Tai Chi Chuan has been practiced in China for centuries as a martial art for self-defense and as a Qigong exercise for the internal health benefits. It began with the Thirteen Postures and Master Chen Wangting created the first complete style (known as Chen Style). Master Yang Lu Chan modified the postures and removed the hard movements to create Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan "old frame". These changes made the Yang style easier to learn and more gentle on the body. Master Yang Chenfu, grandson of Yang Lu Chan modified the form to the "large frame" (size of movements) that is taught and practiced throughout world. It is said "Tai Chi is like the ocean soft and gentle but with great power".
Pete Voll (Sifu),
Tai Chi is a great exercise for people with health problems and limited mobility. In 2002 Pete’s health started to deteriorate due to Ankylosing Spondylitis (over active immune system with Chronic Pain in every joint), Degenerative Disc Disease with many Bulging Discs (causing frequent pinching of nerves and migraines), Osteophytic Spurring, Muscle Cramping, Chronic Fatigue, and Asthma. Practicing Tai Chi Chuan (TaijiQuan) has been helping Pete keep flexible, active, and mentally strong. After years of physical therapy Pete and his Doctors felt it was best for him to do Tai Chi and Qigong as his daily physical therapy. Tai Chi helps people with other disabilities with sensitive joints or other movement restrictions because it is a “no-impact” type of exercise. Tai Chi is known for reducing stress, increasing blood flow, and body awareness, as well as obtaining better balance and stability. Tai Chi is practiced as a continuous series of slow movements. Tai Chi requires the use of the entire body and is considered a form of moving meditation. Studies are showing people with Cancer are having good results from practicing Tai Chi.
Tai Chi is great for Self-defense for many reasons:
The movements redirect the energy of an attack which requires little strength or fast movement and uses the internal body connection to obtain power that muscles alone cannot produce.
Tai Chi uses soft movements to overcome hard movement attacks. After redirecting the energy of an attack, a Tai Chi practitioner will apply a counter attack as if it were one movement. The counter attack could simply be pushing the attacker away, counter with a strike, or apply a joint lock etc...The joint locks (Chin-na) are great for controlling an attacker while keeping them in a vulnerable position. The slow moving practice allows the practitioners mind to remain calm. Slow practice allows the movements to be precise and well connected with proper body alignment. Being well connected and properly aligned gives a practitioner better balance and more moving power.
Qi-gong (Chi-Kung) exercises improve strength, balance, and flexibility in a safe and gentle manner as well Qi-energy and blood circulation. Qi-gong provides mental and physical health benefits to all practitioners. This is an important practice for all martial artists to incorporate in their training.
Baguazhan is a sister style to Tai Chi using the principles of the eight trigrams. There are eight palm changes and eight sets of animal Qi-gong. The movements are smooth and spiraling and also known for it's footwork. It is said "Baguazhan is like the power of a tornado, just soft wind but with devastating power". The Chinese police use Baguazhan.
Xingyiquan is another sister to Tai Chi and Baguazhan, they are called the three sisters of the internal arts. Xingyi is know for it's explosive power using the five element fists and twelve animal styles. To an untrained eye Xingyi looks like an external style. The Chinese military and Imperial Guards use Xingyiquan.
Liu He Ba Fa is also called the "Water Style", this is an internal style that uses movements from all three sister styles (Tai Chi, Bagua, & Xingyi). This is a rare style that Grand Master Liang, Shou Yu used as one part of the treatment process for his daughter's cancer. Pete believes a student should be proficient at Tai Chi, Xingyi, and Bagua before learning Liu He Ba Fa.
Any one of these styles alone can make a great martial artist, however learning an internal, external, and joint locking style with Qi-gong, makes a complete martial artist. All martial artists should live by the Wu-De (Martial Moral Code). Wushu is a general term for the many different styles of Chinese martial arts and translates to STOP WEAPON "we train to not fight".