​​Grey Heron Internal Arts

T'ai Chi Chuan is one of the family of Chinese `Internal Martial Arts'; a group that also includes arts like Ba Gua and Hsing I and Yi Chuan. The Internal Arts are said to focus on aspects like softness, yielding, alignment and the development of '`Internal Power' more than their 'External' cousins. However, it is also said that the Internal Arts develop from soft to hard whilst the External Arts develop from hard to soft so the boundaries are not always clear.

`Cheng San Feng, a Taoist sage. was meditating one day when he heard a noise from outside. When he investigated he witnessed a fight between a Crane defending its nest and a Snake trying to raid the nest for eggs. As the Snake advanced it exposed its flanks and the Crane was able to counter attack, but in doing so left its own flanks exposed, offering and opening to the Snake. Neither animal was able to gain the upper hand and so a balance was achieved. In this Cheng saw how the principle of Yin Yang could be applied to a conflict and from this developed the art of T'ai Chi Chuan'

This popular myth of the origins of T'ai Chi (T'ai Chi Chuan can be translated as `Supreme Ultimate Fist' – relating it to the ancient philosophical concept of the 'T'ai Chi' meaning 'supreme ultimate' or 'ultimate pole') demonstrates how deeply embedded the Martial aspect is in the whole art. Whatever else T'ai Chi has become, it began as a fighting art. Although it is possible to gain much benefit without doing so, a full understanding of the art requires us to have an insight in to the Martial aspect.

T'ai Chi is fundamentally a close range, counter attacking art. It uses strikes to and from various parts of the body, locks and grips and uprooting techniques in various combinations; root, sensitivity and listening skills are emphasised in its practice. These skills are developed through a series of partner work exercises: Sticky Hands develops initial listening skills; Push Hands develops these on both physical and mental (energetic) levels through a wide variety of fixed pattern and free form routines; fighting applications of movements in the forms are developed taking into account skills trained in Push Hands and these can be taken in to more complex patterns and free sparring. Self defence applications (a separate though related matter) can also be developed. In tandem with these, `Chi Kung' exercises can be practised to develop strength, balance, endurance and clarity.

T'ai Chi also employs a variety of weapons; Spear (or Staff), Long Sword and Broad Sword (Sabre) are the 3 most commonly practised. Others include Fan, Walking Stick, Halberd and Flute. Each weapon displays different characteristics according to their shape and function. Weapons training in modern society helps us to understand in depth different qualities of the T'ai Chi energy (for example Sabre displays strong spiralling movements) and helps us to develop and cultivate upper body strength, awareness and energy.

Different schools of T'ai Chi will place different emphasis on the Martial side of the art, but most will seek a reasonable balance between this and other aspects. In `Grey Heron' classes the Martial aspect is generally introduced through simple Push hands and one or two applications being shown in the later half of the Beginners course, but is not developed beyond a simple introduction until Intermediate level.
We do not specifically train for competition but recognise the value friendly competition in which both sides can gain and learn.
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