Just like a computer has hardware and software, tai chi could also be said to have software or source code. Traditionally, the original source code of tai chi was only taught to a select few. Over the years, the source code changed and was modified, and segments of what was in the original form were lost.
I want to state that this is considered true by many high level practitioners and is not just my personal opinion.
Two reasons this occurred was because of the Cultural Revolution in China that caused these arts to go underground and because in modern times fewer individuals chose this as their primary occupation or had the required time to practice.
To track the original source of the Old Yang Style of Tai Chi we have to look back to the person who brought tai chi out of the Chen village.
What Exactly is the Old Yang Style of Tai Chi?
The Chen Village is historically considered the birthplace of tai chi. The three most popular styles of tai chi are Chen Style, Yang Style and Wu Style. All of these are family names. (FYI . . . Yang style is not related to the Taoist concepts of Yin and Yang, but is the family name of the founder of that style.)
Now, although the Chen Village is where tai chi is considered to have developed, the Yang style (not the Chen style) is the most popular.
Why is this?
The main reason is that it is only in the past 20 years that the Chen style has been taught outside the village. Historically it was NOT taught publicly, but now that teachers are traveling and teaching more openly, it is gaining popularity.
Within the Chen Village there was a servant name Yang Lu Chan. He pretended to be deaf and mute, silently learning and practicing every night when others went to sleep. This is an extraordinary story.
Yang Lu Chan brought tai chi out of the village and spread the teachings around China and eventually to Beijing. If you want to learn more about the birth of Yang Style tai chi, I wrote a previous blog post about its founder Yang Lu Chan here.
Yang changed what was taught in the Chen village and created what we know as the Old Yang Style of Tai Chi. Yang Lu Chan is the original source code for what we know as Yang Style tai chi.
His teachings are now considered the ORIGINAL or OLD Yang Style of Tai Chi, but nobody knows exactly what he did because this was the era before video recording. He only taught the emperor’s guard, the aristocracy and a select few disciples to a high level of excellence.
Yang Lu Chan taught three people who were considered the BEST students. The first two were his kids Yang Chien Hou and Yang Pan Hou. The other was Chen You, whose name was later changed to Wu Chen You and whose son was Wu Jian Chen of the Wu Style of Tai chi.
In essence, the Wu Style is a smaller frame version of the Old Yang Style. Let me say it another way, the Wu Tai Chi Style came from the original source code from the Old Yang Style. The importance of this connection is critical. In the upcoming video I talk more about this connection.
When you are looking to find the original source code for what is considered Old Yang Style, you have to look to these three people (his two kids and Wu Chen You) and their lineages.The three students of Yang Lu Chan taught what could still be called the Old Yang Style, but by the third generation of teachers the styles started to morph and change. The forms were interpreted differently.
This is where the Old Yang Style morphs into what we now call the New Yang Style of Tai Chi. The forms diversify from the original form in many ways, both externally and internally. There are dozens and dozens of different Yang forms.
The reason we want to find the original code is because it is a pure stream for the higher potentials of tai chi.
What Makes the Old Yang Style Unique?
The inner energetics or neigong of tai chi are one of the most valuable practices you can cultivate in your body and your life.The smaller frame forms of tai chi have as much or even more power than the larger forms, but with the larger forms you can see what is happening more clearly.
This is even more so with outer form of the Old Yang Style because is makes many of the internal energetics very explicit and it is very precise if you know what to look for and how to ‘see’.
This means that every movement is deliberate in the way it moves the qi throughout the body.
Why is this important? Tai chi is powered by internal energetics. This is true for BOTH its health and martial art applications.
You might ask, what are these internal energetics and how do we learn them?
What’s Inside Tai Chi and the Old Yang Style?
Here is a quick learning progression in tai chi, in general.
Classically, you start by learning the physical movements and body alignments. Then, you slowly start to fold in the energetics. Just as you have external alignments, you also have internal alignments, which are physically invisible.
In the intermediate stage, the energetics become more detailed and you slowly put the techniques into the form. Then you start to get into application tracks because everything up to this point is general or learning the basics.
The type of application – healing, martial arts or meditation – will determine how and what you do.
What is important about the Old Yang Style is it will help you learn what is inside tai chi. It helps you take what is in the dark into the light so that you can know what to focus on and how to activate it in your body.
Here is a quick overview of the different areas of study that you can look at within tai chi:
- Precise physical alignments
- The 4 primary energies (and 13 total)
- 16 Taoist Neigong (inner energy work) principles
- Yang Chen Fu’s 10 Principles
- Internal energetic alignments
- Martial art applications move by move
- Other applications
All of this makes up the original source code of tai chi. This is not an intellectual study however, but rather a study of how energy specifically moves in the body.
The original tai chi forms are optimized to have the biggest health and energetic results on your body. This is why learning tai chi can be both fun and addicting because after you do your practice your body feels better, vital and more alive.
This is not by accident but is very conscious and intentional.