What is Tai Chi?

Well first and foremost it is a martial arts system, it is practiced in a very slow manner to facilitate the perfecting of each movement, breathing is very important as is the relaxing of the muscles and the mind.

With a relaxed mind you can visualise an opponent in front of you to perfect movements, much like shadow boxing in the west. Breathing properly and relaxing the muscles enable you to move the body's Qi (chee) smoothly, developing strength and speed in legs and arms. Special exercises called Qi Gong enable  you to synchronise breathing, Qi flow and body movement.

The link with TCM through Yin and Yang theory, the meridians that Qi flows through and the acupuncture points make this art very much a self healing as well as defensive art.  The Qi you use to heal is the Qi you use for defence against attack from a person or a virus.  Also, the way that Tai Chi is practiced with this emphasis on relaxation and deep breathing also make it an ideal way to relax before or after a stressful day.

In this day and age there is no necessity to practice this art in a martial way and so the health side has taken over in many schools.

The style we practice and teach in our schools is Yang style, from the Yang Cheng Fu lineage taught by GM Brian Jones and from the Yang Jian Hou Lineage from GM Tian Ying Jia.

Tai chi chuan is usually literally translated as "grand ultimate boxing".   Instead of being an immodest title, the "grand ultimate" portion of the name refers to the Chinese concept of the origin of the universe.  That is the principle of yin and yang.  In fact, the common yin-yang symbol is properly called the t'ai chi diagram. I see tai chi chuan being the art of the harmony of yin and yang, in tangible form.

The founder is said to be Chang San Feng (Zhang Sanfeng), who is thought to have lived from 1279 to 1368, but no one knows if he actually existed.  Some experts claim him as just being a myth, while others argue he did exist and there are monuments to him in China.

Many believed Chang San Feng was a Shaolin monk who decided to leave the monastery to become a Taoist hermit.  On Wu Tang (Wudang) mountain, he gave up the hard fighting style he had learned and formulated a new art based on softness and yielding. One story tells how he had a vision between a snake and a crane (although some say it was a magpie, an eagle or a hawk).  In theory, the crane should have had an easy time killing the snake, but in Chang's vision, the crane would try to attack the snake's head, and the snake would evade and hit the crane with it's tail.  When the crane would try for the snake's tail, the snake would bite the crane.  This resulted in the discovery of the basic t'ai chi concepts of evading, yielding and attacking.

Chang assembled a martial art that used softness and internal power to overcome brute force.  He is believed to have written: "In every movement, every part of the body must be light and agile and strung together.  The postures should be without breaks.  Motion should be rooted in the feet, released through the legs, directed by the waist and expressed by the fingers.  Substantial and insubstantial movements must be clearly differentiated."

This marked the beginning of tai chi chuan, but at that time it was called chang chuan, or long boxing after the endless flow of the Chang jiang (Yangtse) River. Later, Chang formulated the 13 postures of tai chi.   While no one knows what his art looked like then, it is thought that the movements were practiced as individual techniques and/or concepts.

The next major historical figure was Wang Tsung Yueh (Wang Zong Yue), who wrote the second tai chi classic and first referred to the art as tai chi chuan.  He also coined the statement, "a force of 4 ounces deflects 1,000 pounds."  He is thought to have expanded the original 13 postures into a linked choreographed form.  Some historians believe Wang actually founded the art, while others dispute his existence as well.

Nobody disputes the existence of the founding father of Yang family style Yang Lu Chan.

Yang Style

Yang Lu-chan (1799 - 1872) it is said learned the old-frame style from Chen Chang Xing.  Many stories tell how this took place.  A popular one holds that Yang wanted to learn the art, but the Chen family would not teach outsiders.  So Yang took a job as a servant for the Chen's and learned tai chi by watching through a crack in the wall.   Afterward, he would practice what he learned when he alone in his room.  One day he was discovered and asked to spar with the other students.  He easily defeated all of them and was taken under the wing of Chen Chang Xing, who then taught him the whole old-frame style.  Yang is said to have spent the next either six, 13 or 18 years studying under Chen, depending on who is telling the story. 

Yang eventually returned to his hometown of Kuang Ping (also spelled Guang Ping and is a rarer style of Tai Chi) and taught the old-frame Chen style.  He later travelled to Beijing and became a military martial arts teacher for the Manchu government.  After he altered the sequence of the movements in his form, it later became known as the Yang style.

Some modern practitioners claim that Yang watered down the art he taught to the Manchus and reserved a different version of it for his townspeople and family.  

It is important to remember that Yang Lu Chan played a pivotal role in opening the once-closed art to the outside world.  Two facts are significant:  He learned the old-frame Chen style, and he was never beaten in combat.  Even as a beginner, he defeated all of Chen's students.  For those who claim he didn't learn all the secrets of the Chen family, this action speaks louder than any speculation.  Because of his victories in challenge matches, he acquired the nickname "Yang the Invincible".  Nevertheless, he always tried to avoid hurting his opponent in a match.   Two of his sons carried on his art and family tradition: Yang Pan Hou (a.k.a. Yang Yu) and Yang Jian Hou (a.k.a. Yang Jian).  

