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History of Tai Chi Chuan and the lineage of the RDTC School

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Master Dr Chi Chiang Tao
Dr Chi Chiang Tao

Richard Farmer
Richard Farmer

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There are many stories and legends concerning the beginnings of Tai Chi Chuan and no doubt in some part they are all true. The philosophical roots of Tai Chi are in Taoism which is at least 4,000 years old. It was instrumental in founding the Chinese Calendar and was applied in medicine through acupuncture.

One legend has it that the movements were brought from India by Bodhidharma, famed for carrying Buddhism from India to China and founding the original Shaolin Temple (527 AD). These moves were later taken by the Monks and co-ordinated with their trainings in non-violence and the cultivation of a peaceful mind. It was then used as a means of self-defence and exercise which would not disturb their meditative state of mind nor cause them to break their vows in those dangerous times.

Whatever the truth, undoubtedly the movements of Tai Chi came from a deep understanding of the Tao and its manifestations in form.

The earliest person to be associated with formal Tai Chi Chuan was a Taoist saint called Chang San Feng (1247 - 1447) of Wu Tang mountain.

The Chen family perfected the art with Chen Chang Hsin (1771 - 1853) being the man responsible for teaching Mr Yang and Mr Wu who formed the other two mainstream family forms in China - Yang Lu Chan (1799 - 1872) being the founder of the Yang Style

The next most influential Yang master from the West's point of view was Yang Chen Fu (1883 - 1936), Yang Lu Chan's grandson. He made the form less martial and more gentle, so expanding its accessibility to the ordinary people.

It is said that his best students were his son, Yang Sau Chung and one
Cheng Man Ching (1901 - 1975). It is here that the Yang family form falls into two groups: those who follow Yang Sau Chung who lived in Hong Kong; and those who follow Cheng Man Ching in Taiwan.

One of Cheng Man Ching's senior students was a
Dr Chi Chiang Tao, a Vice President of the Taiwan Tai Chi Chuan Association and its senior instructor. After a miraculous meeting with light, Dr Chi disappeared from the Tai Chi scene until John Kells met him nine years later.

Dr Chi, for me, has the most complete and pure Tai Chi of any teacher I have met. This quality is present from within, it is not a technique, but a state of being. When he taught John Tai Chi it came out of the experience of meeting something more powerful and mysterious than ordinary life alludes to. He said to me that if one has God who needs Tai Chi?! When one has Tai Chi who needs Chuan? - is another way of saying it. When he taught John this is where he taught from, it is very different from any other teacher I know about, and a very unique and true way of using this amazing Art.

Dr Chi's senior student was John Kells and on his return to London John began to teach what had been passed onto him by Dr Chi and founded the British Tai Chi Chuan Association. (BTCCA). Some years later he also reconnected the link with Yang Sau Chung in Hong Kong to reunite the Yang family form in terms of principles.

One of the members of the BTCCA and at one time its Centre Director, was one of John Kell's senior pupils and instructors, myself,
Richard Farmer. Some years after I had left the centre, after I had set up RDTC, John gave me permission to go back to the roots and study with Grand Master Chi Chiang Tao.

So the Yang line is continued with the essence of the movements handed down and rediscovered from master to pupil as manifested in my relationship with all my teachers, particularly Dr Chi Chiang Tao.

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