In old China, the different schools of martial arts were passed down from generation to generation within the family. So was Taiji Quan within Chenjiagou, or Chen Village, Henan Province, until Chen Changxing of the 14 generation broke this tradition in the 20-30′s of the 19th century by teaching the skills to Yang Luchan, who later created the most popular Yang-Style.
Yang Luchan was born into a poor family in 1799 in Guangping (present-day Yongnian) County, Hebei Province. He made a living by selling fine-grained yellowish soil used for making briquettes.
A man of sturdy build, with broad shoulders and powerful arms, he was known far and wide for his great strength. His wheelbarrow was always loaded with no less than 800 catties (400 kg) of soil, which was quite enough to meet the needs of half a street in the county seat.
Hence his nicknames of “800 Catties” and “Half the Seat.” Toiling and moiling in this way, he could earn just enough to support his family.
When people think about Taiji, the image of slow exercises performed by old people is what most readily comes to mind.
The tranquil, uniform speed seems so unrelated to western ideas of exercise, and so far removed from a martial art, that claims for its literal translation: “Supreme Ultimate Boxing” seem greatly exaggerated!
To solve this puzzle, it is helpful to have an historical perspective on the origin of two Taiji styles : The Yang and The Chen systems.