Taijiquan was originally called the Thirteen Postures after the distinct concepts upon which it is based

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advancing retreating looking (moving) left looking (moving) right staying balanced in the center.

advancing retreating looking (moving) left looking (moving) right staying balanced in the center.

From the list, it's not apparent that there are punches and kicks. There are, but in taiji thinking, the energy expressed in them may be warding, pressing, advancing, etc. When Yang Lu-Chan brought the art of the Thirteen Postures to the emperor's court in the nineteenth century, it was called "Taiji" (the Chinese term for the yin-yang symbol) because it exemplified harmonious balance. "Quan" means the fist, and indicates that taiji is a "boxing" discipline. This is true regarding the "discipline" part, but most forms of taiji use the palm much more often than the fist.

Because the essence of taiji is in the 13 postures and the means of generating jing (power) from the ground up through coiling motions, taiji has proved extremely adaptable. Especially over the last 150 years, since its guardians began making it public, it has evolved into dozens of styles. Styles mutate constantly, mix together, and even borrow from other arts like Baguazhang. It doesn't matter. As long as it follows the principles of the Taiji Classics (the descriptions of the essence of the art written by its founders) and expresses the 13 postures, it is taiji.

However, most of these styles still flow in the general stream of one or more of the families which developed it. In the table below, I've attempted to give an idea of how most of the current styles relate to the original family styles, how the family styles relate to each other, and in some cases, to other wushu. Also, I've tried to distinguish between style as a complete wushu, and form, where the form is the predominate aspect of the practice. When someone speaks of the four "major styles," odds are they mean Chen, Yang, Wu, and Sun although Zhao Bao and Wu Yu Xing (Hao) are also recognized officially as "major styles" in China.

Zhao Bao Village Style (Possibly the original? Or from Chen?)

Hu Lei Style

Chen Family Styles (The original? Shaolin influence? Or from Zhao Bao?)

(Baguazhang influence)



Health-Oriented Forms,



Li Style

Wu Yu Xing (from Yang and Chen)

Hao Style (now more popular than Wu Yu Xing)

Wu Jing Quan "Wu Style" (from Yang)

Health-Oriented Forms

Chang Style (Yang influence)

Sun Family

Forms (influence from Baguazhang and Xingyi with Wu Yu Xing)

Other Styles:

Competition Forms

Combined Forms

Wudang Style

Tung Style(from Yang and Wu Yu Xing)

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If you're new to reading about taijiquan, the maze of spellings and Chinese words may be overwhelming at first. Is it Ch'i, Chi, or Qi? Taijiquan, T'ai Chi Ch'uan, Tai Chi Chuan? Qigong, or Chi Kung? The answer is yes! There are several different ways of spelling Chinese words with the Latin alphabet. Chinese words which have been long used in the West are most familiar in the older Wade-Giles transliteration, which used only unvoiced consonants (no B,D,G,J, or Zs). Unvoiced consonant sounds were represented by unvoiced consonants followed by an apostrophe; all other consonants represented voiced sounds. For example, T'ai Chi Ch'uan had an unvoiced t at the beginning, a voiced ch or j sound in the middle, and an unvoiced ch on the final syllable--"Tye Jee Chwan." As words became more familiar, it was natural to drop the annoying apostrophes, hence, Tai Chi Chuan.

The Pinyin spelling, designed by the PRC to eventually replace the Chinese characters, is for the most part more phonetic. Also, logical words and terms are written as single words, instead of strings of syllables corresponding to the characters. A few of the vowels are slightly odd, but really only a few letters and combinations are strongly counter-intuitive to English speakers--C, Q, X, Z, ZH,and the vowel OU

C is pronounced like the TS in TSunami Q is pronounced like CH X is pronounced like SH

Z is pronounced like the DZ in aDZe

ZH is pronounced like J

OU is pronounced like the OU in dOUgh

So now, it's taijiquan, and qi is pronounced "Chee," not "Key." (Except in Japan, but that's a different story.) Even though the vast majority of English-speaking people are more familiar with "Tai Chi" than "Taiji," the Pinyin spelling system is quickly becoming the preferred one around the world, and I decided to use it here. Besides, in taiji, you've got three dotted letters in a row, and you've got to admit, that's pretty frimmin'. Note that the "Chi" in Tai Chi Chuan and "life energy" Chi are now spelled completely differently: the first example has become jiand the second, qi. Super-literally, "taiji" is translated as "supreme ultimate" or "grand ultimate," however "taiji" means the yin-yang symbol, the "grand, ultimate" symbol of the interplay of yin and yang. Also, "Taiji" is the name of the North Star in Chinese.

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Qigong also spelled Ch'i Kung is a potent system of healing and energy medicine from China. It's the art and science of utilizing breathing methods, gentle movement, and meditation to clean, fortify, and circulate the life energy qi.

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