Five Section Taijiquan
The Five Section Taijiquan program material is designed to be flexible and fun, with the idea that students who are enjoying themselves will stick around to take on the more difficult challenges. It is possible to move through the material in many ways following different lines of reasoning. Its design makes it possible, for example, to use this material to best serve the needs of each group and the individuals in it. This is what is meant by 'modular'.
Based on one of the most popular tai chi routines in the world today, the Five Section form has it's roots in the Beijing 24-step. Created in 1956 in Beijing as part of the Chinese National Fitness Program, the idea was to to provide Chinese citizens with a simple, basic taiji form. It is a simplified version of the traditional Yang Style long form. Compared to the long form, which has 108 movements and takes 20 - 40 minutes to perform, the 24 form has fewer repetitions, and is typically performed in 5 - 7 minutes.
The Five Section Taijiquan is a modern routine created by Master Sam Masich. Having trained and taught for more than thirty years, he has been included as one of the 100 Extraordinary Chinese Martial Arts Practitioners in the world today by the International Wushu Sanshou Dao Association and is an awarded eighth degree master.
It is part of a comprehensive curriculum which includes:
- The basic five section tai chi solo form
- Five Section two person tai chi
- Five Section tai chi sword
- Five Section two person tai chi sword
- Five Section Chen style
- intermediate to advanced practices with sensing hands (Jue Shou) and energy work (Qigong).
Forms and exercises from '5 section taijiquan' (wuduan taijiquan in Chinese) have been adopted by Tai Chi schools around the world. The program has been designed to meet the needs of contemporary recreational taiji groups and to prepare committed students for traditional taijiquan training.
There are many ways of structuring your 5 section program. For those looking to practice taiji at the recreational level the 5 section solo form is ideal as it introduces the art in a principled way. This allows the early level student an opportunity to see why the art is the way it is. It is possible, having learned the basic form, to continue on in a number of ways. One can learn the more challenging coordination movements of 24 taijiquan or continue on to the solo sword, two person form or even the chen-style 5 section form. Each of these follows the same choreography and addresses a different aspect of taijiquan.
If practitioners are eager for partner work they might play with the two person forms combined with sensing-hands and sensing-sword work. For those nervous about partner forms or who have had bad experiences with taiji push-hands, the jue-shou approach to connection and movement-through-relaxation can be perfect for breaking down barriers. While there are some practical recommendations on how to use the curriculum, the program gives one permission to experiment.
Questions & Answers about 5 Section Taijiquan
What does 'wuduan' taijiquan mean?
Wuduan (五段) is Chinese and means literally 'five sections' referring to the five movement passages that exist within each of the 5 section taijiquan forms. The sections follow this general format: advancing, retreating, movement to the side, movements of balance and extension, fixing the centre.
Is 5 section taijiquan a martial art?
Not exactly. Although all taijiquan is based on the traditions of Chinese wushu (martial arts), martial application and strategy are only suggested in the wuduan program. It is true however, that practitioners well trained in 5 section forms, connection work and principles training are often better prepared for the rigorous intensity of traditional taijiquan training which is in its essence a martial art. In martial arts terms one can think of wuduan taijiquan as an accelerated early or pre-training program.
Where does the 5 section taijiquan program come from?
The wuduan program has been developed and researched for over twenty years under the guidance of Sam Masich who is considered to be one of the top taijiquan educators in the world today. Having worked in conjunction with many professional taiji practitioners, including renowned author/educators Liang Shouyu and Yang Jwing Ming, Sam continues in his quest to make taiji a better experience for beginning and intermediate learners and to inspire serious practitioners in their dreams of traditional taijiquan mastery.
Is this kind of taiji only for beginners?
The wuduan forms, which span beginner, intermediate and moderately advanced levels, are well suited to meet the needs of modern recreational taiji learners. Beginning students who want to get a 'feel' for what taiji is about can acquire the basics and have a practice to enjoy for the rest of their lives.
