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About Taiji

Master Zhang Yong Tao


My lao shi teacher : Zhang Yong Tao is the fifth generation Yang Style Taiji successor. He was born in 1943 in Henan, China. Now residing in Beijing. He is a chief judge in Wushu, an eighth rank in Wushu, the president of The Beijing Yang Style Taiji Research Association, the vice-president of The Beijing Senior Citizen Taiji Quan Association, a committee member of The Beijing Wushu Sports Association and the honourable president of The Hong Kong Yang Style Taiji Association.

He learned taiji quan at the age of ten from his maternal grandfather, Cui Li Zhi (1890/1970) and his own mother, Cui Xiu Chen (1918/1992). His grandfather, the fourth generation Yang Style Taiji successor, was a senior disciple of Yang Cheng Pu (1883/1936) whom is responsible for the present generation of Yang Style Taiji Quan, was the grandson of the founder of Yang Style Taiji Quan, Yang Lu Chan (1799/1872). In his years of training, my lao shi competed in national Taiji competitions. He was the Taiji Quan champion in the 1960 Beijing Youth Wushu Championship Competition. Consecutively from 1980 to 1983, he was the Taiji Broadsword champion in the open category of the National Wushu Championship Competition. In 1987 he was third in position in the Taiji Sword National Taiji Championship Competition. Consecutively from l991 to l993 he was first position in the Yang Style Taiji Quan, Taiji Broadsword and Taiji Sword. He was first position in Taiji Sword in the 2004 First World Traditional Taiji Quan And Wushu Competition.

He travels often to Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, France and Switzerland to conduct taiji quan workshops and lectures. He has overseas students going to Beijing to learn and practice taiji quan from him.

He wrote books on the Traditional Yang Style Taiji Quan, Sword, Broadsword, Cudgel and Spear. His latest book is on the Yang Style 13 Forms. This is an excellent book for beginners and comes with a compact disc showing all the different 13 forms of taiji for beginners.

I met my lao shi in Oct/Nov 2006 when he was visiting Singapore. Unaware of his status, I found him to be a good educator and teacher. He is unassuming and modest. I began to understand Taiji better. The next year I visited him in Beijing to learn from him more of the Traditional Yang Style. Subsequently, I visited him in 2009 and recently, in September 2010, to further upgrade my skill. During this trip, I was inspired to create this website and to introduce the different routines of the Traditional Yang Style Taiji that he teach.

This web site is also dedicated to my students who are learning The Traditional Yang Style Taiji Quan Short Form 42 Movements from me; and to Eugene Wee Boon Hoe, wushu instructor, who encouraged me to teach taiji quan.

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Yang Style Taiji Quan

Taiji is very profound. There are at least four major styles. They are Chen Style, Yang Style, Wu Style, Sun Style and Wu (wu as in Wushu) style. There are the competition routines and the traditional routines. I shall introduce the forms and routines of the Traditional Yang Style Taiji as taught by Zhang Yong Tao, whom I shall refer to my lao shi teacher. Any discrepancy in my interpretation is unintended and purely on my account.

Taiji Quan is an old Chinese culture and the terminology is at times quite difficult to grasp in the modern Chinese language. It is much more difficult to translate the terms, technique and nuances into satisfactory English. However, I shall do my level best to express in simple English from my personal understanding and knowledge of this ancient martial art.

Brief History of the Yang Style Taiji: Yang Lu Chan was an ardent pugilistic who learned taiji quan from the Chen Family. He changed some of the hard and pounding movements and formed the Yang Style of Taiji. He left his native Yong Nian for Beijing in the eighteenth century and popularized taiji there. One of his grandsons, Yang Cheng Pu studied this form well and documented it. He also wrote the Ten Essentials of Practising Taiji Quan which all practitioners of taiji quan till today recognize as important techniques in developing taiji quan.

The Yang Style Taiji Quan lao jia old form has 85 movements or forms. It is also known as the 88 forms, 108 forms and 126 forms. The numbers vary on how the movements of each form are accounted. The numbers do not affect the old form of 85.

Yang Cheng Pu had many disciples. One senior disciple was Cui Li Zhi who had a daughter, Cui Xui Chen who was my lao shi's mother. Both mother and son learned and inherited the Yang Style Taiji from senior Cui Li Zhi.

