Single Whip

"Single Whip" of Tai Chi Chuan


Sifu, you told us that you did not learn Tai Chi Chuan formally from any teacher. But how is it that your Tai Chi Chuan is so good?

— Priya, India


Thank you for your compliments.

There are a few reasons why my Tai Chi Chuan is good even though I did not formerly learn Tai Chi Chuan from a teacher.

Firstly, everything in Tai Chi Chuan can be found in Shaolin Kungfu, which I believe is good too. So I just take those relevant parts from Shaolin Kungfu when I practice Tai Chi Chuan.

For example, I can perform Lifting Water and Cloud Hands in Tai Chi Chuan very well because I spent much time practicing Lifting Water in my Shaolin Golden Bell training, and practicing Cloud Hand movements in Shaolin patterns like Dragon Palms and Tiger Claws.

Many people, including Shaolin masters, may not realize the fact that Shaolin Kungfu contains all the elements of Tai Chi Chuan. Many people think that Shaolin Kungfu is hard and external, whereas Tai Chi Chuan is soft and internal. This is true at the beginning levels of Shaolin Kungfu. At advanced levels, Shaolin Kungfu can be very soft and intenral.

Secondly, I have many Tai Chi Chuan classics. Although I did not formally learn from a living Tai Chi Chuan teacher, I learned a lot from classical Tai Chi Chuan masters from the classics. Indeed, because of my understanding of Shaolin Kungfu, I can also understand Tai Chi Chuan better than most Tai Chi Chuan practitioners.

For example, because of my training of internal force in Shaolin Kungfu, I can understand very well when Tai Chi Chuan classics mention principles like "be relaxed, don't tense your muscles" and "use intention, don't use strength".

Thirdly my teaching of Tai Chi Chuan brings out my best not only in Tai Chi Chuan but also in Shaolin Kungfu. In other words, when I teach Tai Chi Chuan, not just practice it myself or read about Tai Chi Chuan principles, my performance not only in Tai Chi Chuan but also in Shaolin Kungfu improves tremendously.

For example, when I teach Grasping Sparrow's Tail to Tai Chi Chuan students, I show how the movements are performed slowly at first, then smoothly in a flowing manner, realizing the principle of "no beginning, no ending". This enables me not only to improve my own Tai Chi Chuan performance but also to understand how the transitional movements between Shaolin patterns should be performed.

Hence, my Shaolin Kungfu has greatly enriched my Tai Chi Chuan, and my Tai Chi Chuan also has greatly enriched my Shaolin Kungfu.

The above is taken from Question 1 August 2013 Part 1 of the Selection of Questions and Answers.


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