Tai Chi Chuan, or Taijiquan, has evolved into five main styles, all of which are interrelated and based on the same basic principles. Each style carries the name of the family that developed it. In the United States, the Yang, Chen and Sun styles are the most common. No single Tai Chi style is perfect for everyone, so learning about the most common styles can help you choose the one that best meets your needs.
Chen, a style created by Chen Wangting 300 years ago, is the oldest form of Tai Chi Chuan. This athletic style combines fluid fast and slow movements, as well as jumping and foot stamping. Stance is low but upright. Chen style is useful for learning martial arts principles as well as for getting a total body workout. If you enjoy active, fast-paced exercise or you want to adhere to Tai Chi’s traditional roots, Chen style might be for you.
In the late 19th century, Yang Luchan developed Yang style Tai Chi from the original Chen style. A simplified, less athletic style, Yen focuses on large, sweeping movements performed at a slow, even pace. Stance is somewhat leaning. An even simpler form of Yen style, the 24 Form, provides health benefits, but teachers of this style may neglect traditional Tai Chi principles, according to experts from the U.K. Taiji Qigong Foundation. The Yen style might be right for you if you are looking for simple, gentle exercise.
Sun Lutang, a student of Hao Weijian, developed the Sun style by combining Chen, Yang and Wu styles of Tai Chi and other Chinese martial arts Bagua Zhang and Hsing-I. An upright stance, small arm movements and short steps characterize this style. Movements flow backward and forward. Because Sun style stance limits strain on the knees, this style is ideal for older adults and those with physical challenges, according to experts from the Sun Tai Chi Institute of Boston.
Other Styles and Forms
Wu/Hao and Wu Styles are among the five main styles of Tai Chi. Both involve small movements performed smoothly and slowly. Beyond this, variations of form occur in each style, with more than 100 movements and poses available among all styles. Although Tai Chi began as a martial art with a focus on self-defense, more recently developed styles, such as Sun, focus more on physical and psychological health benefits.
- International Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan Association; Ranking Theory Tests Study Material; January 2003
- Princeton Tai Chi Club; About Tai Chi; December 26, 2002
- Sun Tai Chi Institute of Boston: Sun Style Taijiquan and Qigong
- Lee's White Leopard Kung Fu; Wu Style Tai Chi: An Introduction; Johnny Kwong Ming Lee
- MayoClinic.com: Tai Chi: Discover the Many Possible Health Benefits; November 14, 2009