Are all Tai Chi systems the same? The answer is no. They do however share numerous concepts, but those concepts are played out differently, even within the teaching of the same system which is a good thing as it gives us more choice, more chance to learn, more chance to discover, about the Art of Tai Chi and ourselves. We are not all suited to the same system and this is nothing to do with height, weight or girth; there is something inside of us that sees and feels and draws us to it. But there is something else that is often left out of the equation and that’s our understanding and it’s not a heady intellectual understanding because the truth is that you cannot intellectualize Tai Chi. There is a connection that happens between the heart-mind (the upper mind) and body that can give an unbelievable understanding of Tai Chi, some of this understanding cannot be translated into words, it just is.
The modern systems of Tai Chi: Chen, Yang, Wu, Sun, Hao, and those that come from them, are Yang based systems. So keeping this simple from a physical point, for example moving forward, the body weight moves onto the front leg and then is expressed through the back leg to drive the power forward. One leg is full the other leg empty. Then if moving back, body weight moves onto the back leg to absorb any power coming in, so again one leg is full the other leg empty. This is yang followed by yin or yin followed by yang. So this is like moving around the outside of a yin yang symbol.
The truth is that Tai Chi Chuan has been around in China for thousands of years, but it wasn’t called Tai Chi back then. It’s had many names and has taken many forms. Some have come from the old Taoist collaboration, others from individuals with a need. Some came from the Martial side, others from the health side, and some both Martial and Health.
And in the case of the System that I play, it came from Taoist roots and from a mixing of Martial and Health arts – clever folk those old Taoists. The system was first developed by Ho-Hsieh Li, and it is a yin / yang based system and unfortunately I haven’t found any others (unless any one out there knows of another).
So with a yin / yang based system, using the same example as the yang based system, moving forward the body weight moves onto the front leg, but only up to 70% of the body weight, leaving 30% on the back leg. There is a muscle expression that moves through both legs equally at the same time irrespective of how much body weight is on the legs. We would still class that as one leg is full the other leg empty, just to a different percentage. Then if moving back, body weight moves onto the back leg but only up to 70%, leaving 30% still on the front leg. The absorption of any power coming in can be dealt with in any number of ways. Again there is a muscle expression that moves through both legs equally at the same time irrespective of how much body weight is on the legs. So for beginners this is like moving around yin yang symbol where the dots are always in balance.