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Taichi Forms

History and styles There are five major styles of t'ai chi ch'uan, each named after the Chinese family from which it originated:Chen-style  of Chen Wangting (1580–1660)Yang-style  of Yang Lu-ch'an (1799–1872)Wu- or Wu (Hao)-style  of Wu Yu-hsiang (1812–1880)Wu-style of Wu Ch'uan-yu (1834–1902) and his son Wu Chien-ch'uan (1870–1942)Sun-style  of Sun Lu-t'ang (1861–1932)The order of verifiable age is as listed above. The order of popularity (in terms of number of practitioners) is Yang, Wu, Chen, Sun, and Wu/Hao. The major family styles share much underlying theory, but differ in their approaches to training. There are now dozens of new styles, hybrid styles, and offshoots of the main styles, but the five family schools are the groups recognized by the international community as being the orthodox styles. Other important styles are Zhaobao t'ai chi ch'uan, a close cousin of Chen-style, which has been newly recognized by Western practitioners as a distinct style, the Fu style, created by Fu Chen Sung, which evolved from Chen, Sun and Yang styles, and also incorporates movements from Baguazhang (Pa Kua Chang] and the Cheng Man-ch'ing style which is a simplification of the traditional Yang style. All existing styles can be traced back to the Chen-style, which had been passed down as a family secret for generations. The Chen family chronicles record Chen Wangting, of the family's 9th generation, as the inventor of what is known today as t'ai chi ch'uan. Yang Luchan became the first person outside the family to learn t'ai chi ch'uan. His success in fighting earned him the nickname Yang Wudi, which means "Unbeatable Yang", and his fame and efforts in teaching greatly contributed to the subsequent spreading of t'ai chi ch'uan knowledge.  Differences between Chen, Yang and Wu styles Chen style is the original from which was derived Yang style which in turn spawned Wu style. It is thus useful to compare these. Differences can be relatively minor and include the speed at which motions are performed, the order of poses, the size of the movements, hand orientation as well as larger differences such as the way in which the movements are performed. For example, the form "Parting the wild horse's mane" in Yang-style does not at all resemble the very same movement in Sun-style. Also, the Sun 73 forms take as long to perform as the Yang 24 form. Differences also exist within the same style, for example Yang Short Form can be counted as 103, 108, 122 etc. separate poses depending upon the teacher's lineage.Specific differencesTempo: Chen style involves starting each move from a near stationary position, punctuated by sudden bursts of speed and power to complete each movement. Yang and Wu styles are more evenly paced and appear more fluid and continuous. Size of movement: Chen style involves large movements where the limbs are extended a large distance from the body and stances are deep (knees and hips are bent more). Wu style is compact and keeps the hands close to the body and the stance is high (knees and hips are bent less). Yang style is intermediate between the two, though closer to Chen than to Wu.Reasons for differencesYang Luchan, founder of Yang style, originally taught Chen style as that is what he had learned. Over time he reasoned that when fighting, people did not adopt the deep stances taught. Thus he raised the stance. Speed slowed down as it was easier to speed up a correct movement performed slowly than to increase precision in a fast movement. Chen style was developed for use against armoured opponents. Yang style was developed when use of armour had decreased (and additional changes were introduced in the early 20th century by Yang Cheng Fu). Wu style is even more remote from armour. In order to make the style easier to learn, the Yang Short Form was developed which incorporates around 100 postures, as opposed to around 300 of the long form. New Zealand t'ai chi teacher Hu Loo-Chi (who taught Chen style) said the 84 postures could be learnt in around 14 hours, though it would take a lifetime to master them. Over time unintentional differences may accumulate in the way a style is taught by a particular tacher or school. Periodically, some teachers may update or amend their teaching after studying with the current lineage holder or another teacher closer to the lineage holder. This serves to correct any errors that may have arisen in transmission of the style, as well as incorporating changes made by the current lineage holder. Without a formal system of accreditation or standardization, such refreshment is optional. This accumulation of errors as well as personal preference by the teacher accounts for variation in styles.


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