Every generation has its own invention and unique ideas. The original old form had many repetitive movements. Cui Li Zhi, the fourth generation Yang Style Taiji successor came up with a shorter version consisting of 42 forms. This new set of taiji quan retains the old form's character but excludes the repetitive movements in the old form. This enables easy learning. Likewise, my lao shi, wrote the simplified 13 forms of taiji quan, jian sword, dao broadsword (Yang sabre), gun cudgel and qiang spear. These are introductory sets for beginners. Although the sets or routines are short and simple, nothing is compromised on the principle and characteristics of the original Quan 85 forms, Sword 51 forms, Broadsword 76 forms and the Spear Set.

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Characteristic of Yang Style Taiji Quan:
  • expansive and concise
  • amicable and pleasant
  • even paced
  • continuous and seamless
  • rigorous throughout
  • dignified and robust
  • agile and sober
  • powerful and solemn
  • grandiose and aesthetic

Competition Routines: In the 50s China came up with new taiji routines as forms for standard teaching material and for international competitions. In order to clarify the old form and the new sets, the old form is called Traditional Style or Long Form.

Simplified 24 Form Taiji: This ever popular set of taiji quan is derived from the Traditional Yang Style Taiji Quan. The essentials of the Yang Style are maintained but the movements are simplified and the sequence in the set is rearranged.

32 Form Taiji Sword: A competition set simplified from the Traditional Yang Style Sword 51 Forms.

Yang Taiji 40 Forms: A competiton set derived from the Traditional Yang Style Taiji 85 Forms.

International Competition 42 Form Taiji Guan and International Competition 42 Form Taiji Sword: These two sets are compilations of the Yang Style Taiji as well as of the other styles of Chen, Sun and Wu taiji quan.

How Is Taiji Quan Practised Today: Despite its popularity and length of history, there is still some misconception about taiji. Some view it as an exercise for fitness. Some view it as an elite sport. There are some who practice for its martial art sake. Some prefer the old form for its authenticity. Some prefer the new routines for its magnetism. Some practice because of its health healing benefits. For all the reasons, taiji should work for you. Choose one style that suits your interest and need. It is advisable to begin with a competent taiji teacher as it is hard to correct wrong habits. Practice diligently. Taiji practice is all about keeping fit with minimal fuss.

Taiji For Health: Taiji is viewed upon as a health therapy and as an athletic sport in the present generation. Very few can master it as martial art combat. Taiji is practiced in a series of slow, continuous and relaxed movements. The nature of which makes it a very suitable exercise for all age groups. It improves balance, posture and flexibility of joints. Its fluidity in movements demands relaxation and concentration of the mind. Regular practice will enhance physical and mental wellness. It is a good therapy for cultivating patience, perseverance, discipline and confidence.

It is important to observe the Ten Essentials when practicing taiqi quan. They are:

  • Relax with torso and head held upright
  • Chest and shoulder relaxed
  • Loosen the waist for flexibility
  • Shift the full body weight from the left leg to the right leg and vice-versa
  • Drop the shoulder and elbows
  • Channel thoughts to execute the movements instead of physical force
  • Co-ordination of upper limbs with lower limbs
  • Co-ordination of internal energy with external physical movements
  • Uninterrupted continuous flow of movements
  • Steadfast in movements through calmness of mind
Learn at your own pace and practice diligently. Taiji Quan grows in and with you.

Taiji As A Lifestyle: Taiji is one exercise which can carry on to an old age. In fact it gets better with age. It not only enhances health, it can be a meaningful lifestyle as a vocation as well. Share the art of Taiji with friends or impart the knowledge to students. I have wonderful students and I get immense pleasure teaching them the wonders of Taiji.

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09.11.10: The Simplified 24-Forms Taiji

The following is an extraction from The International Magazine of Tai Chi Chuan, issue Vol. 33. No. 4 on the formation of this Simplified 24-Forms Taiji as stated by Master Li Deyin, professor of the Sport Department of People's University of China:

[ In 1954 the National Sports Commission shaped the course of "Researching, Sorting, Studying and Raising" of Wushu. And then a study of office was established for compiling a uniform and standardized teaching material for Taijiquan, which would create conditions for developing and spreading Wushu.

In 1955 the Simplified Taijiquan form was composed based on Yang Style Taijiquan which is the most popular and adaptable style and which has spread far and wide. In 1956 the 24 Form Taijiquan was issued.

