There are many legends as to who first developed the art of Tai Chi Chuan. As with most legends there is an element of truth and a lot of fiction. One of the most accepted theories as to the origin of this art attributes its beginning to Chang San Fang a Taoist monk who had a background in Shaolin martial arts. One day in the 13th century he saw an altercation between a snake and a crane. Watching the struggle between the two animals he noticed that it was not a battle of strength but a dissolving of the attack that seemed to be the predominant method of defense. We don’t know who won the altercation but we do know that this experience of watching the struggle had a profound effect on the development of this art. Today there are movements within the Tai Chi Chuan like Snake Creeps Down and White Crane Spreading its Wings that reflect this art. Tai Chi Chuan started as a martial art and developed into a very effect means of self defense. Within recorded history the Chen Family in mainland China took the rudimentary movements of Tai Chi Chuan and developed it into art as we know it today.
Up until the 18th century the Chen Family would not teach the art to anyone outside of the family. In the 18th century Yang Lu Chang, who was a servant within the family, surreptitiously learned the art by watching through a hole in the wall. What he saw he practiced. Once he had learned the art he left the family and went to Beijing. He softened the original moves and changed them to suit his ability and then taught anyone who wanted to learn. The art finally became public. Tai Chi Chuan has gone through a number of modifications since it was taken from the Chen Family. Today we still have the Chen Style Tai Chi Chuan. In addition we have Yang Style named after Yang Lu Chang, Wu Style, Hao Style, Sun Style and many other variations.
The movements of Tai Chi Chuan are soft and fluid and follow the concepts of Yin and Yang. Most people study Tai Chi Chuan for its graceful and beautiful movements. It resembles a slow dance and is sometimes referred to as land swimming or shadow boxing. The art is taught in many schools of dance because practice of the movements enhances ones balance. Many students have no interest in the martial art capabilities of the art. It is one of the best exercises for those suffering from arthritis, hypertension, stress related illnesses, degenerative diseases, etc. It can be practiced by anyone, male or female, young or old, short or tall, coordinated or uncoordinated. It is not so important which style of Tai Chi Chuan you study; however, it is important to study from a competent teacher that has at the very least four years of experience. All the instructors at the Integrated Center for Oriental Medicine (Tai Chi Center) have the necessary experience to teach classes. The Tai Chi Chuan program at the center is one of the most well rounded and comprehensive programs in the southwest United States.