigorous, explosive movements whilst expanding, and rounding out the movements. His forms were practiced at a slow, steady pace.

The following the second world war, China went through a period of upheavel - during which time, the practice of martial arts was heavily restricted by the government. However, the practice of Tai Chi was already being recognised as promoting the health and wellbeing of its followers. As such, Tai Chi was encouraged as a form of exercise for the masses. 

Today, Tai Chi is gaining recognition as an excellent form of low-impact exercise for people of all ages.