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Sun Style Tai Chi

Sun style tai chi possesses many interesting features and unique characteristics. It is beneficial and suitable for almost anyone to learn and is complementary to other styles.

There are five major tai chi chuan styles, namely Chen, Yang, Wu, Wu ( The two Wus are different words in Chinese) and Sun. Sun style tai chi is the latest of the tai chi chuan styles to be created and has the least written literature.

The best way to find out more about it is to try it yourself.

Sun Style Characteristics

This style of tai chi is characterized by lively steps- forward or backward steps are always followed by the other foot. The tai chi movements are smooth, gentle, loose and naturally brisk. When practicing, it flows like a gentle stream with the substantial and insubstantial clearly demonstrated. When turning, the body is always joined with “opening” and “closing”. This is why it is also called the “opening closing and lively stepping Taijiquan”.

It is combined with the essential principles of two other internal disciplines, namely Xingyiquan and Baguaquan; therefore, it includes qigong exercises and other characteristics of the two disciplines.

The tai chi benefits of Learning Sun style tai chi is that it helps to obtain a good feel of qi (qi is also known as chi, the living energy which is stored in dantian) fairly quickly. Sun Style is especially efficacious in cultivating chi. That is one of the reasons why it really compliments other styles of Taijiquan (tai chi chuan).

History of Sun Style Tai Chi

Sun Style was created by Sun Lu-tang (1861–1932), whose daughter, sun Jian-yun, is still living in Beijing. Sun was a well known exponent of Xingyiquan and Baguaquan before he learned Taijiquan.

In 1912, Sun happened to run into Hao He (a famous Taijiquan master) who was sick. Sun kindly took care of Hao and when he recovered, Hao taught Taijiquan to Sun. It was said that Sun had only spent a relatively short period of time learning it and subsequently incorporated his expertise of Xingyiquan and Baguaquan to create his own tai chi style.

Sun Style Tai Chi Traditional And Competition Forms

In 1989, Professor Men Hui Feng of the Beijing University of Physical Education created the Sun Style Chinese National Competition Forms. He worked closely with Sun Jian Yun, and retained almost everything from the Sun’s traditional forms.

When composing the major National Competitions Forms, some material of the traditional forms had to be omitted in order to fit into the six - minute time limit for competitions.

For example, the traditional Chen Style first and second forms (routines) combined takes approximately one hour to perform. To condense them into a six minute routine is impossible without omitting something.

Since Sun’s traditional sequence has 97 postures and the Competition Form has 73, it is possible to retain all essential principles.

For people who know the Competition Forms, there are a few quite technically difficult parts, such as “Turn Body and Jump up with Double Kicks.”

Of course, these difficult movements can be easily modified for any practitioner, and the forms are composed with most stances higher than other styles. Therefore, in a physical sense, it is easier. The qigong exercises and the lively steps in it are really beneficial to health, especially for prevention and improvement of mobility problems.

The Sun Style Tai Chi Competition Forms

Of the four sets of Chinese National Competition Forms, Sun Style contains the most numbers of postures.

"Yang style has 40 postures, Chen style has 56 and Wu style has 45. From this one can see that the speed of Sun style has to be more brisk."

This is partly due to all the turns being joined by an “opening and closing” and the stepping and following quickly by the other foot, which produces many brisk movements, making Sun style a particularly good exercise for mobility.

The Sun Style Competition Forms has six sections.

Section One (22 Movements)
It starts with the “Commencement Form,” which is a qigong movement, and follows with a series of stepping movements which serve as loosening and warming up exercises.

This is consistent with all other Competition Forms, whereby the beginning few movements are general mobility exercises. They gradually lead to more difficult movements, building towards the climax and ending with some gentle, winding down movements.

This is a safe and efficient program for a set of exercises, according to modern knowledge of sports science.

The 73 Forms is so long that there are two climaxes.

Section Two (11 Movements)
 It follows the flow of section one and then gradually gets to more difficult movements such as “Repulse Monkey” and “Lifting Leg.”

Section Three (8 Movements)
It builds up to a climax with “Turn Body and Jump Up with  Double Kicks,” which is then followed by the difficult movements “Turn Body to Tame Tiger,” and “Lifting Foot.”

Section Four (12 Movements)
It slows down from the climax, yet maintains some momentum and consists of many stepping and loosening movements such as “Parting Wild Horse’s Mane.”

Section Five (4 Movements)
This shortest section prepares for the next climax.

Section Six (16 Movements)
Building up to more vigorous movements such as “Cross hands and Patting Foot,” and “Step Forward and Punch Crotch,” the tempo then slows down, with more stretch-out movements such as “Turn Body, Lotus Kick,” “Drawing Bow to Shoot Tiger,” and then slows down further to conclude with the “Closing Form.”

Influence Of Xingyiquan And Baguaquan on Sun Style Tai Chi

The influence of these two internal disciplines is evident throughout the forms. The internal component is more important but difficult to appreciate for people who don’t know these three disciplines well.

The external component is more obvious for example, in Form 55 ‘Wave Hands Like Clouds and Lowering movement,’ and Form 66 ‘Single Whip and Lowering Movement”.

Both Forms contain the same fundamental movements of Xingyiquan’s “Three Bodies Form.” The “opening and closing” movement, which joins all the turns and stepping forward and backward following with the other foot is evidence of Baguaquan’s influence.

[Adapted from an article Sun Style Tai Chi By Dr. Paul Lam]

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