Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Shall we bring back Tai Chi’s Original Name?

Photo: Old Shoe Woman

When the founder of Yang Style Tai Chi, Yang Lu Chan 楊露禪(1799-1872)taught Tai Chi in his hometown of Yongnian (in China’s Hebei province, near Beijing) he called it Mian Chuan or Hua Chuan. Only after one of Yang’s students, Wu Yu-hsiang, 武禹襄(1812--1880), the founder of Wu style Tai Chi, discovered a book called “Discussion of Tai Chi Chuan” by Wang Zhong Yue, did the name Tai Chi Chuan start to become widely used.

The literal translation for Tai Chi Chuan is "Supreme Ultimate Fist.” If you are not familiar with or have never practiced Tai Chi before, the words “Supreme” and “Ultimate” are misleading and will most likely give you the wrong idea about what the art of Tai Chi really is. Tai Chi is a martial arts style that is soft and fluid and based upon principles of circular motion and the transfer and absorption of energy.

The name Mian Chuan translates to “Soft Fist.” The word “Mian” can also be translated as “cotton” or “soft like cotton.” In Chinese, if we combine two “Mian” , the result is “Mian Mian,” a word that means “continue” or “continuous.” On a similar note, name Hua Chuan translates to “Transferring Fist,” and it means that any energy attacking can be transferred and redirected.

From a marketing standpoint, it might be a good idea to use the name Tai Chi, but it’s more realistic to use the name Mian Chuan to describe the forms that we practice today. By calling it Mian Chuan, people are more likely to understand that they are learning a martial arts style that is soft and relaxed. By using the name Mian Main, people will understand that it is a martial arts style that has continuous movements.

Furthermore, the name Tai Chi Chuan can also be confused with other Chinese martial arts styles with similar names, such as Wu Chi Chuan and Ba Chi Chuan. People may think Wu Chi and Bai Chi are similar to Tai Chi, but in fact they are totally different.

And so I ask you: Shall we bring back “Mian” and re-integrate it into the name of the forms we practice today? To avoid losing Tai Chi as we know it, perhaps we could compromise and call our art Tai Chi Mian Chuan. What do you think? It might be a good idea!

Copyrighted Huan's Tai Chi 2010

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