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Originally, Taijiquan (or Tai Chi Chuan) was created as a martial art and used in combat. Fighters practised standing postures to activate their dantian (an area in the core of the body). Later, when their dantian force flowed freely through their energy channels, skilled fighters could project their force using it to fight at close range or even at a distance.

Societies and cultures change and the need to practise a martial art for self-defence has given way to its practise for health and self-development. Therefore today the use of Taijiquan has shifted towards a more health-orientated purpose, but the forces we are using for health and healing are exactly the same as those traditionally used for fighting.

Nowadays people are generally familiar with the slow movements of Taijiquan, it enjoys greater popularity and is very widely known. It has become quite fashionable to practise and it is used in films and advertisements to create an image of serenity, tranquility and composure. But there is a lot more to Taijiquan than this. The 37 positions of Taiji37 are the original stances upon which all Taijiquan is based.  Often their correct practise is often sidelined in favour of other training regimes, such as forms.  To obtain knowledge and skill in Taiji forces (known as taijijin) it is essential that the correct technique and method of practise is followed.  Through correct practise, the mind and body benefit in a myriad of ways.

Why is Taiji37 good for me? 

Most exercise can be good for you but few methods offer such profound results than practising Taiji37.  Training in the postures can help to free blockages in the energy channels and optimises the circulation of the internal vital energy or life force (known as Yuanqi).  If practised in the correct way, the student will experience spontaneous movement. This helps to cleanse and open the body’s energy channels and to activate the internal energy forces. These forces are innate to everyone but they are usually dormant.

The practise of developing Taiji forces has a healing effect. Most people think that Taijiquan improves their health because it activates the qi circulation; but the main reason is because it expels binqi (illness causing toxins). Taiji forces push the binqi out through the meridians detoxifying the body, which allows the qi to circulate freely again.  A more thorough exposition of Buqi aetiology can be found here.

How is Taiji37 different to other forms of Taijiquan (or Tai Chi Chuan)?

Many practitioners of Taijiquan never experience sensations of their inner energy and do not know how to discover and develop these taijijin. Traditionally the prerequisite and foundation for studying Taijiquan was to first develop Taiji forces.  This has largely given way to other training regimes.  Training in Taiji37 to a greater extent rests on the practise of exercises to develop these internal forces and then exercises to apply them.

Taiji 37 is not commonly known in martial arts circles as they are a series of secret Taijiquan techniques which, as customary in Chinese tradition, were only passed on from father to son. It is quite rare for them to be found being taught openly in this way.  Over time a lot of this ancient and quite valuable wisdom became incomplete and misunderstood. Dr. Shen Hongxun was very fortunate to recover this knowledge from several Taiji masters who were still in possession of authentic and uncorrupted knowledge about these techniques. He realised these traditional teachings were in danger of being lost, and began to teach them publicly.

The poetry of the Nanpai School (southern style) about Taiji evokes a mysterious and enigmatic image. It speaks about being invisible and formless. This means, that there really is no Taiji form as such, only standing postures and stances that flow from one into another spontaneously.  In this way we refrain from practising a form and our main focus for training are standing postures. 

Each of the 37 standing postures has its own specific spontaneous movement, which manifests as a result of the appropriate mental attitude, the right level of concentration and a correct posture. When practised like this the postures open different energy channels and activate the three qi circulations, helping to expel pathogenic toxins (binqi) from the body. With more exercise, the spontaneous movement becomes more pure and refined, gradually becoming more internalised. At this stage, students learn to control and guide this spontaneous movement force through the cultivation of a strong mental force.

For example in the standing posture ‘Peng’, the student concentrates on expanding the body in all directions until he is connected with the whole cosmos. The body fills with energy and the channels and meridians open.

With ‘Dan Bian’, the forearm is used to fend off possible opponents. The natural tendency of the body while in this posture will be to turn with great force in a certain direction

Many accomplished taiji practitioners and practitioners of other martial arts train in Taiji37 because they feel that it is a swift and direct route to a higher level of understanding of taiji forces and the practise of taijiquan. However you do not have to be a taijiquan practitioner to attend. Many people from all walks of life such as actors, athletes, musicians and dancers, teachers and martial arts practitioners have joined seminars and experienced many of the benefits of Taiji37. 

There are two main schools of Taijiquan: the Beipai or Northern School (commonly known by family names such as Yang family or Yang Style) and the Nanpai or Southern School. The Buqi Institute, Belgium and Shen Hongxun College, UK, are the only organisations still teaching Nanpai Taijiquan.  Classes are available in Taiji37 of the Nanpai, and the ‘Heaven Mountain’ style of Taijiquan (TianShanTaijiquan), which is a development from traditional Yang style Taijiquan applying Taiji37 principles.  It is therefore useful for practitioners of other styles to learn to develop a new perspective on their current system.