July 23 Spiralling More Refined in Yang Tai Chi

Some Chen family Tai Chi disciples[1] claim these days that their style is the only one still practising  spiralling and that the other styles have lost “the deeper aspects” and “have become watered down tai chi”. This is certainly true of the ‘popular’ versions of Yang style, but not true of the how the authentic art is taught by Yang family disciples to this day. In a previous article, Hallmarks of Authentic Tai Chi Training (23 August 2013), based on how I was taught by Master Chu-king hung, I have outlined the revisions of the form we undertook to build the spiral qi into the form. A cursory glance at the websites of contemporary official disciples of the Yang family will also show that the spiralling concept is still an integral part of Yang family training[2].

In fact, in stark contrast to this claim by Chen stylists, it is considered within the Yang family that, even though Yang style evolved out of Chen style, this type of force became more refined and internalised in the Yang style than in the Chen style. In historical accounts of Tai Chi there is even the claim that the Yang family returned the art to its original subtlety that the Chen family had lost. The spiral movements of the Chen style are much more visible and larger in their form than those in the Yang family style where it is more hidden. I remember Master Chu once commenting on this saying something like Chen style “is just like Kung Fu” – by which he meant more external. I had a Chen style student join my classes at one stage several years ago and he claimed I was generating a similar degree of power to what he had witnessed in his Chen style training but with a lot less movement.

This is not meant to be a criticism of Chen style. I am glad that this original style of Tai Chi is still around and vigorously promoting the fact that it is a sophisticated martial art. Other styles, such as the Wu style, probably claim that their spiralling is more refined than the Yang style’s! For further discussion see the article Spiralling in the Chen and Yang Styles.


[1] Wasson, M., 1997, Chen Xiaowang Speaks Out. Is Chen style the only true tai chi?, KUNGFU, Dec/Jan 1997, pp. 28-33.

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