Tai Chi Night was led by Felix Fan, Chinese Instructor for the Confucius Institute and Martial Arts Master. Fan has participated in martial arts since the age of 10 and has been teaching for 26 years. The night began with an introduction of Tai Chi. Tai Chi is the English spelling of Taiji with Tai meaning “utmost” and ji meaning “beginning” or “only one.” Taiji is described as soft, slow and light boxing. There are five styles of Taiji with Chen, the oldest, Yang, Wú, Wǔ and Sun style. Each style is named after the last name of the person who created them, as per Chinese Custom.
Taiji is part of the Ancient Martial Arts Categories and is recognized as a part of Kung Fu. There are different types of Taiji such as sword, broad sword, spear, fist and push hand. The sword involves the use of a thin sword. Fan had a collapsible sword used for demonstrations. The broad sword would be the type of sword used in medieval times, very flat and knight like. The spear would be straight. Fist and push hand were the different types of hand styles used in Taiji. Taiji is known to believe that softness is stronger than hardness with flowing circular motions and the lack of pure striking motions that are common among most martial arts.
“Taiji is a unique martial art because it embodies the Chinese Philosophy,” Fan said.
According to Fan, Chinese philosophy is where a person’s inner strength is their outer strength and exemplifies the idea softness is stronger than hardness
Taiji was first taught in the United States in 1939 by Choy hok Peng, a student of Yang Chenfu.
“I noticed that American students are different from Chinese Students [since teaching]. I have an easier time [teaching] with Chinese students because I speak Chinese, but I enjoy teaching both,” Fan said.
As to why people learn Taiji, Fan gave three reasons: to keep fit, relax your body and calm your mind, and it can be used as a form of self-defense.
Fan then went through basic demonstrations of Taiji while playing calming music in the background, the music he would use in his classes. The participants followed Fan’s movements, and he brought out the collapsible swords for them to try. These swords are not sharp and were approved by the university because the most they can do is bruise a person. Fan ended the night by giving demonstrations of some expert level moves.
“Taiji takes a long time to learn. If you keep learning you will keep growing, and one day you can [get on his level],” Fan said.