Sun-style tai chi is the youngest tai chi style among all other family styles of tai chi. The founder, Grandmaster Sun, Lu-Tang, was the expert in both internal martial arts style of Xing Yi Quan (shape mind fist) and Bagua Zhang (eight trigrams palm) before he came to study tai chi quan (grand ultimate fist).
Grandmaster Sun, Lu-Tang also studied Wu style tai chi before he created his own style. Sun-style tai chi has great influences from these three internal martial arts styles and is known for its "tai chi hand, xing yi legs, and Bagua waist."
Sun tai chi is also known for its lively foot work. One foot is always followed by the other. When advancing forward, the rear foot always follows; when retrieving, the front foot always moves back. This kind of unique footwork promotes agility, briskness and quickness when it comes to combat and also makes the form appear a lot livelier. And that's why it is also called 'lively stepping tai chi.' When turning, an open and close hand movement is always used for the purpose of transitioning and linking, and this is also the reason why it is often called "Opening Closing Tai Chi." Similar to many other styles of tai chi, Sun-style is gentle, smooth, and soft, and movements are brisk and fluid. It focuses on using mind to lead the qi (energy) and use qi to move the body. Movements should be led by intent (yi) instead of physical force.
Official Competition Form
The form we train is called Sun-style 73 routine. This is one of the family styles of tai chi competition routines which the Chinese Sport Committee created in 1988. 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 Sun's traditional forms. In 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.
Of the four sets of Chinese National Competition Forms, Sun-Style contains the highest number 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 brisker to stay within the six-minute competition time limit."
The form has 73 movements and is divided into six sections. All the competition routines were created for the purpose of standardizing movements in order to better promote tai chi to the world, and make competitions possible. It preserved all the classic movements in the traditional routines, and is compiled very beautifully. The whole form takes about six minutes to complete.
When practicing Sun tai chi, it is important to make sure every hand movement, body movement, and footwork are precise. Footwork needs to be agile and light and the body should stay upright. Please pay close attention to the footwork. When advancing forward, the rear foot always follows; when retrieving backward, the front foot is always moved back. Correct timing and even pace are the key to performing the form. Remember that your upper body should be light, middle body should be flexible and lower body should be solid and grounded. Throughout the form all movements and energies should be smoothly and fluidly connected without any pauses or stops.
Movements are initiated in the legs, directed by the waist and manifested through the hands. Always keep in mind, that you should continuously keep your body centered and upright. Sink shoulders and drop elbows. Arc your chest and round your back. Lead the qi or energy to the top of the head for upright posture and healthy alignment. Loosen the waist and hips. Synchronize the entire body.
Lead the qi down to the dantian (abdominal energy center) with your mind. The dantian is the main place where we store our energy. It is located two to three inches below the navel and two to three inches inside the lower abdomen. Because of its emphasis on qi cultivation, lively footwork, and higher stances, Sun-style is very suitable for all level of tai chi practitioners and it is especially beneficial for seniors and beginners.
Sun-style tai chi is characterized by a very unique flavor. Its agile footwork and emphasis on the circulation of qi and health benefits make it a very popular style of tai chi among all ages of tai chi practitioners. It usually takes about 10 months to learn the Sun tai chi 73 routine in our school. And it takes years of practice to be good at it. To master it, it will take a lifetime of training.
I wish everyone happy training and enjoy tai chi.
The above is an original article by Chenhan Yang. His Sun Tai Chi DVD (73 posture form), is available June 2021, publisher YMAA Publication Center, ISBN: 9781594397578.