Chen Si Tan's Taiji Quan from China topmost Wushu Super Star
The origins of Taijiquan are often attributed to one Zhang Sanfeng (a Taoist of either the 12th or 15th century depending on the source) who created the art after witnessing a fight between a snake and a crane. These stories were popularized in the early part of this century and were the result of misinformation and the desire to connect the art with a more famous and ancient personage. All of the various styles of Taijiquan which are in existence today can be traced back to a single man, Chen Wangding, a general of the latter years of the Ming Dynasty. After the fall of the Ming and the establishment of the Qing Dynasty (1644), Chen Wangding returned to the Chen village and created his forms of boxing. Originally containing up to seven forms, only two forms of Chen Style Taijiquan have survived into the present.
The Art was only taught to members of the Chen clan until a promising young outsider named Yang Luzhan was accepted as a student in the early part of the 19th century. Yang Luzhan (nicknamed "Yang without enemy" as he was reportedly a peerless fighter) modified the original Chen style and created the Yang style of Taijiquan, the most popular form practiced in the world today. Wu Yuxiang learned the Art from Yang Luzhan and a variation of the original Chen form from Chen Jingbing (who taught the "small frame" version of Chen Taijiquan) and created the Wu style. A man named Hao Weizhen learned the Wu style from Wu Yuxiang's nephew and taught the style to Sun Ludang, who in turn created the Sun style (Sun was already an established master of Xingyiquan and Baguazhang when he learned Taijiquan. He combined his knowledge of the other arts when creating his style). Yang Luzhan had another student, a Manchu named Chuan You (or Quan You), who in turned taught the Art to his son, Wu Jianchuan (or Jianquan). Wu Jianchuan popularized his variation of the Yang style, which is commonly refered to as the Wu Jianchuan (or Jianquan) style. In recent times (this century) there have been many other variations and modificationsof the Art, but all may be traced back through the above masters to the original Chen family form.
Pigua Quan or axe-hitch Chuan was known in ancient times as armor wearing Chuan. Ming Dynasty General Qi Jiguang included the move of putting on armours while fighting as laid out in his book, A New Essay on Wushu Arts.
When the National Wushu Institute was founded in Nanjing in 1928, Pigua Quan specialist Ma Yingtu was put in charge of the fist play department of the Institute. He invited another Pigua Quan pugilist Guo Chang-sheng from Hebei to lecture. The two of them delved into the Chuan adjusting the moves but keeping the excellent essentials and adding speed and explosive power as well as the skills from the 24-form Tongbei Quan. The revised edition of Pigua Quan turned out to be a com-pletely new art, which was said to be feared by even deities and demons.
Pigua Quan in fashion at present has come mainly from this revised version. The axe-hitch Chuan which is popular in Gansu Province consists of axe-hitch, blue dragon, flying tiger, Taishu and Dajiazi Quan (big frame Chuan ) while the popular version in Cangzhou is made up of axe-hitch, blue dragon, slow and fast axe-hitch and cannon Chuan.
Execution of the axe-hitch Chuan demands accuracy, fluency, agility, continuity, speed, power, dexterity, excellence, subtlety and uniqueness. Be it single moves, combinations of moves, or the entire routine, the axe-hitch Chuan requires a learning process which ranges from simplicity to complexity. In the first place, the stance and execution of movements must be accurate and standard. The emphasis then goes from accuracy to fluency, to agility and continuity, and then to speed, power, dexterity, excellence, subtlety and uniqueness.
Pigua Quan also concentrates on combinations of movements which are complementary to one another and is known for its slowness in pitching stances but its swiftness in delivering fist blows and its subtle use of tricks. The execution of moves and tricks involves tumbling, strangle-holding, axing, hitching, chopping, unhitching, scissoring, picking, brushing, discarding, stretching, withdrawing, probing, feeling, flicking, hammering and beating.
The features of the axe-hitch Chuan include abrupt starts and stops, powerful axing and hitching, straightening arms, holding arms and connecting wrists, twisting waist and hips, restraining chest and protruding back, standing high and creeping low, closing knees and clawing feet to the ground, lowering shoulders and breathing deep, as well as continuity of movements. Different styles of axe-hitch Chuan, however, have different stresses in execution