Breathing is probably the single most important aspect of the martial arts.

We can all learn.

Earlier, I wrote about the time and the area where Tai Chi is generally believed to have been formalized, and thus recognized, as what we practise today.

Yet, in doing so we cannot ignore the fact that it did not come out of a vacuum, but was heavily influenced by many people before this period.

It may not have been called Tai Chi. It may have had many different movements as well as influences from religious practices.

Yet, like almost all martial arts that we are familiar with, the influences and lineage can go back a long ways, even from different countries.

The styles we practise today may not look like what was originally taught; nor are the religions that heavily influenced their development a part of our practice.

Yet, traces of the philosophy that guided the evolution of these martial arts still underpin all we do.

This is the same with almost all of them, no matter what country people feel they originated from.

For Taijiquan, we have to remember that the country we know as China, today, was not the same a few-hundred years ago.

The influences of many people and other cultures shaped the very beginning of modern martial arts. This continues today as each person adds their own interpretation to these styles.

One of the oldest stories told is that, in the 12th century, a monk called Chang San Feng was sitting at his usual six-hour meditation when he heard strange sounds outside.

Looking out the window into the garden below, he noticed a snake, with raised head and darting tongue, hissing at a crane.

The crane then swooped down on the snake, and the fight was on.

As the snake tried to dart its fangs into the crane’s leg, the crane would raise its leg and lower a wing to ward off the attack.

After some time, when neither creature could make contact with the other, they both tired of the fight and stopped.

From this observation, Chang realized that the real wisdom of self-defence lay in knowing how to yield in the face of strength.

After a period of reflection upon what he had witnessed, he formulated the movements of Taijiquan based on the battle between the snake, and the crane and his own deep insights into human anatomy, as well as his long history of martial-arts training.

This story shows some of the philosophy and history behind the development of Taijiquan.

But the story of Taijiquan is far from complete.

Its transfer to North America is already having a profound impact on the way it is taught and interpreted. We now see competitions with forms as well as push hands.

Many people are experimenting with what they know and mixing other influences into the more-traditional teachings. This is similar to what happened in China and the four main styles that evolved from the original.

As with everything, there are those using people’s fascination with this art to make money or gain fame.

Fortunately, in the Yukon we have people who study and practise, for the love of the art, without any intention for fame or profit.

As I have said earlier, we are a very fortunate territory to have such a strong, vibrant martial-arts community dedicated to sharing with everyone what they learn.

Todd Hardy has studied and taught a variety of martial arts over 38 years and has trained with many people from around the world. Would you like to comment on what you read here? Contact him at [email protected]