The 13 Principles of Tai Chi come from the classic literature and produce relaxation and balance in the body throughout the movements. Movements are rooted in the ground and governed by the waist. Coordination of tension (substance) and relaxation (emptiness) is used for balanced movement. The body and the mind remain relaxed with the spirit calm.
The approach is often counter intuitive, due to the continuous circular character of the movement. Moving one way to go the other then returning. Yielding to force rather than resisting. Using softness to overcome hardness.
Tai Chi utilises innate mechanisms of the central nervous system and the musculo-skeletal systems of our body to produce effortless strength.
Key components involve precise use of the feet. Looking one way to step the other with soft, silent steps. Turning by drawing in on the side you turn toward. Shifting by voiding the leg you move toward. Maintaining continuous circular motion throughout the body and the limbs.
The health benefits of Tai Chi have been widely promoted since early 20th century. Many health studies have shown tangible benefits from the practice of Tai Chi. Tai Chi is reputed to reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol, reduce the severity of diabetes, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and reduce the risk of falls in the elderly and infirm.
Long Form Tai Chi
On the surface the 88 Forms of Niu Tai Chi are the same sequence as the Yang Cheng Fu long form. Differences appear in the directions and application of a few postures. The biggest differences are internal and not obvious to the observer. The movements are performed slowly with a straight spine and abdominal breathing, shifting the body weight from one leg to the other while maintaining balance and relaxation at all times. It takes 20 hours to learn the 88 Forms of Niu Tai Chi, and a lifetime to perfect.
Accurate, repeated practice develops strength and stability, maintains flexibility of the joints, retrains posture, stimulates the cardio-vascular system, endocrine system and nervous system, digestive system, and creates a meditative peace of mind.
Tai Chi Sword movements follow the same principles, but the sword acts as an extension of the body, taking our focus a greater distance from the centre. It takes 10 hours to learn the 57 forms of Yang Tai Chi Sword.
History of Yang Tai Chi - Niu Chunming Lineage
Tai Chi originated with Yang Lu Chan (1799-1872). Although he learned martial arts from the Chen family, he developed his own style and defeated all challengers. The name Tai Chi comes from a verse written by a scholar of the Imperial Court describing Yang Lu Chan’s convincing, yet seemingly effortless defeat of multiple challengers:
“Hands holding Taichi shakes the whole world, a chest containing ultimate skill defeats a gathering of heroes.“
The 2nd generation Master Yang Jian Hou (1839-1917) taught his son Yang Cheng Fu (1883-1936) who completed the development of Yang Tai Chi.
Yang Cheng Fu is the best known teacher of Tai Chi, being the first to offer classes to the general public (Beijing 1914-1928 and Shanghai from 1928) and publishing two books: Application methods of Taichi Chuan (1931) and Essence and Applications of Taichi Chuan (1934).
Yang Cheng Fu had many disciples who are largely responsible for taking Yang Tai Chi to the rest of the world. Development of his long form was completed in Shanghai and has distinct differences in expression to the earlier forms.
4th generation Master Niu Chun Ming (1881-1961) learned Tai Chi from Yang Jian Hou and was the First Disciple of Yang Cheng Fu. Niu Chun Ming taught at Yang Cheng Fu’s Beijing School and later founded the Chunming Tai Chi School in Hangzhou China.
Stephen Ramsdale has travelled repeatedly to Hangzhou and studied Tai Chi Forms, Sword and Push Hands with 5th Generation Masters and others in the Niu Chun Ming lineage of Yang Tai Chi and teaches in Caloundra.