Curriculum

In the classical training of the Yang style, there are five well thought out and researched practices: Solo Form, T’ui-shou, Three Step T’ui-shou, Da Lu, and Sanshou. Weapons provide a further extension of the curriculum, if desired.

What is Chansijing?

Form

The first association anyone has with T’ai Chi Ch’uan is the solo form, remarkable for its slow speed of execution. Though based outwardly upon the movements of Shaolin Boxing, these movements have been subtly modified to facilitate the cultivation of various hidden skills. They are not, as most would assume, simply copies of high-speed techniques done in slow motion. The form is of tremendous importance, not only because it provides a physical foundation for T’ai Chi Ch’uan, but more because it remains the fundamental arena for the continued refinement of technique for the lifetime of the practitioner.
The classical long Yang Style form is a form of qi-gung. Technically a form of nei-gung, it is considered to be one of the most sophisticated and advanced exercises of this kind, associated with the circulation of qi and frequently prescribed by Chinese medical practitioners for both its preventative and curative attributes.
Applications of the form are an important element of Taijiquan training. Each formal movement contains between one and four distinct martial ideas referred to as the eight trigram postures.
“Do not ‘perfect’ the form.” It is not a performance to be perfected, but a workshop to which one constantly returns.

Yang Style Taijiquan Solo Form Movements

Tuishou

Tuishou, sometimes called hand pushing or push-hands, is the first and most critical two-person exercise in the Taijiquan curriculum. Here a student learns in a non-violent and cooperative way to respond to the influence of another player without resistance or distortion. Like the form, it is done to develop certain subtle and quite non-intuitive reactions to the movements of a partner-opponent. The two formal modes of tuishou are elementary tuishou and penglujian. The most elementary tuishou, sometimes called one-hand pushing, cultivates basic responses of the body to force (yielding). Penglujian utilizes the techniques of Push, Press, Ward Off, and Roll Back to address the skill of making taijis with the partner (adherence).

If anything sets Taijiquan apart from the practices of other martial arts, it is the two-person exercise known as t’ui-shou, or hand-pushing. They all have some sort of solo exercise and some kind of sparring that mimics or informs the experience of real fighting, but the structure of the t’ui-shou practice is unique to this art. Both its name and appearance are rather deceiving. It looks like a contest in which two people attempt to force their partner/opponent backwards, an impression that is further reinforced by the name hand-pushing. In reality, actually pushing an opponent is literally the last thing a Taijiquan adept would or should ever do. In this practice the two participants assume fixed positions with their feet that never change. Partly an opportunity to develop certain rather non-intuitive responses to an opponent’s movements, partly a sensitivity exercise that facilitates this skill set, it is their opportunity to explore what is known as the civil element of Taijiquan, which stands in contrast to, and as a compliment of its martial aspect. Paradoxically, although its primary defining characteristic is the complete absence of stepping, its actual purpose is to develop exactly this skill. It does so through an elaborate cooperative effort, effectively a non-zero sum game that compliments the zero sum game that defines martial combat. Through slow and deliberate movements the qualities of softness and sensitive response are cultivated, leading ultimately to the skill of neutralization, through which the force of an opponent’s attack is rendered harmless, and the skills of yielding and adherence are gradually perfected. The extreme lightness of touch that is required for success at this endeavor results ultimately in the development of chin, or internal force, the source of Taijiquan’s legendary and almost mystical power.

Three-step Tuishou

This exercise extends penglujian to a three step forward, three step back version. Now it gives the student a first taste of proper foot work. Three step tuishou is a deceptively simple exercise appearing to be an unchanging dance step repeated over and over, but it’s designed to make one’s foot work responsive rather than preconceived. This repeating pattern designed to link the student’s responses to the opponent’s moves and connect them firmly to the waist and legs. It serves as an important bridge connecting Taijiquan’s internal changes to footwork and as such is the doorway to the practice of Taijiquan as an actual martial art.

Da Lu

Da Lu or “Big Roll Back” is considered to be perhaps the most important of the Yang Style’s five major exercises. It extends the concepts of stepping while also exploring the four remaining martial ideas of Pull, Shoulder, Elbow, and Split. It is distinguished by allowing the greatest range of speed, from a slow minuet type dance to a rough and tumble exchange of high speed attacks, reaching the level at which lively legs evolve into actual discharges.

Sanshou Exercise

Sanshou Exercise is the highest level of formal exercise of the Yang Style. It is a collection of eighty-eight different movements and counter-movements that proceed without breaks to a final conclusion, mimicking the progress of a real combat situation. While still preserving the emphasis on softness and without any form of impact or excessive athletic strain, it is properly executed at a speed allowing for considerable aerobic activity. In this way its range of usefulness and relevance is extended to even that level occupied by sport and fitness training, as well as satisfying the demands of traditional Chinese medicine.

Weapons

Taijiquan training may be extended to embrace the following four traditional weapons, each focusing on developing a different basic fundamental element of the art: Staff – qi (circulation of breath), Saberjing (internal force), Sword – shen (spirit), and Spear (all three).
More about taijiquan weapons