Yang Jian Hou (1839-1917) taught medium frame (Zhong Jia), and small frame (Xiao Jia) styles of tai chi. He was easier to get along with than his brother and had more students. One story told how he once held a sparrow in his hand and used his sensitivity to prevent the bird from taking off by neutralizing its push. In another story, armed only with a brush Yang is said to have defeated a martial artist who was wielding a sword. His sons, Yang Shao Hou and Yang Cheng Fu, carried on his art.  Some of Yang Cheng-fu's students originally trained under his brother, Yang Shao Hou. Consequently, they inherited the energy of that form.

Stories of Yang Shao Hou described him as being brutal and often injuring or killing his students. Consequently, he did not have many followers, but the ones he did have were good martial artists. The well-known ones include his son Yang Chen Seng, Tian Zhao Lin, Hsiung Young Hou, and Chang Ching Ling, all of whom carried on his unique small-frame method.

After Yang Shao Hou died, his students became followers of his brother, Yang Cheng Fu. Some tai chi historians claim that many of the senior students of Yang Shao Hou, believing their skill was higher than Yang Cheng Fu's, went off on their own after Shao Hou died. Thus, they were written out of the official lineage, and some practitioners do not consider their versions of the art authentic.

Some experts claim that Tian Zhao Lin and Hsiung Young Hou were also students of Yang Pan Hou. Tian taught Shi Tiao Mei, who taught Tchoung Ta Tchen. Hsiung Young Yo also taught Tchoung Ta Tchen  - as well as Liang Tung Tsai and several others - the small frame and san shou form. Researcher Andy Dale refers to this San Shou form as another "secret" Yang style, which Yang Shau Chung claimed was derived from the Chen Ar Lu style (pao chui, or cannon fist), as taught by Yang Lu-chan.


Yang Cheng Fu (1883-1936) was one of the most important historical figures in modern tai chi chuan.  He taught a "Large Frame" tai chi form that used slow, smooth, expansive movements. It was often said that he felt like a steel bar wrapped in cotton. Legend has it he was never defeated in combat. Chang Ching Ling an advanced student of Yang Shao Hou and Tian Zhao Lin also practiced with him and may have helped develop Yang Cheng Fu's skill.

Yang taught at the Central Kuo Shu Institute in 1926. When he moved south to Shanghai, he modified the Yang form, taking out the fast kicks and the more strenuous movements. He is also credited with emphasising the health benefits of the art and popularising it among the educated class. Yang deserved much of the credit for the current popularity tai chi chuan and especially of the Yang style. Some claim he taught one art to the public and another to his closest disciples.  Though many experts deny this idea.  His form is referred to as "Yang Family Style", as the "Family" designation is only appropriate for familial relations.

What are Marks relevant qualifications?:

Last and only Western Tudi To Tian Ying Jia, 5th Generation Yang Tai Chi Grand Master, Shanghai ,China,

Level 6  Escrima, Kun Tao Tai Chi and Qigong Instructor,  Integrated Kun Tao System under Grand Master Brian Jones, U.K

Tudi To Yin Zhu Yan Wild Goose Qi Gong (Dayan Gong), Eagle Claw Kung Fu, Ba Gua Zhang Master, Hang Zhou, China,

Licentiate Oriental Herbal Medicine and member of the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine,

Licentiate Acupuncture and Member of the British Acupuncture Council,

Clin: Acupuncture / Herbs / Tui na (Hang Zhou China),

Cert Tui na U.K. 




Experienced Martial Arts Instructor since 1986 including; Tai Chi and Escrima since1993 under Grand Master Brian Jones P'Boro,  since 2000 taking trips to China for  training with Grand Master Tian Yin Jia and Master Yin Zhu Yan for Dayan Gong and 2 years under Master Paul Brecher, London (of Earle Montaigue's Tai ji Boxing Association),  Karate, and Kick-Boxing (gaining National titles and European 2 nd placements), fitness instructor with National Amateur Body Building Association Certification.

6 Study trips to china gaining experience in Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Tuina (Chinese massage) and Chinese reflexology.

3 yrs studying at in London College of Traditional Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Also 3 years Western Medicine at London College of Traditional Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, including Anatomy, Physiology and Pathology.

2 years training in Chinese Herbal Medicine at London College of Traditional Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.


Tai Chi Form Skills







. Cheng Fu long form Right and Left Side
. Tian Zhao Lin Large frame
. Yang Jian Hou Middle frame
. Narrow and Broad sword
Pushing hands (Tui Shou), Single / Double
. Long, medium and short pole / sticks
. Fan, Single / Double
Ta Lu
8 pieces of brocade Yang family style

. Two Man Sets
. Pau Chui
. Large / Small San Sau
. Free sparring
. Dim Mak (acu point striking)


Master Tian's son Bing Yuan, Grand Master Tian Yin Jia, Master Yao Gou Qing (his number one student) on his first ever trip to the U.K. To read up on Tian Yin Jia's history and lineage click on the photo.
Tai Chi Work shop in Peterborough with Grand Master Brian Jones (in the center) and some of his main instructors from England and Europe with their students. To read up on Brian's history and lineage click on the photo.

Some of the team doing a demo on Peterborough town square for stress awareness day run in conjunction with the NHS and city council.