Contrasting the Styles

We teach four styles of Taijiquan: Wudang, Chen, Yang, and Wu (Hao). Each style offers unique insights into the elusive reality of Taiji; all conform to the principles contained in the "Classics." We do not necessarily recommend one style over others. All form classes include fundamentals of stance, principles, and energy cultivation.

Chen Style.   Devised in the 17th century, Chen is the original from which most other styles derive. It is characterized by sinuous, spiraling motions designed to cultivate silk reeling energy, by lower stances and vigorous expression. Dr. Jay learned Chen style from Grandmaster Jou Tsung-Hwa in 1981.

Yang Style.    Yang is the most widely-practiced style of Taijiquan. The traditional Yang family form is characterized by generous circles, dynamic postures and smooth, graceful movement. Softer than Chen, it is still more energetic in appearance than Hao. Kathleen studied with Grandmaster Yang Zhen-Dou, 4th generation heir.

Wu (Hao) Style.   The Wu (Hao) is an understated, tranquil, meditative style, with small steps and subtle movements that disappear into formlessness and appear ordinary. It fosters mind method: internal focus and awareness through a concentration on opening and closing (kai-he). Dr. Jay studied this style privately with Grandmaster Jou Tsung-Hwa.

Wudang Style.   A traditional long form, finely detailed, with many layers of applications. Lao Ma learned this form "in the shadow of the Wudang mountains," from Ding Yeye (Grandfather Ding), who taught on Snake Hill in Wuhan for over 60 years and attributed it to Zhang Sanfeng. WudangshanFlyer.pdf

Related Studies

Brushwork & Calligraphy: The Art of the Brush   This workshop will introduce the contemplative art that is the foundation of Chinese culture, and help you begin to paint your own cards, scrolls, shirts, whatever! Study of basic strokes and simple characters helps foster the delicacy needed to sense energy in Taijiquan. Practice control, flow, vigor, and balanced character formation using brush, ink, stone, and paper. Some materials provided.

Chen Style Knife  Lao Ma learned this form in Wuhan on one of his return trips to China. A vigorous reflection of Chen Style principles in a weapon well suited to the expression of sudden hard energy, "fa jing."

Eight Brocades   The Eight Brocades were created to cultivate energy, deepen and regulate the breath, and stretch and relax the body. An excellent complement to Taijiquan study.

Eight Trigram Sword   First sword form Almanzo learned in Wuhan, China. Postures are close to tassel sword postures, making this an excellent companion form: vigorous and challenging.

Eighteen Luohan Qigong (Shiba Luohangong)   Eighteen Luohan Qigong is a 1,500 year-old set attributed to Bodhidharma, a bodhisattva (luohan) of the 6th century, 28th patriarch of Buddhism in India and founder of the Chan (Zen) “meditative” school in China. He is said to have taught the Luohan exercises to the monks of the Shaolin Temple to improve their health, enhance their strength and flexibility, and fortify their internal energy with the goal of deepening meditation. According to tradition, this set forms the basis of Shaolin gongfu. The exercises are dynamic yet calming and invigorating in the Daoist tradition of “dao yin,” with a subtle undertone of yoga asana, revealing their historic roots. The Magic Tortoise School's version of this ancient series is beautifully detailed, derived from the teaching of three masters. We offer a teacher certification program in Luohangong to insure the highest standard of transmission.

Five Animal Frolics (Wuqinxi Qigong)   Devised nearly 2,000 years ago by Hua T'o, the father of Chinese medicine. Movements of the crane, bear, monkey, deer and tiger strengthen the internal organs and harmonize the 5 elemental energies (fire, water, earth, wood, metal). Historically the basis and inspiration of many Taijiquan movements. We learned this set (over three dozen exercises) from Master Paul Gallagher, author of Drawing Silk--who learned it from Master Kenneth Cohen, author of The Way of Qigong: the art and science of Chinese energy healing.

Folding Fan   The delicate silk fan on bamboo ribs can sound like a firecracker when opened! As a weapon it is graceful yet vigorous, subtle yet surprising. Instructor will provide fans or substitutes.

Fundamentals   Build the temple of Taijiquan on a good foundation: attend this seminars for an introduction to various stances, Taiji walking, and the essentials of qigong (energy cultivation).

Hooked Walking Cane (Guai Gun)   Lao Ma's signature form, with which he won a gold medal in the weapons division of a provincial tournament in Hubei, China. The choreography tells the story of an attack on an elderly person, leaning on a cane for support, by a gang of hooligans who receive a sharp lesson! This is a rare and exciting internal weapon form, not to be missed!

I Ching (Yi Jing) Divination   "The Little Old Sage in the Yellow Coat" Introduction to the 4,000 year old I Ching (Yi Jing) or Book of Changes, and to various methods of consulting the "little old sage in the yellow coat" (eg. yarrow stalks, coins, dice). The Yi is the "user's manual" for the energies of Taijiquan. We will cultivate a personal relationship with "the little old sage in the yellow coat" to find guidance, inspiration, and empowerment amid the rhythms of daily life. Bring bag lunch, drum if you own one, and (preferably) the Wilhelm-Baynes edition of the I Ching. Offered locally each term as a one-day workshop, or in host schools as a weekend course combined with movement study of the Taiji diagram and "Eight Gates Walking."

