History and Methods of the Tchoung Style Tai Chi Stick Shape
A little-known self-defense weapon also offers benefits for exercise. The tai chi staff was developed by the great teacher Tchoung Ta-tchen. This is a novel form and practice that he developed over many years. He certified his American teachers to pass on this method, including David Harris, Andrew Dale, Don Scott, and Harvey Kurland.
Traditional kung fu teaches 18 traditional weapons and a variety of secondary weapons. The internal art of tai chi ch’uan, however, teaches only four traditional weapons: double-edged straight sword, single-edged curved broadsword, spear, and halberd. There are also several non-traditional weapons, such as the double sword, the flute, the fan, and the short staff. One of the lesser known is the walking stick, which the Chinese call tuan kune.
Some students practice weapon shapes for exercise or exciting displays, while others do it to defend themselves. Tai chi ch’uan poles are among the few that provide exercise, self-defense, and a method of harmonizing mind and body.
The staff forms are part of the Tchoung style of tai chi ch’uan, developed by Grandmaster Tchoung Ta-tchen. Originally from the Chinese province of Hunan, Tchoung was an officer in the Kuomintang army and fought against the Japanese. He trained with many masters and learned various dark styles, such as the Green Duckweed Sword, the Gate of Pain Sword, the Beggars Green Bamboo Sticks Style, the Three-Power Sword, and the Mountain Sword. Tchoung became well known in Taiwan and later served as director of the Taipei Tai Chi Ch’uan Health and Defense Institute and as a representative of the Chinese Tai Chi Ch’uan Association of Taiwan.
From his experience teaching in Taiwan and abroad, Tchoung believed that traditional weapons were not appropriate for use in the modern world. If a man walks into a post office with a spear or sword, Tchoung would say, people will look at him like he’s crazy. Although weapons such as the spear and sword have been used effectively in combat for thousands of years, they are not practical in the 20th century. But Tchoung believed that the cane was a practical and easy-to-use self-defense weapon, especially for older people. It was for this reason that he developed and taught the shapes of the cane.
Students do not begin their study of Tchoung-style tai chi ch’uan by learning the shapes of the sticks; They must learn the system in a specific order: Chi kung, ding gong / zhan zhuang (standing meditation), and basic exercises come first. Then comes the old-fashioned yang way and the short way. Emphasis is placed on the essence of tai chi ch’uan: relaxation, breathing, turning the waist, and shifting weight. The basic concept follows the theory of the differentiation of yin and yang.
After mastering the solo forms, students begin to learn hand push and san shou, a two-person form that teaches the applications of the movements. They then learn the quick tai chi ch’uan form and the tai chi sword. Finally they come to the forms of the cane alone and in pairs. At this point, the cane can be substituted for a cane.
Many benefits come from practicing cane forms. The most important thing is to learn to relax and work on the basic principles of tai chi ch’uan with an implement in hand. This teaches students a higher level of relaxation and concentration as they learn to extend their mind to the end of the stick.
The health benefits of handling the cane are more tangible. Overload the arm and shoulder muscles by strengthening them. Older people like to use the cane because it provides additional exercise benefits over normal tai chi ch’uan training and can help prevent osteoporosis.
Tchoung taught the students the shapes of the staff after they had learned the straight sword shape because the use of the staff involves a similar type of “snake-like” energy with an emphasis on turning the waist and relaxing the arms. In reality, all movements are generated by the feet and the waist. Stiff or muscle-oriented movements that involve only the arms are not correct and only result in one shaking the stick.
The dimensions of the cane or cane must be as follows. Standing, it should reach up to the waist. One end should be rounded, but a hooked cane can easily be used and is preferred by some teachers. (The hooked end can be used for catching, throwing, and hitting pressure points, but it’s slower in transitions and can hook onto your own arm if used improperly.) The end of the handle, which is used for pushing, can be thick and heavy. because the added mass will give a greater hitting power. Beginners, however, should start with a lighter club to avoid injuring the forearm muscles.
Because the cane cannot cut like a sword, its use is aimed at breaking, striking, pushing, and locking the joints. Many of the movements are similar to other forms of tai chi ch’uan weapons, but the throw has a different energy and focus.
The shapes of the staff differ from the spear and halberd shapes of tai chi in that the staff is primarily a one-handed weapon and lacks a sharp point for pushing. It requires coordination between the body and the energy of winding the silk; This spiraling and spiraling energy is an essential part of basic training.
As mentioned above, the learning of the tai chi ch’uan stick is progressive. Advanced students generally start with 24 core exercises that include specific stretches, warm-ups, individual patterns, and partner exercises. Practicing these basics lays a good foundation for the solo form.
After learning the basics, students begin the Tchoung-style solo walking stick form. This teaches how to flow and coordinate footwork with the movements of the weapon. It also includes a variety of angles, stops, and hits.
While practicing the solo form, a high stance is used for greater mobility. There are some balancing and strengthening movements of the legs, and rapid changes in the direction and height of the pose are emphasized.
After learning the solo form, students learn the “three-power” staff form. There are two variations of this two-person form: one is done with the traditional cane that reaches to the waist, and the other with a cane that reaches the armpit. At this stage, students focus primarily on the practical self-defense applications of movements.
By practicing club shapes, applications, and drills, students learn to use the weapon in self-defense. However, it takes a certain amount of technical skill and strength to use it effectively. Only through the proper use of mechanics does the power of the whole body flow in accordance with the basic principles of tai chi ch’uan.
The baton is a practical defensive weapon that is not designed for sport. When exercises and forms are completed diligently, students will be able to use the cane effectively even under stressful conditions, when precision and coordination would otherwise be impaired.
Most tai chi ch’uan students and teachers, however, practice the forms themselves for their physical benefits and training of the mind and body. To achieve these goals, the staff must become an extension of the body that can be used to harmonize with the mind. In this way, training becomes an effective way to develop mental discipline.
Actually, most tai chi ch’uan students are interested in improving themselves, not in defeating an opponent. The cane forms are an extension of that philosophy. Being able to duel with poles is not the primary goal of most people’s training. Good health is. After all, you can train until you can defeat 1,000 opponents, but will that add years to your life?
In tai chi ch’uan, preserving the health of the practitioner is the highest goal. Practicing the shapes of the cane can bring you one step closer to him.
Kurland, H., “Tai Chi Walking Stick”, Kung Fu Illustrated, August 1996