As a mythological monk in the I-Ching or Taoism tradition, Chang San-Feng is frequently said to be the originator of Tai Chi. On account of his efforts, Tai Chi has evolved from existing health exercises, combat methods, and personal observations (including animalistic movements and strategic thinking). What’s certain is that these many complementing precursor aspects had been there in Chinese culture for a long time and were almost waiting to come together – possibly just needing the perfect place, time, and person/s to bring them all together into a codified form. Numerous candidates have been identified, and no one person may be fully responsible. Rather, it’s possible that many engaged with and added to the work of their predecessors, such as Chang Sung-chi, Wang Tsung-Yueh, and Jiang Fa.
In the 1600s, however, a retired Chinese military officer named Chen Wangting (a 9th generation member of the Chen family) was responsible for putting everything together under the umbrella term of Tai Chi Chuan. Thus, a formidable martial reputation and a successful style were already in place when the family relocated from Shanxi to Henan in late 1300. In addition, this original family-style may have some connection to Shaolin, given the Chen village is located near the Shaolin monastery.
There are a variety of Tai Chi Chuan forms that are attributed to Chen Wangting. His family and village then practised these forms and developed what we now know as the Laojia form. Using martial theories from General Qi Jiguang’s Chuan Ching (Boxing Classic) section of his Military handbook and ideas from Jiang Fa, a skilled martial artist/prisoner/friend of Chen Wangting, Chen Wangting created a new Tai Chi style that included five procedures of Tai Chi Chuan as well as the 108 forms Long Fist as well as Cannon Fist forms. Push hands workouts and silk reeling are also credited to him, as are mental/physical relaxation, intention training, and balancing slow with fast actions, among other things.
The work of Chen Wangting seems to have been primarily focused on Martial Arts. Still, it also incorporated many ideas and practises from the I-Ching, Taoist thinking, and Traditional Chinese Medicine, including health exercises from Daoyin and Qi Gong, as well as much knowledge about the anatomy and vital points of the human body, and of course, made extensive use of the concept of Chi and ideas about chi flow. The usage of Chin na – joint locks – in Tai Chi, which are common in martial arts around the world, seems to have been given a new meaning in Tai Chi, Sarms supplements which provides a unique potential for both applications and creating power in use.
When personal and family defence was a top priority, cruelty was prevalent. Members of the Chen family, for example, are said to have been active in both herb commerce and caravan guarding. This suggests that practitioners were looking for ways to deal with a cruelty more effectively and that Chen Wangting was one of them. Additionally, it appears that many of the veteran combatants would like to continue their abilities into old age and perhaps be able to work from the standpoint of Traditional Chinese Medicine. That gave rise to both the health-promoting aspects of Tai Chi and the martial applications of Tai Chi Chuan. It also carried a methodical and philosophical way of looking at the world, allowing for an intelligent approach to the development of martial arts in the Taoist lineage.
On the other side of this dichotomy between martial arts and health is found in the storey of the origins of the Yang Style. It is said that Yang Luchan was a villager who learned Chen style clandestinely while having to live in the village but was accepted as just a student once he demonstrated his capacity against family members.
As a result of Chen Changxing’s teachings, Yang Luchan was the first person outside of China to understand the original version of what we now call Laojia. So, Yang the Invincible toured around China for many years, beating everyone he met – earning the title Yang the Invincible. This was a very martial start for Yang’s family style. Tai Chi Chuan taught his family while living in Beijing as a teacher to the Emperor’s guard. However, there is evidence that the form deviated as it was passed down from him to his descendants, with his grandson Yang Chen Fu – who wanted to promote the advantages of Tai Chi more widely to improve the health of a nation-leading to the most popular version today.
This style has had numerous offspring through the years, one being Chen Man Ching, who learned under Yang Chen Fu before moving to America, where his form has become highly popular because of its gentleness.