In the book The Techniques of Taijiquan published in 1925, Yang Chengfu, the famous master of the Yang Style Taijiquan, tells us the ten main points of Taijiquan, which are the important norm for leading the development of the current techniques of Taijiquan. They are:
1. Leading the power to the top emptily and agilely
2. Closing the chest slightly and drawing up the back
3. Relaxing the waist
4. Distinguishing emptiness from solidness
5. Sinking the elbows and shoulders
6. Using will instead of force
7. Harmonizing the upper and lower
8. Integrating the inside and outside
9. Being continuous
10. Seeking quietness in action
Taijiquan is called internal work boxing, because it emphasizes the role of the consciousness in guiding the actions.
Taijiquan advocates "the mind is the first and the body is the second," the mind and will send an order first, and then it is taken to every part of the body through the blood and qi.
Mr. Yang Chengfu emphasizes "using will instead of force." ]

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 Simplified 24 - Forms

The Traditional Yang Style Taiji Broadsword 13-Movements

The broadsword in Chinese is “Dao” . It is in the range of the Wushu –martial arts short weaponry category.

The Yang Dao is different in the make-up from the normal Wushu Dao. The Yang Dao is unique in that is shaped looking more of a sabre than that of a normal broadsword.

The characteristics of the Yang Dao are recognizable in its longer hilt to facilitate double hand grip. The guard at the hilt is “S” shaped. This pattern besides giving protection to the handler’s hand, it can also twist and wrench the opponents weapon in combat. The ring at the end of the hilt provides extra thrust. The blade tapers to a sharp tip which can pierce and thrust. The blade nearer to the hilt is blunt at both edges and then sharpens at the edges to the tip of the blade.

The skill play of the Dao follows that of Taiji Quan movements and technique. It is slow, controlled, rigorous and seamless. The application of Taiji fundaments of using soft inner energy to execute firm and hard blow is Yang Taiji Dao. The Yang Taiji Dao is also known as Yang Shi San Dao – Yang Thirteen Dao. The title takes after the Thirteen Symbolic Movements. But there are actually thirty forms and in total seventy-eight movements in the whole routine.


The Traditional Yang Style Taiji Sword Long 51-Forms

Sword in Chinese is “Jian” – it is one of the many ancient weaponry in China. It was named “ A Gentleman Amongst Thousands”.

This set of taiji swordplay was devised from the Traditional Yang Style Taiji Quan. It was also termed in the olden days as “Thirteen Sword” because it displayed the taiji Thirteen Symbolic Movements. This routine has 51 forms and about 15 different sword-play or technique.

Like taiji quan, the sword movements are both rigorous and amicable. The Yang Style Swordplay follows the principles of it’s school of taiji quan – powerful, dignified, agile and seamless in the movements.



Demonstration of the Traditional Yang Style Taiji Quan

Yang Style Taiji Quan was founded by Master Yang Lu Chan about 190 years ago in China. The form was practiced by his three sons and three grandsons. Throughout the generations of practices and refinements of the old form, one of his grandsons, Master Yang Cheng Pu, refined the form to the present traditional Yang Style Taiji Quan that is being taught and practiced in China and worldwide. He, Yang Cheng Pu was the person who stated the ten essential points for the development of good taiji practices.

The characteristics of Yang Style Taiji Quan are:
• Expansive and concise • Amicable and pleasant
• Even paced • Continuous and seamless
• Rigorous throughout • Dignified and robust
• Agile and sober • Powerful and solemn
• Grandiose and aesthetic


The 10 Essentials to observe when practicing taiqi quan as stated by Master Yan Cheng Pu :
1. Relax with torso and head held upright
2. Chest and shoulder relaxed
3. Loosen the waist for flexibility
4. Absolute weight transfer from one side to the other side of the body
5. Sink the shoulder and elbows
6. Channel thoughts to execute the movements instead of physical force
7. Co-ordination of upper limbs with lower limbs
8. Co-ordination of internal energy with external physical movements
9. Uninterrupted continuous flow of movements
10. Steadfast in movements through calmness of mind



Traditional Yang Style Taiji Quan Short 42 - Forms Traditional Yang Style Taiji Quan Short 42 - Forms in segments


Traditional Yang Style Taiji Quan Long 85 - Forms 1 of 2 Traditional Yang Style Taiji Quan Long 85 - Forms 2 of 2

Taiji and Wushu Training in Beijing, April 2011

Practices with my Taiji Laoshi in Beijing April 2011 on the Traditional Yang Style Taiji Quan & Sword:

Practices with my Wushu Teacher Don Wen Yi on the "Chuan Lin Jian" Sword routine, Beijing April 2011:

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