Tai Chi in itself is has no single 'method', but rather
a number of different styles that have evolved along
with its growth. This site is predominantly Yang Style
because, simply that is what I, the two sensei's by
whom I have had the pleasure of being taught, and those
who are connected to the Southampton City Dojo practice.
This does does not, however distinguish us as separate
from the whole of what is tai chi, nor makes us feel
that our style is superior to any of the others - just
a different aspect of the same.
Yang and Ch'en styles developed around the same period,
by members of the same family - although Ch'en seems
to have declined almost completely. Wu style (developed
by Yu-Seong Wu) practised very much smaller circular
movements with smaller arm stretches, and again seems
to have declined. The Sun and Lee styles possibly make
up (with the Yang style) the three main forms practiced
today. Because of the fact that the entire Lee form
uses very little movement across the floor (unlike Yang),
it is often commonly known as 'Square Yard Tai Chi'
as it can be performed within this boundary, and I have
even heard it called the 'wardrobe' style, alluding
to the ability to practice it inside a wardrobe - although
actually why you would want to do this is not neccessarily
clear. Whilst the Yang form likes to spread out, and
requires some small adjustments to movements to make
it workable within a relatively confined area, the Lee
form has the advantage that it was specifically designed
for small spaces, and for those who are very limited
in this aspect could start looking for Lee instructors
first (or see my article adapting the Yang form...).
The Lee form is possibly the most 'Taoist' of all the
tai chi styles, rooted deeply within this form of religion/philosophy
that has been around in China for, according to some,
up to ten thousand years. Certainly the eight health
philosophies known as the 'eight strands of the brocade'
that deal directly with equilibrium and balance of energies
(yin/yang) are a fundamental aspects of Lee. It has
been said that this is the most 'spiritual' style still
in existence, I may be forgiven for leaving this open
to debate. Lee style does however revolve around perfect
harmony and balance within its movements. While the
specific evolution of the current form is not clear,
it has deep roots that date back to around 1,000 BC,
where it is said that it was created by Ho-Hsieh Lee
- the first of the Lee family that would practice it
in China right into the 1930s, when Chan Kam Lee moved
to London and started classes there.
Originally there were just eight basic postures or
stances to the Lee form - this now stands at fourteen.
These are: Eagle stance; Bear
stance; Dragon stance; Duck stance; Monkey stance; Cat
stance; Leopard stance; Riding Horse stance; Snake stance;
Lion stance; Crane stance; Dog stance; Scissor stance;
Crossed Leg stance.
From these fourteen, a sequence of 140 moves completes
the form. In Chee Soo's book: The Chinese Art of
T'ai Chi Ch'uan (Aquarian/Thorsons, isbn: 0850303877)
these 140 moves are split into 42 'sequences', with
differing combinations within each: