Characteristics of Sun Style Taiji

Sun Shi Tai Ji was created by Master Sun Lu Tang. Sun Lu Tang is, of the general opinion, one of the greatest Masters in martial arts of recent times. In his youth, Mr. Sun mastered Xing Yi Quan and Ba Gua Quan. It was only when he was 53 years old that he began the practice of Tai Ji. His basic idea was that Xing Yi, Ba Gua and Tai Ji have the same theoretical base: that of the “Internal” martial arts (nei jia quan) in opposition to “external” martial arts (wai jia quan) which is founded on harnessing maximum muscle strength and striking force. According to a different way, the “Internal” martial arts aim at reaching effectiveness in combat by the harmony of the body and the optimal circulation of vital energy (nei gong). It is while being based on this idea of coherence between Xing Yi, Ba Gua and Tai Ji, that Sun Lu Tang created Sun Shi Tai Ji, synthesizing these three preexistent arts. Many of the postures from Sun Shi Tai Ji, have the same names as the postures of other Tai Ji, but are actually radically different from the latter, owing to the fact that they come from Xing Yi or of Ba Gua. It is the case of San Tong Bei, Lan Zha Yi, Ti Shou Shang Shi, Lou QI Ao Bu, Cad Nian Hou, Ye My Fen Zong, Yu Nu Chuan Suo, Yun Shou Xia Shi, Jin Bu Lan Chui, Jin Bu Zhi Dang Chui, etc.

The first characteristic of Sun Shi Tai Ji: The natural position of the body. The position of the body is more natural than in other forms of Tai Ji. The basic position – San Ti Shi – comes from Xing Yi. It differs from the traditional basic position – Hun Yuan Zhuang. The position of the body is higher (angle with the knees of 135°), the axis head – centre of gravity falls on only one foot and not with equal distance of the two feet, the feet are positioned one compared to the other according to an angle of 45° and not in parallel or are aligned like usually used in other schools of Tai Ji. All these characteristics respect the natural positioning of the body with two consequences. Initially a practice more favorable to health, without excessive wear (of the knees in particular). Then, a good balance between stability and flexibility.

Second characteristic of Sun Shi Tai Ji: Flexible and fast movement. The movement of the feet is flexible and fast: as soon as a leg advances or moves back, the other leg follows immediately. One does not find in Sun Shi Tai a horse riding stance with feet equal distance apart or the bow and arrow posture of traditional Tai Ji. In Sun Shi, one uses the free steps coming from Xing Yi and of Bagua. The centre of gravity always falls on one leg; a foot supports all the weight of the body, the other follows, free. The steps forwards are the steps of Beng Quan, and backwards the steps of Pi Quan. The steps of rotation correspond to the steps of Ba Gua. Sun Shi is light, fluid and fast. It is compared with the water which runs and with the clouds which slip into a windy sky.

Third characteristic of Sun Shi Tai Ji: The specific figure of Kai He. Sun Shi Tai Ji has a very specific figure; Kai He (to open – to close) which is found neither in other forms of Tai Ji, nor in Ba Gua or Xing Yi. This Kai He appears with each connection and transition. It makes it possible to control and adjust breathing and to accumulate the Shi (energy potential) in order to prepare for the next change.

Fourth characteristic of Sun Shi Tai Ji: It is an art which aims at effectiveness in combat. Sun Shi Tai Ji is truly an art of combat. The amplitude of the gestures is limited, the course of the hands are direct, natural and aims to be effective. . It is not the force of the arms which strike, but the sum total of the elastic force of each movement carried out on a correct and uniform axis of gravity.

Sun Style Martial Arts

Sun Style Martial Arts are unique both in the principles of practice and in developing the various powers needed to utilise the art. Because Sun Style is made up from the three main internal arts of Taiji, Xing Yi and Bagua it can be said to constantly evolve depending on the practitioners skill level, it is practiced in many ways by different people across the world and though they may not practice in the same way as myself I give them all respect and would gladly share my own experiences with them. What I would like to present with this article is an introduction to the Sun Style Martial Arts as practiced by myself as taught to me by Lei Shi Tai.

Background

Master Lei Shi Tai has been practicing Sun Style Martial arts since he was 5 years old and he is now over 60 years old, his only teacher was his Grandfather Master Lei Shi Mo who was a disciple of Sun Lu Tang and was a valued friend and adviser of the Sun Family, in fact Master Lei Shi Mo was a babysitter for Sun Jian Yun and was held in high regard by Sun Lu Tang for his quick mind and stubborn nature. When Lei Shi Mo first went to Sun Lu Tang he weighed 130kg and so Sun would only teach him the San Ti Posture, day by day Lei Shi Mo continued with this practice and soon his weight began to normalise and he was able to learn all Sun Lu Tang had to teach. Master Lei Shi Tai first began his study of Sun Style with Xing Yi, then after 7 years he began to learn Bagua. At the age of 15 he started to learn Taiji, this was a very good time for Master Lei to learn as he had an opportunity to observe many Sun Style practitioners who would visit his grandfathers house to discuss the theory and especially the practical aspects of the art through Tui Shou (Push Hands).

Before his grandfather passed away he instructed Lei Shi Tai to keep practicing and to follow Sun Jian Yun as she had been made head of the family and been given the responsibility of passing on Sun Style. At this time Master Lei related to me that he was very lucky to have such a teacher to follow as Sun Jian Yun.

Master Lei also had a very good friend called Liu Shu Lin who was a disciple of Sun Cun Zhou, this enabled him to get further skills by observing and learning how these two masters from the Sun family practiced the arts with very subtle differences. This coupled with his Grandfathers knowledge from Sun Lu Tang gave Lei Shi Tai a very unique and thorough knowledge.

I first started to learn Sun Style Taiji in 1999 from David Martin who had traveled to China over a number of years and became a disciple of Sun Jian Yun. From Dave I learned the Sun Style Taiji long form and the Taiji Sword form, his wife Su Ying was also a Sun Style practitioner and it was through them that I met Lei Shi Tai. I practiced with Lei Shi Tai in Beijing, France and the UK and he taught me Sun Style Xing Yi, Taiji and Bagua

Xing Yi

San Ti is the first posture to be learned and a thorough understanding is needed as it is in all the Sun Style, though it may be hidden at first glance, it is the most important basic.

Next the 5 Elements are learned with particular emphasis given to Pi Quan. The Xing Yi lineage I learned was directly from Guo Yun Shen to Sun Lu Tang to Lei Shi Mo to Lei Shi Tai to myself and so differs slightly from other forms of Xing Yi, that is not to say it is better just different.

Bagua

Basic walking is first learned in a straight line and then a circle, after that the single palm change and the double palm change are taught.

Taiji

Sun Style Taiji has a variety of forms but the 97 Step Traditional form is the one that gives the most benefit health wise.

All the above coupled with some push hands training will give a good understanding of how to use Sun Style in a practical situation. Obviously there is more to learning these arts than what I have included but it is also important to have a good teacher as a guide and to help you through the various stages of development.