The following article was published by Inside Kung-Fu Maganize, December 2007, Vol.35 No.12
Although it is the youngest among the major five Taiji schools (Chen, Yang, Wu/Hao, Wu and Sun), Sun Style Taiji Quan has established its unique position in Chinese martial art history since its creation in 1918. There are six features that make Sun Style Taiji different from other Taiji Schools.
First, Sun Style Taiji is adapted by Sun Lu Tang, the most influential and leading figure in modern Chinese martial history, from Wu/Hao Style. He fused the concept and techniques of Xing Yi, Ba Gua and Taiji into one system. From Sun style Taiji movement, we can easily recognize the Xing Yi’s footwork, Ba Gua’s hand form and Taiji’s slowness and softness.
Before he began to learn Taichi at age 53 from Hao Wei Zhen (from him people began to name Wu Yu Xian Style as Hao Style), Sun Lu Tang had already achieved high-level accomplishment both in Xins Yi and Ba Gua and was generally recognized as the foremost martial artist at the time. He learned his Xing Yi from the legendary Guo Yun Shen who is famous for his “Half-step smashing fist beat all under heaven” and his Ba Gua from Chen Ting Hua who is even more famous because most Ba Gua practitioners of today are from his lineage.
Like Wu Yu Xian, the founder of Wu/Hao style, Sun Lu Tang is one of the very few scholar type martial artists. He is the only one, among the founders of Xing Yi, Ba Gua and Taiji, who left behind a great legacy, five theory and instructional books on these three great martial arts. He has not only inherited the essence of these seemingly different systems, but also contributed to combine the essence of Xing Yin and Ba Gua within the framework of Taiji.
To him, Ba Gua is heaven that is expressed in circle and uses hidden energy. Xing Yi is earth and manifests in linear and obvious energy. Taiji is man between heaven and earth who seeks balance and harmony and uses neutralizing energy. He thinks only by combining these three arts into one can make each of them perfect. Sun Lu Tang is the first person in history to use the term internal to name Xing Yi, Ba Gua and Taiji. He states that all the three arts are internal in nature. They are all in pursuit of central harmony with one unified Qi.
Second, Sun Style Taiji is characterized by its unique footwork. Advance or retreat, the other foot half step follows. When advance, you move front foot first, and have back foot follow. When retreating, your back foot goes first and front foot follows. This half-step walking method is clearly borrowed from Xing Yi.
The advantage of this footwork ensures the integrity of the movements and the integrity of the whole body energy. The hand and foot arrive simultaneously and are engaged in action at the same time. The hand application is always supported by footwork. The energy of the whole body is in unison. Examples are: Brush knee and holding Pipa; white crane spread wings; lazily tying clothing.
Third, Sun Style Taiji emphasizes the continuous and rhythmic pace of the movement. This is the influence of Bu Gua’s “Take Walking As Application” theory that believes “the forceful power of the palm flows from Yong Quan (the center of foot)”.
Sun Style Taiji keeps moving, back and forth, evading and advancing. Walking constantly becomes the trademark of this art. In this style there seems no standing still and no extra hand movement. Handwork is simple and clean. Each hand technique depends on changing footwork.
Sun Style Taiji traditional long form is of same origin as the traditional Chen style and Yang style. They share almost the same sequence and the same name of the movements although variations and differences exist. Because of Sun style’s more flowing steps, it takes less than 8 minutes to finish the whole routine while Chen style takes around 15 minutes and Yang style about 25 minutes.
Fourth, opening and closing hands dominate the whole routine. When you make a turning or transition, you apply opening and closing hands. These two movements become most frequently repeated and each occurs as many as thirteen times during the whole routine.
Sun Style Taiji is regarded as Qigong (a method of generating Qi) Taiji by some practitioners because of its easily obtained Qi feeling between palms. In the center of each palm there is a pressure point called Laogong that is generally regarded as the point where you can emit Qi. This acupuncture cavity is very sensitive and often used during emergency rescue when people suddenly lose consciousness, breathing or heartbeat.
Besides opening and closing hands, there are some more movements that require two Laogong points facing each other, like Commencing Form, Double Bump the Ball, Step Forward, Block, Parry and Punch, Double Bump Hammer, High Pat On the Horse, etc.
Fifth, Sun Style Taiji is featured in using a lot of Ba Gua’s dragon palms. One of the example is Lazily Tying Back Clothing which is one of the major movements of Sun Style. In this movement we have the typical Ba Gua palm circling and finished posture with Green Dragon Palms reaching out. Another typical example is Waving Hands Like Cloud in which the palms always facing outside instead of rotating and facing inside like Chen or Yang styles’. The third example is Jade Lady Works the Shuttles. Here you not only see dragon’ close-to-body palms but also dragon’s twisted body.
There are some more examples showing the influence of Ba Gua’s hand method to Sun Style Taiji. Like Parting Wild Horse Mane and Single Whip. Here you can see the big difference from Chen or Yang style’s same movements. There are no more one palm facing up and one palm facing down, and no more bird beak or hook. What you can see is dragon palms facing outside.
Sixth, Sun Style Taiji is of high stance with small steps. Not like Chen and Yang Styles having exaggerated big frame, big posture and big movement, Sun Style looks more natural, comfortable and formless. Bear in mind the fact that the Sun Style is designed by “More Agile Than Monkey”* Sun Lu Tang who is expert in real combat skills. With high stance and small steps, you can change and be able to adapt to your opponent’s movement faster and at ease.
* Sun Lu Tang is best-known for his agility and moving fast and he got this nickname from his Bu Gua teacher Chen Ting Hua.
* Examples are illustrated with photos.
Master Sun Anguang learned Sun Style Taiji from Xue Jue Jin, Zhang Xiu Lin and Shou Gui Shun. Three of them are all regarded as foremost Taiji grandmasters and third generation successors of Sun Style Taiji.
Check here and watch my performance on Sun Style Taichi Chuan