Contrasting the Styles

We teach three styles of Taijiquan: Chen, Yang, and Wu (Hao). Each style offers unique insights into the elusive reality of Taiji; all conform to the principles contained in the "Classics." We do not necessarily recommend one style over others. All form classes include fundamentals of stance, principles, and energy cultivation.

Chen Style.   Devised in the 17th century, Chen is the original from which most other styles derive. It is characterized by sinuous, spiraling motions designed to cultivate silk reeling energy, by lower stances and vigorous expression. Dr. Jay learned Chen style from Grandmaster Jou Tsung-Hwa in 1981.

Yang Style.    Yang is the most widely-practiced style of Taijiquan. The traditional Yang family form is characterized by generous circles, dynamic postures and smooth, graceful movement. Softer than Chen, it is still more energetic in appearance than Hao. Kathleen studied with Grandmaster Yang Zhen-Dou, 4th generation heir.

Wu (Hao) Style.   The Wu (Hao) is an understated, tranquil, meditative style, with small steps and subtle movements that disappear into formlessness and appear ordinary. It fosters mind method: internal focus and awareness through a concentration on opening and closing (kai-he). Dr. Jay studied this style privately with Grandmaster Jou Tsung-Hwa.

Related Studies

Eighteen Luohan Qigong (Shiba Luohangong)   Eighteen Luohan Qigong is a 1,500 year-old set attributed to Bodhidharma, a bodhisattva (luohan) of the 6th century, 28th patriarch of Buddhism in India and founder of the Chan (Zen) “meditative” school in China. He is said to have taught the Luohan exercises to the monks of the Shaolin Temple to improve their health, enhance their strength and flexibility, and fortify their internal energy with the goal of deepening meditation. According to tradition, this set forms the basis of Shaolin gongfu. The exercises are dynamic yet calming and invigorating in the Daoist tradition of “dao yin,” with a subtle undertone of yoga asana, revealing their historic roots. The Magic Tortoise School's version of this ancient series is beautifully detailed, derived from the teaching of three masters. We offer a teacher certification program in Luohangong to insure the highest standard of transmission.

Five Animal Frolics (Wuqinxi Qigong)   Devised nearly 2,000 years ago by Hua T'o, the father of Chinese medicine. Movements of the crane, bear, monkey, deer and tiger strengthen the internal organs and harmonize the 5 elemental energies (fire, water, earth, wood, metal). Historically the basis and inspiration of many Taijiquan movements. We learned this set (over three dozen exercises) from Master Paul Gallagher, author of Drawing Silk--who learned it from Master Kenneth Cohen, author of The Way of Qigong: the art and science of Chinese energy healing.

Hooked Walking Cane (Guai Gun)   Lao Ma's signature form, with which he won a gold medal in the weapons division of a provincial tournament in Hubei, China. The choreography tells the story of an attack on an elderly person, leaning on a cane for support, by a gang of hooligans who receive a sharp lesson! This is a rare and exciting internal weapon form, not to be missed!

I Ching (Yi Jing) Divination   "The Little Old Sage in the Yellow Coat" Introduction to the 4,000 year old I Ching (Yi Jing) or Book of Changes, and to various methods of consulting the "little old sage in the yellow coat" (eg. yarrow stalks, coins, dice). The Yi is the "user's manual" for the energies of Taijiquan. We will cultivate a personal relationship with "the little old sage in the yellow coat" to find guidance, inspiration, and empowerment amid the rhythms of daily life. Bring bag lunch, drum if you own one, and (preferably) the Wilhelm-Baynes edition of the I Ching. Offered locally each term as a one-day workshop, or in host schools as a weekend course combined with movement study of the Taiji diagram and "Eight Gates Walking."

Master Key to Taijiquan   (Also called: "Principles of Unified Movement," "The Internal Dynamics of Meditative Movement," and "The Dynamic Circle.") A fluid foundation in the body dynamics of Taijiquan: the theoretical and physical underpinnings of the art. The "Master Key," transmitted by Grandmaster Jou, is that which makes this art effective. Exercises open energy channels, stabilize the knees, loosen the hips, and foster internal power, relaxation, and concentration. Courses in this series may include:
-Four Treasures, Eight Gates, which introduces the principles underlying Taiji study, and covers standing, walking, knee safety, hip mobility, opening gateways to internal energy, pre-birth breathing, and a Taiji qigong (energy cultivation) set.
-Three Powers, Five Elements, a firm foundation for beginners and a "must" for experienced players. This course offers valuable insight into the energetics of Taiji forms, and helps maximize the returns from personal practice. Introduces standing meditation and various exercises related to the five elements, including organ cavity pulsing, five elements jing walking, internal cleansing, qi anatomy and mental practice.

Qigong (Ch'i Kung)   Qigong is the cultivation of internal energy for various purposes: health or healing, martial power, enlightenment, etc. "Qi" is literally internal energy, often called bioelectricity, or breath-blood energy: both nutritive and defensive, both yin and yang. It is formulated of air and food and essence. It is also that vibration which is the source of both change and continuance. "Gong" means work or effort. In the Magic Tortoise School, we approach Taijiquan as a form of qigong, with an approach similar to that taken in qigong study. We also teach specific qigong practices, such as Guanqifan, Taiji Qigong, zhan zhuang (standing meditation) and "Five Animal Frolics".

Staff   The long staff is considered the "mother" of all Chinese long weapons, a category which includes the spear and the long-handled horse dao. Acquaintance with the staff is a great aid to Taijiquan players and other martial artists in understanding connectedness and whole-body movement. This is the rare Yang-style two-person set: an internal, soft-style weapon form. Participants learn side "A," which stands alone as a solo set, side "B" as a matching set, and a variety of two-person drills. Bring a smooth dowel your height plus three inches long, and an inch and a quarter or an inch and a half in diameter.

Sword: Old Style Taiji Sword (Laojia Taijijian)   A traditional 64-movement choreography for double-edged straight sword, this is the parent form of the more recent Yang style version. Course includes partners' drills and foundation exercises. No sword necessary to begin: info on borrowing, buying or making a sword or substitute will be covered in class.


The Magic Tortoise Taijiquan School
c/o Dr. Jay Dunbar, Director
15 Timberlyne Road
Chapel Hill, NC 27514-1522