Tai Chi combines Taoism with fist positions.The movements are slow and the energy breaks outward from the inside with every move. This is called Yang’s Style Tai Chi.
Zhang Yongtao, 76, is the fifth-generation inheritor of Yang’s Style Tai Chi. He has been practicing the martial art for almost six decades.
Tai Chi, which originated in Yongnian County, north China’s Hebei Province, was developed from ancient Chinese philosophies and breathing techniques. Over the centuries, it has evolved into a sophisticated system.
“The fist feels like a hard rebar wrapped in something soft,” Zhang described.
The gestures and moves of Tai Chi are smooth like an arc. The arc turns into straight lines as the inner strength explodes. The strength travels up from the legs to the waist, then the back, shoulders, hands and finally, finger tips. It flows through the whole body and breaks outward.
As for the offensive moves of Tai Chi, “push hand” stands out. It requires the practice of eight principles: ward off, roll back, press forward, push downward, pull down, split, elbow stroke, and shoulder stroke.
It depends on how you feel about your opponent’s moves and follow his tempo. Tai Chi is about connection and reaction.
Use your brain, not your brawn. When facing an opponent, you distract the frontal attack to other directions. The strength is hidden beneath, always wait to react.
Zhang’s grandfather started giving Tai Chi lessons at Zhongshan Park in 1945. Then his mother took the baton. After she passed away, Zhang Yongtao carried on the family tradition, passing on his skills to his pupils every Sunday, absolutely free of cost.
“I believe the good stuff is worth passing on. If you always put money first, it detours from what Tai Chi is actually meant to be,” Zhang said.
For him, Yang’s Style Tai Chi means both physical and mental strength.
“Tai Chi is all about harmony, for me it is to be sincere to others. You need to take care of other people among practices. I benefit a lot in seeking harmony via push hand,” he explained.
Zhang hopes to continue practicing and teaching Tai Chi. He wants more people to join him in his mission of passing on Yang’s Style Tai Chi as a healthy practice for common people.