The story goes that a highly skilled Monk by the name of Chang San-Feng left the Shaolin temple and traveled to the Wu-Tang Mountains. It is there that he became fully absorbed in the rich nature of Taoism and its Way. He was a man of great wisdom with an “arched back” and a “figure of a crane”. Many considered those as signs of greater intelligence and character.
He was a master of the Shaolin arts but, after meeting a Taoist named, Ho-Lung, he decided to embark on a new path: he wanted to follow the way of the immortals. It took many years before he finally connected to the true way and nature of Taoism.
While there are several stories regarding how he came up with Tai Chi, the most popular one is where he witnessed a fight between a magpie and a snake. The magpie was the aggressor and attacked the snake viciously. Each time the bird attacked, the snake easily dodged it with just the slightest moves. The snake remained pliable, circular and soft at all times and never let the magpie agitate it whatsoever. It was in those moments that Chang San-Feng realized how easily soft defeats hard and how powerful and effective circular movements are. It was then that he began to modify the techniques and concepts of his Shaolin training and develop one of the most powerful fighting arts known — Tai Chi Ch’uan.
As the years went by, and for political reasons amongst others, Tai Chi became more internal appearing to be more of a meditation than a martial art. Techniques became smooth and slow; the atmosphere meditative and non-combative. The focus was health and longevity. Today, Tai Chi is truly one of the finest “moving meditations” of all time. Millions of people train it throughout the world hoping to bring themselves greater health and longer life.
There are many family styles of Tai Chi which include the Sun style, Wu style, Chen style and the Yang style. These are a few of the more popular styles that were developed at the time.
The Yang family tai chi ch’uan is the style presented at our school, the American School of Martial Arts. Though the Chen family style pre-dates the Yang form, it is the Yang family form that became the most popular system of Tai Chi in the world and remains so today.
We teach this art with loving respect and appreciation for Sifu James Wing Woo, Grandmaster Baird’s first and most influential Tai Chi master.