The Tai Chi Classics

Re-posted from The Rochford Martial Arts Academy blog…

There is much talk of ‘tradition’ and ‘lineage’ in the Martial Arts but all too often these discussions are centred around petty issues like what to wear, which direction to bow, whose grand master is a true lineage holder and other dismally trivial ‘fluff’.  Very rarely do I see discussions regarding essence of the ancient masters teachings and ways in which we can penetrate more deeply into their skill and wisdom.   For me practicing Martial Arts from a traditional lineage has nothing to do with dressing like some 17th century peasant or following some obsolete etiquette from a foreign culture, instead I see myself and my art as being a natural evolution and living link in a chain connecting me to the ancient founders of our arts.

In Tai Chi we are very lucky to have numerous texts stretching back through time that record the essence of the ancient masters knowledge.  Quite often their wisdom is recorded as poetry, song and folk story so it is important that they are not taken too literally.  These texts were written in a time and by a culture whose wisdom was passed using story and song.  It has to be understood also that in order penetrate the depths of Tai Chi we need to transcend the ‘wordy’ part of our mind and enter the wordless wisdom mind.  It is with the wisdom mind that we appreciate poetry and song, so perhaps it speaks to the teaching skills of the ancients that they used these methods to record their knowledge and experience?

Below are links to some of the important Tai Chi classics.  When reading these texts don’t jump too quickly to conclusions as to their meaning.  Their wisdom is to be reflected upon and should be used to inspire exploration into your form, neigong, qigong, push hands and everyday living.  As your understanding and awareness of Tai Chi grows the meaning of these texts will change for you, dynamically revealing more and more depth over the course of your study.  Enjoy!

Please email me if there are any classics that you feel should be appended to this list.

Chen Style Tai Chi Foundation: Progress in Fundamental Skills – Anthony Cheung

T’AI CHI CH’UAN CHING – Attributed to Chang San-feng (est. 1279 -1386)
as researched by Lee N. Scheele

THE TREATISE ON T’AI CHI CH’UAN – Attributed to Wang Tsung-yueh [Wang Zongyue] (18th Century) as researched by Lee N. Scheele

EXPOSITIONS OF INSIGHTS INTO THE PRACTICE OF THE THIRTEEN POSTURES – by Wu Yu-hsiang (Wu Yuxian) (1812 – 1880) sometimes attributed to Wang Chung-yueh as researched by Lee N. Scheele

SONG OF THE THIRTEEN POSTURES – by Unknown Author as researched by Lee N. Scheele

SONGS OF THE EIGHT POSTURES – Attributed to T’an Meng-hsien as researched by Lee N. Scheele

SONG OF PUSH HANDS – by Unknown Author as researched by Lee N. Scheele

FIVE CHARACTER SECRET – by Li I-yu as researched by Lee N. Scheele

ESSENTIALS OF THE PRACTICE OF THE FORM AND PUSH-HANDS – by Li I-yu as researched by Lee N. Scheele

YANG’S TEN IMPORTANT POINTS – by Yang Cheng-fu (1883 – 1936) as researched by Lee N. Scheele

THE TAIJI MANUAL OF XU YUSHENG – by Xu Yusheng [1921] translation by Paul Brennan, Aug, 2012

ANSWERING QUESTIONS ABOUT TAIJI Including SINGLE POSTURE PRACTICE METHODS – by Chen Weiming [1929] translation by Paul Brennan, Oct, 2012

SELECTED SUBTLETIES OF THE XINGYI BOXING ART – by Liu Dianchen [1920] translation by Paul Brennan, Sep, 2012

THE TAIJI BOXING OF MR. WU JIANQUAN – FOR SELF-STUDY –  by Chen Zhenmin & Ma Yueliang published by the Health Magazine Society [May, 1935] translation by Paul Brennan, May, 2012

THE ART OF TAIJI BOXING – by Chen Weiming [1925] translation by Paul Brennan, March, 2012

13 T’ai Chi Ch’uan Postures (Movements, Techniques, Energies, Gates, Stances or Powers)
8 Gates and 5 Steps Compiled and Indexed by Michael P. Garofalo September, 2005

AN OUTLINE OF TAIJI THEORY – by Chen Yanlin [published June, 1943] [translation by Paul Brennan, March, 2013]

Discourse On Taiji Pushing Hands – Narrated By Yang Cheng Fu.  Recorded By Chen Wei Ming.  Translated By Peter Lim Tian Tek

Yang Style Taiji Sowrd – Taiji Compiled: The Boxing, Saber, Sword, Pole, and Sparring – by Chen Yanlin
[published June, 1943] [translation by Paul Brennan, July, 2013]

EXPLAINING TAIJI PRINCIPLES – attributed to Yang Banhou [circa 1875] [translation by Paul Brennan, Sep, 2013]

TAIJI BOXING ACCORDING TO CHEN YANLIN – by Chen Yanlin [published June, 1943] [translation by Paul Brennan, March, 2014]

Image Credit:  Steven Depolo


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