Is there a difference between taijiquan (taiji) and t'ai chi ch'uan (t'ai chi)?
These are exactly the same terms. They are pronounced the same and
represent the same characters (太极拳). "Taiji" is written in the phonetic
system used in China proper (pinyin). "T'ai chi" is written
in the phonetic system used in Taiwan (Wade-Giles).
There are five main schools or styles of taijiquan -
Chen, Yang, Wu, Wu/Hao, and Sun. Chen style
is arguably the oldest of them. Chen taijiquan
was passed down through the generations of the Chen family based
in the family village, Chenjiagou, in Henan, China
(河南温县陈家沟). Chen Wangting (ca. 1650) is said to be the
founder of Chen Family Taijiquan.
As a general description, I like Master Chen Yu's
comment about taijiquan and life. He said, "I think Life
is in movement. So, when you are moving, if you are practicing
taijiquan you are nourishing Life."
Chen Yu's statement
On the physical side, Taiji has been reported to be good for general
conditioning, core strength, and balance. On the mental side, taiji is
said to improve concentration and focus as well as having a calming
effect. Many people consider the practice of taijiquan to be a sort of
As a martial art, taijiquan trains one to move from the center, relying
on technique and proper body mechanics rather than brute force to
neutralize and counter aggressive moves of an opponent.
Taijiquan is said to be based on Daoist (Taoist) philosophy, in
particular the principle of Yin-Yang, the unity of opposites.
Its movements and techniques are often described by taiji
practitioners in terms from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
The familiar symbol representing the Yin-Yang philosophy is actually
called the "Taiji Symbol" (Chinese: 太极图 tàijítú).
Really the only requirements are patience and a desire to learn.
Many, if not most, taijiquan practitioners see its practice as a life-long
endeavor. The focus then is on the process of continually
improving one's practice rather than having fixed goals.
How is Chen Family Taijiquan different from the other styles?
The type of taiji that has been most popular, at least up until
quite recently, is Yang style which consists almost entirely of slow
movements. In contrast, Chen taiji has mixed in some explosive
movements called "fa jin". Also, Chen taiji emphasizes practicing
the fundamental movements called "silk reeling", the principles of
which are the basis of all the movements in Chen taiji.
Chen Xiaowang is a grand master of taijiquan. He is a 19th
generation descendant of the Chen family of Chenjiagou. He has
been designated by the Chinese government as one of the "Four
Tigers" of Chen-style taijiquan, the others being Chen Zhenglei,
Wang Xi'an, and Zhu Tiancai.
Here is an excerpt from a Chen Xiaowang instructional video.