Tai Tzu is a style of Chang Chuan, (long fist) dating back to Emperor Zhao Kuang Yin, 960 A.D. The style is said to have begun with only 32 moves. As time past it grew to have as many as 12 entire forms. It is also said to have influenced Chen style Tai Chi Chuan, Northern Mantis and the Southern Five Ancestor Fist.
Created by an Emperor
The Song dynasty was founded by Zhao Kuang Yin, who was later to be known as Emperor Song Tai Tzu reigning from 960-975 AD. He had been a military leader under the Eastern Zhou dynasty from 951-960 AD.; fighting many battles in order to reunify northern China after the division of the Five Dynasties. As first Emperor of the Song Dynasty he brought an end to militarism, which characterized China at this time. Under the his influence the Dynasty became known as the Golden Age for during this period the Song became known for its economic, technological, intellectual, and artistic growth.
Zhao Kuang Yin came from a military family. Large in stature and an able martial artist, he was also a scholar. He regularly held military troop and training inspections. He would review the troops sparring and shooting. It is said that he collected and documented all manuscripts on the martial arts. He would study the information then would then keep them hidden in a temple. From this information and his own knowledge he then created his own style of martial arts. A lover of martial arts but a hater of war, he is said to have encouraged “stage” wushu and sparring with sugar canes and wrapped weapons to increase the people’s skills but decrease the dangers. Other legends also have him studying from Chen Hsi the somewhat legendary creator of LiuHeBaFa (6 Harmonies, 8 Methods) style.
Tai Tzu Chang Chuan, meaning Great Ancestor’s Long Fist, is said to be a total style because it encompassed a complete system of martial arts. Many people claim to have the original
Tai Tzu Chang Chuan. It is considered by some to be the root from which many Northern styles originated and, since southern often trace their lineage northward, Tai Tzu is claimed also as the originator of some southern styles.
On another level, Tai Tzu is a specific, individual form handed down to us because it is often appears as a single form in different complete systems. We may hear of many different Tai Tzu forms: Mei Hua Tai Tzu, Shaolin Tai Tzu, and Tai Tzu Chi Kong, each of which stands as a form within a style.
Famous Grandmaster of Wu Tan in Taiwan, Liu Yun-Chiao, taught at least two versions of Tai Tzu Chang Chuan. One of these, the first Kung Fu set he ever learned, is done slowly with enhanced leg-work an obvious part of the form. This 32 moves Tai Tzu also has complicated movements, having distinct timing problems and chan su jin (Reeling Silk Energy). The movements are symmetrical encompassing both left and right side. The moves are soft yet with a definite directional sense. The second Tai Tzu taught was that of Mei Hua (often translated as “Plum Blossom”) Kung Fu. This form is complex and more obviously martial. It is performed at normal speed as part of the Mei Hua Boxing system and might be said to resemble Shaolin or Cha Chuan.
Connection to T’ai Chi Ch’uan
Documents found from this era relating to Tai Tzu have similar sayings as the T’ai Chi Classics. For this reason, and contrary to popular belief, Chang San Feng would not be the actual founder of T’ai Chi Chuan. History records the birth of Chang San Feng in 1247, almost 300 years after Zhao Kuang Yin’s presence in China. As more and more scholars are determining, the slow, soft movement of Tai Tzu indeed may predate and foreshadow what we presently call T’ai Chi.
Area of InfluenceT’ai Tzu Quan has been practiced in the areas of QuanZhou, ZhangZhou and XiaMen, all in the Fujian area, for over 1000 years.
Zhao KuangYin (founder)
Zhao ZiXian (some of whose students move to QuanZhou region)
This last teacher is said to have taught famous general Yu DaYou during the Ming dynasty. Yu developed a number of ideas including one of the first designs for a tank and a military staff technique which may have been based on what he learned from Zhao BenXue.
Zhao BenXue’s T’ai Tzu was profound and riddled with Buddhist concepts. These along with the style, were transferred through the lineage to Chen ZhengYi then to Chen FaDao to Lam Ga Lok.
More indirect branches include T’ai Tzu’s association with Five Ancestors Wu Zu Quan, and a Wu Die branch said to still be a secret transmission.
Because of the many claims, all of which relate to deriving from the core style yet exhibiting many different interpretations, there are few things that can be said about all or most branches of this boxing method. First is that most styles teach a short stick forms, conceivably inspired by the concepts that were brought to Yu DaYou’s method. The next is that the elbows stay very close to the rib cage at all times. Kicks are short. Internal training has three parts, 1. Mother movements, 2. Yi Jin (Tendon Changing), and 3. Xi Sui (Marrow Washing). Fighting training comes through Shi Bu Tou or Ten Discreet Steps which links together hand patterns from which much of T’ai Tzu is built.