TAI CHI FORMS
CHEN STYLE TAI CHI
Chen Style Tai Chi is the oldest of all the Tai Chi forms and all other forms of Tai Chi are derived from it. The form combines elements that are fast and slow, soft and powerful. It is characterized by its lower stances, spiral-like movements, varied pacing, and bursts of power.
There are two primary empty-hand Chen Style Tai Chi forms that are practiced today. In Chen Style First Form, the movements are soft but powerful. They can be as slow as extracting silk threads or as fast as a flash of lightning. The Chen Style Second form is also called “cannon fist”. The movements are very powerful with jumps and forward thrusts. The whole body makes spiral turns around the core which will produce a powerful vibratory force. However, the form also has its soft components.
Primarily, Chen Style Tai Chi is used for self defence but as it evolves, it is practised for a number of other reasons: health, external/internal martial art skills, and as a sport.
YANG STYLE TAI CHI
Yang Style Tai Chi is a low impact exercise. The form consists mainly of opening and closing movements which are graceful, soft and relaxed. These opening and closing movements start from the internal and expand outward in a rippling wave to create the bouncing force.
The movements of Yang Style Tai Chi are continuous and natural, without breaks or pauses, as a means of nourishment for the mind, body and soul. They are comfortable and spread out, giving one the soothing feeling of willow tree branches flowing in a summer breeze.
Yang Style Tai Chi is concise and easy to learn. It is a very gentle and therapeutic exercise that is safe for both young and old to practice. Yang Style Tai Chi is the most widely practiced Tai Chi style in the world today.
WU STYLE TAI CHI
Wu Style Tai Chi is refined and elegant. Its agile movements, extended postures, unique footwork, straight when slanting body alignment, and its focus on the internal has attracted a lot of practitioners worldwide.
Wu Style Tai Chi has a narrower stance with the feet parallel to each other. The movements are relatively small and compact. With a “slanted but stretched“ feature in Wu Style, one has to imagine and maintain a straight line from the top of the head to the heel of the rear foot. It is very important in Wu Style Tai Chi to keep one’s lower body stable while the upper body is soft but stretched. Only with a totally relaxed and steady base that one can counterbalance the pulling force from the upper body. When practicing Wu Style, the body extends forward and rocks backwards in its movements, thus developing strength and energy.
Wu Style Tai Chi emphasizes on the flow of Chi (internal energy) through the internal systems inside the human body. It is suitable for people who prefer a workout that strengthens the lower back and kidney area.
HAO STYLE TAI CHI
Practised by few—even in China—Hao is the least popular of the five styles. This style puts a strong emphasis on internal qi. Practitioners learn to focus internally and make significant internal movements to trigger subtle outer movements. Externally, the movements may look quite similar.
Hao is a more advanced style of tai chi. With a strong focus on controlling the movement of qi (internal force) this style is not recommended for beginners.