More serious students can prepare for advanced traditional taijiquan training with the 5 section program as well. Many cases have shown 5 section trained taiji players to have better ability and understanding of the art than traditionally schooled students who must spend a long time gaining basic level skills.
Mastering the basics through the wuduan program can accelerate overall taiji development by many years.
Are there levels or belts in wuduan taijiquan?
No. Some schools of Chinese wushu use belt ranking systems but this is mostly a characteristic of the martial arts of other asian countries. There are no formal certifications for skill level within 5 section taijiquan although it is possible to take teacher's training courses and be recognized as an instructor.
Why are there no sabre, fan or other weapons forms in the 5 Section Taijiquan program?
In designing the 5 section sword work, great care has been taken to include many basics which are acquired through traditional sabre training. The wuduan taijijian (sword) curriculum is one of the best in the world, even compared with classical methods. Although the 'taiji fan' has gained greatly in popularity in recent years, it is not a traditional taiji weapon and belongs to no traditional taijiquan curriculum. The 5 section program is not meant to be a miniature version of all that exists in taijiquan, rather a set of tools for getting the gist of the art. A thorough study of 5 section taiji will provide a solid basis for learning all content in the art of taijiquan.
What is qigong and how is it related to 5 section taijiquan?
Qigong (氣功 pronounced 'chee gong'), as practiced today is a relatively new health art although it has roots in ancient neigong (內功) 'internal practices'. While the concept of qi or, 'vital energy', has been around for centuries, 'qigong' is a relatively new term and most popular practices are quite recent. While taijiquan and qigong share some common ancestry as neigong derivatives, it is incorrect to say that taiji comes from qigong. It is in fact more correct that the popularity of taijiquan in the last century has spurred the growth and even invention of qigong. The wuduan taiji energetic practice called the '5 Words of Selfcomposure' fall into the category of neigong or 'internal practice'.
What is 'Simplified 24 Taijiquan'?
In the 1950's a set of initiatives were introduced by the Chinese government designed to help promote and develop physical fitness through Chinese martial art culture. The Simplified 24 Movement Taijiquan (二十四式太極拳) was issued in 1956 after a committee of experts choreographed some of the most popular sequences from the traditional yang style long form. The '24' is now practiced around the world.
The 5 section taijiquan solo yang-style form is a further simplification of the 24 which itself possesses several intermediate level movements too difficult for most beginners. Within the context of the 5 section taijiquan program the 24 simplified form is something to aspire toward and conforms to principles mastered the 5 section solo yang routine.
There are yang and a chen style variations within wuduan taiji. What about the other traditional styles such as wu or hao styles?
Of what are considered to be the five major traditional family styles of taijiquan, chen is considered to be the oldest and the parent style from which the others emerged. It is distinctive in several ways. It tends to be practiced with a lower, wider stance and features some jumping and several explosive strikes. It is also the only style that mostly expresses force laterally. The other four styles, yang, wu, hao and sun orient themselves for the most part directly. The yang-style 5 section form expresses the 'square' principle clearly enough to provide good preparation for the study of any of the four square traditional styles.
Why is partner work important in taiji?
Taijiquan, in its essence, is a partner activity. Traditionally speaking, solo forms and exercises are meant to prepare for two person work. While practitioners can learn and experience many positive results from solo work, far greater benefit comes from applying principles while in physical contact with another taiji player. It can fairly be said that without partner connection the essence of taiji is missing.
For various reasons partner work does not appeal to everyone and many enthusiasts have had unhappy experiences with taiji push-hands or martial applications work. The purpose of wuduan jue-shou or 'sensing-hands' is to open up a tactile dialogue which includes communication through touch, transformation of energy and movement through relaxation. By focusing attention on the basics of making and maintaining partner connection (rather than on competitive outcomes), jue-shou can help practitioners to transform what they have learned through solo work into a meaningful understanding of the art of taijiquan. Sensing-hands, as adopted by the 5 section program, is in fact authentic preparation for traditional taiji partner work.