What is Taiji?

Taiji is an ancient exercise developed in China over 4,000 years ago and means “the grand way of life as taught through movement”. Originally a form of self-defense, Taiji is more widely practiced in the United States today for promoting vibrant health and longevity.

This gentle, yet powerful Chinese way of movement teaches one to live in harmony with nature. It is a meditation through movement; practiced with full relaxation of the body and focused mental concentration. Through daily practice, Taiji reconnects the mind to the body, the conscious to the subconscious, and the individual to their environment. Its flowing, long patterns of movements are best performed slowly and with repetition. With its circular movements, rhythmic breathing, and flowing postures, Taiji allows the full potential within each person to blossom.

“Be still as a mountain; move like a great river.” 

Tai Chi Classics

Taiji is an exercise that improves physical fitness in a gentle and almost imperceptible way. It promotes heart capacity by increasing work load on the heart in a similar way to swimming. It is also excellent for stress reduction, mental relaxation and improved concentration. Taiji invigorates the flow of qi (vital energy) throughout the body. This increased qi flow then improves blood circulation.

Taiji origins

Legend tells us Taiji was created in the 14th century by a Daoist monk named Chang San Feng. He had observed a fight between a snake and a crane that lasted several days. The snake’s flexible, circular maneuvering and soft evasive countering of the crane’s ensnaring thrusts was evident. The snake’s looseness and concentration easily enabled it to escape the strikes of the crane’s beak. Eventually, the snake caught the crane by ensnaring it in its coils. This showed him that a less physically forceful opponent with clever strategy could subdue a hard, strong opponent. Based on his observation, Chang San Feng developed the soft, internal form of Taiji which exemplifies circular, relaxed and purposeful spontaneity in the midst of rapid movement when applied for martial arts purposes.

Taiji today

Taiji has since become a system of physical exercise and a part of daily life for the Chinese people for centuries. Upon visiting China today, the parks are filled with Taiji players of all ages early in the morning throughout the country. This is gradually becoming commonplace in the parks in the United States, especially in our big cities. The flexibility, fluidity and grace exhibited through Taiji movements are astounding to watch.

The Guang Ping form

The form that Shoshanna teaches is called Guang Ping Taiji, brought to the states by Kuo Lien Ying to Portsmouth Square in San Francisco. This Yang style of Taiji originated in the region of the Honan Province in Northern China and has a total of 64 movements. Master Kuo learned and studied this form at a monastery outside of Beijing with Wong for many years. Wong had learned this form while working as a servant to Yang Ban Ho who was the first son of Yang Lu Chan. Legend has it that Wong lived until the ripe age of 123. Shoshanna learned this form beginning in 1974 in the Pan Handle of San Francisco Golden Gate Park - through study with Sifu Bing Gong, who is known as the best student of Kuo Lien Ying. She is a 6th generation lineage holder.