top of page

Yang and Wu - What's the Difference?

The Tai Chi form that is closest to Yang Style is the Wu Style. The Wu Style originates from the Yang Style and is characterized by its own unique features. Each style of Tai Chi has its own unique characteristics and benefits, and the best style often depends on the individual's personal preferences and goals.

The key differences between Wu Style and Yang Style Tai Chi are primarily in their stance, posture, and movement.

1. Stance and Posture:

Wu Style: Requires a square stance with both feet pointing forward. The width of the stance is equal to the distance between the front and back foot. It also emphasizes parallel footwork and horse stance training with the feet relatively closer together than the modern Yang or Chen styles.

Yang Style: Incorporates more substantial weight shifts between the legs.

2. Movements:

Wu Style: Typically features smaller and more compact movements compared to the larger and more expansive movements of Yang Style. It also emphasizes small circle hand techniques.

Yang Style: Known for larger and more expansive movements.

3. Martial Techniques:

Wu Style: Initial focus is on grappling, throws (Shuai jiao), tumbling, jumping, footsweeps, pressure point leverage and joint locks and breaks, which are trained in addition to more conventional tai chi sparring and fencing at advanced levels.

Yang Style: While Yang Style also includes martial techniques, it is often practiced for health benefits, with a focus on the flow of energy and relaxation.

Remember, both styles share the same energetic structure and internal principles, and the benefits of Tai Chi depend on what is happening inside the body and mind. The choice between Wu and Yang style often depends on personal preference and individual health and fitness goals.

Choosing between Wu Style and Yang Style Tai Chi often depends on your personal preferences and goals. Here are some factors to consider:

1. Physical Condition: If you have joint problems or need to avoid strenuous activity, you might prefer the smaller, more compact movements of Wu Style. On the other hand, if you're looking for more dynamic movements, Yang Style might be more suitable.

2. Purpose: If your primary goal is health and relaxation, both styles can offer benefits. However, if you're interested in martial arts applications, you might consider the style that aligns more with your interests. For example, Wu Style has a strong focus on martial techniques such as grappling and throws.

3. Learning Environment: Consider the teachers and classes available in your area. The best style is often the one you have access to good instruction in, and that you enjoy practicing.

4. Personal Preference: Some people are drawn to the fluid, expansive movements of Yang Style, while others prefer the subtlety and precision of Wu Style. You might want to watch demonstrations or take introductory classes in both styles to see which one you resonate with.

Remember, the most important thing is that you enjoy the practice and it helps you meet your health and wellness goals. Both styles have their unique characteristics and benefits, and both adhere to the principles of Tai Chi, promoting relaxation, balance, coordination, and internal strength.

It's possible to learn both Wu and Yang styles of Tai Chi simultaneously. However, it's important to consider a few things:

1. Complexity: Each style has its own unique movements and principles. Learning two styles at the same time can be challenging and may lead to confusion.

2. Progress: You might progress more slowly in both styles because your attention and practice time are divided.

3. Consistency: Practicing one style could potentially influence your performance in the other style due to their differences in movement and philosophy.

4. Instruction: It's crucial to have a knowledgeable and experienced instructor for each style to ensure you're learning the correct techniques and principles.

If you're a beginner, it might be beneficial to start with one style, become proficient in it, and then consider learning the other. This approach allows you to fully understand and appreciate the nuances of each style. However, if you're an experienced practitioner and are interested in exploring different styles, learning both could offer a broader perspective and deeper understanding of Tai Chi. Always remember to consult with your instructors before making a decision. They can provide valuable advice based on their understanding of your abilities and goals.

Wu Style Philosophy:

Wu Style Tai Chi is deeply rooted in Taoist principles. It emphasizes the concept of "Wu-Wei", which means "non-doing" or "effortless action". This principle suggests that one should act naturally and let things occur without forcing them. The philosophy of Wu Style Tai Chi is about discerning and following the natural forces, and not pitting oneself against the natural order of things. By acting naturally and letting things be, one becomes in harmony with their own essence, the Tao.

Yang Style Philosophy:

Yang Style Tai Chi is based on the principle of 'softness in strength,' focusing on the balance between yin and yang. This philosophy is mirrored in the movements, which are gentle yet powerful, demonstrating how relaxed power can overcome brute force. The purpose of Yang style Tai Chi is harmony and long life. It's about understanding that after a grueling work week (Yang), there’s a need for rest and rejuvenation (Yin). By internalizing this balance, one is better equipped to handle life's stresses, knowing there's a valley after every peak and vice versa.

Both styles share the common philosophy of Tai Chi, which is a physical expression of Taoist philosophy. Tai Chi adopts the Taoist ideals of softness overcoming hardness, of wu wei (effortless action), and of yielding into its martial art technique while also retaining Taoist ideas of spiritual self-cultivation.

Remember, the practice of Tai Chi is not just about the physical movements, but also about cultivating the mind and spirit. It's a holistic practice that integrates body, mind, and spirit. Whether you choose Wu Style or Yang Style, the key is to embrace the underlying philosophy and apply it to your practice and daily life.

Incorporating Taoist principles into your Tai Chi practice involves both physical movements and mental cultivation. Here are some ways to do it:

1. Embrace Wu Wei (Effortless Action): Wu Wei is about letting things happen naturally without forcing them. In your Tai Chi practice, this could mean not forcing your movements but rather allowing them to flow naturally. It's about being in the moment and responding to the energy around you.

2. Balance Yin and Yang: Tai Chi is all about balance. Try to incorporate the concept of Yin (soft, passive, receptive) and Yang (hard, active, giving) in your movements. For example, when you push (Yang), you also need to be ready to yield (Yin).

3. Cultivate Qi (Life Energy): Taoism believes in the concept of Qi, the life force that flows through all living things. In Tai Chi, you aim to cultivate and balance your Qi through your movements and breath.

4. Meditation and Mindfulness: Taoism places a lot of emphasis on meditation and mindfulness. During your Tai Chi practice, try to stay present and mindful of each movement. This can help you achieve a meditative state and deepen your practice.

5. Integration of Body, Mind, and Spirit: Taoism believes in the unity of body, mind, and spirit. In your Tai Chi practice, aim for this integration. Your movements (body), attention (mind), and intention (spirit) should be aligned.

6. Follow Nature: Taoism teaches us to follow the way of nature. In Tai Chi, this could mean practicing in natural surroundings, or it could mean incorporating the fluidity and grace of natural movements into your practice.

The goal of incorporating Taoist principles into your Tai Chi practice is not just about improving your physical health, but also about cultivating your mind and spirit. It's a holistic approach to wellness.

The five primary styles of Tai Chi are named after the Chinese families who developed them.

Chen Style: This is the oldest form and the source of all other styles. It’s characterized by its explosive movements, including jumps, kicks, and strikes.

Yang Style: Developed from the Chen style, it’s the most popular style worldwide. It’s known for its big, exaggerated movements executed slowly and gracefully.

Wu Style: This style was developed by a military officer cadet who trained under Yang Lu-ch’an, the founder of the Yang style. It’s unique in its emphasis on the extension of the body by leaning forward and backward.

Sun Style: This style combines elements of all the previous styles and emphasizes quickness and agility.

Hao Style (Wu Hao Style): This is the least popular and most internally focused of the five styles. It emphasizes small, subtle movements and internal strength.

Each style, while having its own unique characteristics, shares the same origin and many similarities. They all combine meditation and martial arts.


3 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

1 Comment

Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
May 30
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

I guess picking the correct style is in your best interest depending on what your goals are.

bottom of page