Series of Chinese Wushu Show, Teaching Choice: Taiji Quan in 48 Forms
Performed by Yang Jing, the Asian Taiji Quan Champion
Produced by Sports Audio-visual Publication, Beijing
1 NTSC videotape, CHINESE without English caption
Taiji quan is a main division of the traditional Chinese martial art called "Wushu". Many tales have been told about its origin, but it is commonly believed that it was first practiced in a Chen clan in Wen County, Henan Province, some 300 years ago in the late Ming and early Qing Dynasties. Among the representative figures who made outstanding contributions was Chen Wangting, a garrison commander. While previous boxing styles emphasized quick action, his style contained both gentle and vigorous movements, proceeding from the principles of "combining vigor and gentleness" and "subduing the hard with the soft." Theoretically, the new style was explained from the ancient philosophical view of taiji, which holds that there are two aspects to everything - the positive and the negative.
Over the centuries, apart from the original Chen School, there have emerged a number of new schools of taiji quan, such as Yang, Wu, Woo, and Sun, each with its own distinctive features. In the 1950s, a simplified set of taiji shadow boxing in 24 forms was devised on the basis of the most popular sequences of the Yang School. In the '70s an advance set of 48 forms was evolved, absorbing the strongest points from the Chen style, Yang style and Wu style taiji, as well as taiji wushu. These two sets have enjoyed immense popularity across the country.
Although different in style and form, all taiji boxing routines require their practitioners to be tranquil, calm, relaxed but concentrative. In taiji quan the spine is the pivot around which the body moves. Forces and energy should be generated from the spine and waist before reaching the arms and legs. The movements are executed slowly, continuously and softly, but hardness is implied in softness. Practitioners are required to breathe regularly and smoothly. The inner strengths and energy should be exuded through external movements and actions. Practicing taiji enables part of the cerebral cortex to enter a protective inhibition so that partial rest is possible while other parts are excited. As a result brain function can improved and rehabilitated through conscientious and protracted exercises and practices of taiji quan. At the same time, relaxed, controlled movements allow the blood to circulate freely without restriction from locked joints or tense muscles. Breathing becomes unrestricted and deep, while the gentle exercise gradually stimulates the internal organs and the cardiovascular system without the practitioner becoming exhausted or out of breath. Thus vitality, concentration and strength develop naturally according to the condition of the practitioner, especially food for the ill, weak or elderly. Millions do taiji quan exercises first thing in the morning and many hospitals and sanatoriums have adopted taiji quan in their regimens as an effective means of curing chronic diseases.