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What is Chen Tai Chi?

By A. Leverkuhn
Updated May 17, 2024
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Chen tai chi is the oldest form of the popular “tai chi” martial art that comes from the Chinese “taiji chuan” (transliterated from Chinese) that is used all over the world today as a holistic form of exercise. Tai chi or tai chi chuan includes some elements of classic defense, but it is widely used today purely for fitness and health. Tai chi exercises focus on a “yin and yang” duality that is so commonly seen in some Oriental societies.

Chen tai chi is widely considered to have come from the “Chen family” in the 1600s. This ancient practice has since been made into various different practices. Tai chi, according to some experts, relates to a “balance” that helps those who practice it to improve body/mind connectivity and overall function.

Chen tai chi and other kinds of tai chi include various forms that define how the exercises are performed. For example, a common type of chen tai chi called “Chen Wangting’s Corpus of Seven Routines” includes seven forms that make up the practice. Another style of this kind of tai chi, “lao jia” or “old frame” includes two main forms. The “old frame” is one of several “frames” that also change how Chen tai chi is conducted. Each has its own origins and specific practices. In addition, there are also different kinds of tai chi in the Chen tradition that may relate to the use of weapons, or simply to nature poses, including “sword tai chi” as well as non-weapon types of tai chi exercises.

Although tai chi has been popularized in Western culture as a series of poses or moves, much of the details around this martial art have been relatively obscure. Some trainers suggest a duality, or multiple dualities, such as “rigid and soft” or “fast and slow” that drive a lot of authentic Chen tai chi exercises. Some advanced forms of tai chi are recommended only to veterans, such as the “Canon fist” technique that uses rapid, small circles.

To many who practice the ancient art of Chen tai chi, it is a mixture of poetry and physical prowess, physical strength and wisdom, and an esoteric form of an ancient idea that defies technical explanation. Individual instructors give one on one instruction to Chen tai chi students in specialized martial arts centers and programs. This oldest form of tai chi continues to be popular wherever beginners want to build on the basics of this pervasive exercise.

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Discussion Comments

By ysmina — On Nov 07, 2014

@burcinc-- Chen Tai Chi is a type of Taoist Tai Chi. They are not different. There are five main types: Chen, Yang, Wu Hao, Wu and Sun. There isn't definitive proof but Chen Tai Chi is believed to be the original Tai Chi.

By donasmrs — On Nov 06, 2014

@burcinc-- Chen Tai Chi is a very old form of Tai Chi as the article explained. It is older than the other types of Tai Chi you mentioned. So I think it's safe to assume that the other types were inspired from and developed based on the original.

The Tai Chi varieties that are not mainly about defense are all fairly similar. They're about attaining balance and health. So the movements are slow and this has a very relaxing effect on the body and mind.

By burcinc — On Nov 06, 2014

There are so many different types of Tai Chi out there. It's all very confusing. I've heard of Taoist Tai Chi, Fan Tai Chi, Tai Chi Chuan, etc.

So is Chen Tai Chi the original form that all of these other categories were developed from? If one has an interest in Tai Chi, which type should one start with? I'm interested but I have to figure what all the different types are and which one is best for me first.

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