Liu He Ba Fa Quan ("Water Style")   A rare and powerful art, combines strengths of three internal martial arts: the straightforward, compact delivery of Xingi, the agile, circular dynamics of Bagua, and the smooth, relaxed execution of Taijiquan, and a fourth element consisting of unusual undulating, wave-like movement that gives the style the name “Water Boxing.”

Master Key to Taijiquan   (Also called: "Principles of Unified Movement," "The Internal Dynamics of Meditative Movement," and "The Dynamic Circle.") A fluid foundation in the body dynamics of Taijiquan: the theoretical and physical underpinnings of the art. The "Master Key," transmitted by Grandmaster Jou, is that which makes this art effective. Exercises open energy channels, stabilize the knees, loosen the hips, and foster internal power, relaxation, and concentration. Courses in this series may include:
-Four Treasures, Eight Gates, which introduces the principles underlying Taiji study, and covers standing, walking, knee safety, hip mobility, opening gateways to internal energy, pre-birth breathing, and a Taiji qigong (energy cultivation) set.
-Three Powers, Five Elements, a firm foundation for beginners and a "must" for experienced players. This course offers valuable insight into the energetics of Taiji forms, and helps maximize the returns from personal practice. Introduces standing meditation and various exercises related to the five elements, including organ cavity pulsing, five elements jing walking, internal cleansing, qi anatomy and mental practice.

Push-Hands   Practice the interactive application of Taiji principles. In push hands (tui shou) partners help each other relax, center, listen, and express intention. Recommended for all players. Periodically, this course may also offer practice in tournament-style push-hands, during which each participant will have an opportunity to be a competitor, referee, judge, timekeeper, and scorekeeper.

Qigong (Ch'i Kung)   Qigong is the cultivation of internal energy for various purposes: health or healing, martial power, enlightenment, etc. "Qi" is literally internal energy, often called bioelectricity, or breath-blood energy: both nutritive and defensive, both yin and yang. It is formulated of air and food and essence. It is also that vibration which is the source of both change and continuance. "Gong" means work or effort. In the Magic Tortoise School, we approach Taijiquan as a form of qigong, with an approach similar to that taken in qigong study. We also teach specific qigong practices, such as Guanqifan, Taiji Qigong, zhan zhuang (standing meditation), "Five Animal Frolics," and the "Eight Brocades."

Short Stick   Excellent introduction to weapon study, or a fine complement to other weapons. The first section of a solo stick form, and a two-person set that makes use of the solo form postures. Bring a two and a half to three foot dowel.

Staff   The long staff is considered the "mother" of all Chinese long weapons, a category which includes the spear and the long-handled horse dao. Acquaintance with the staff is a great aid to Taijiquan players and other martial artists in understanding connectedness and whole-body movement. This is the rare Yang-style two-person set: an internal, soft-style weapon form. Participants learn side "A," which stands alone as a solo set, side "B" as a matching set, and a variety of two-person drills. Bring a smooth dowel your height plus three inches long, and an inch and a quarter or an inch and a half in diameter.

Sword: Long Tassel Sword   With its long, heavier war tassel attached, the yang of the straight sword is beautifully balanced by yin, and the weapon seems to take on a life of its own. This is a very rare and unusual form,--rhythmic and fluid. With timing, momentum, and smooth circles, the tassel flies--otherwise, it fizzles!

Sword: Simplified Taiji Sword (Jianhua Taijijian)   An excellent introduction to weapon play, the jianhua "simplified" form is the standard 36-posture double-edged straight sword choreography taught throughout China. Good for toning the arms and upper body, and getting a feel for energy extension. No sword necessary to begin-info on borrowing, buying or making a sword or substitute will be covered in class.

Sword: Old Style Taiji Sword (Laojia Taijijian)   A traditional 64-movement choreography for double-edged straight sword, this is the parent form of the more recent Yang style version. Course includes partners' drills and foundation exercises. No sword necessary to begin: info on borrowing, buying or making a sword or substitute will be covered in class.

T'ai Shi Bian   The bian or "Imperial Teacher's Whip" is a very ancient Chinese weapon consisting of a knobby stick about 3 feet long, originally with multiple lashes attached to one end. It is perhaps the source of the posture name "single whip": danbian. A rare and unusual form: flashy, active, and thoroughly martial.

Tangquan   A popular form in China, though rare here, devised by the first Tang emperor's 3rd son in the 7th century, Tangquan is characterized by vigorous expression, fluid changes, and alacrity. Almanzo's teacher learned Tangquan in 1911, and in 1980 won a gold medal with it in open competition at the All-China Wushu Championships.

The Magic Tortoise Taijiquan School
c/o Dr. Jay Dunbar, Director
15 Timberlyne Road
Chapel Hill, NC 27514-1522