Wu Tai Chi: An Insider's Guide

An outsider—those not in the know—might describe Wu tai chi as pretty boring to watch. The moves are slow and deliberate and sometimes microscopic. That’s how the external physical movements appear.

Inside Action. But on the inside, powerful energy flows and huge movements are taking place. Think of a pressure cooker. Its swirling gas whirlpools and bubbling liquid can’t be seen from the outside. Inside is where all the action is.

Wu Video Clip. With this in mind, watch a video clip of the Wu style tai chi.

Opening and Closing of the Joints. Internal pressure is generated through the opening and closing of the joints, rather than expansive movements of arms and legs.

While Wu tai chi contains postures and moves for fighting, its small and steady movements will be an easier way for some to access the health and stress management benefits of tai chi.

Deep stretches. The deep internal stretches will relieve the deep, tension-holding areas of the back, neck and shoulders. These stretches also reach into the pelvis, where a number of back problems begin.

Wu style tai chi emphasizes stretches in the pelvic area through opening and closing the area known as the kwa.

Organ Massage. The compressed stances and deeply dropped elbows help to create immense pressure in the internal cavities, leading to a type of internal organ massage. Alternating waves of high and low pressure pass through the abdominal cavity, massaging the internal organs.

wu beach grp

Meditative Practice. The Wu style may appeal to those looking for a more meditative, quiet practice. This includes beginners with a natural inclination to inner work as well as those with yang temperaments, who seek a very yin tai chi style.

Practice Almost Anywhere. Those with limited practice space—including frequent travelers who often find themselves in small hotel rooms—may choose Wu tai chi of sheer practicality. A small frame Wu style requires much less space than larger frame styles.

Protect and Heal the Back and Knees. Those with back or knee injuries or who are struggling with weight issues should consider the Wu style. A small frame Wu style will put less strain on the legs and knee joints than other styles.

Easy Choreography. The moves are minimal, and the time and effort needed to learn them are low, compared to the Chen and Yang forms. Even as a beginner, its possible to quickly master the moves in Wu tai chi.

A tai chi form recommended for beginners is the Wu style short form. Find out more about the 16 move Wu short form here.

Focus on Energy. With fewer choreographic worries, the practitioner can focus on learning to feel chi and energy flows. Wu style practitioners can develop energy sensitivity faster than in larger frames. For practitioners of the Wu style, the emphasis is on looking inside rather than on the external moves.

Sometimes this process of looking inward may feel like trying to penetrate a black hole. Beginners should be prepared for some initial struggle sessions before being able to relax into the form and feeling their chi or life force.

In the long term, the energy benefits in terms of health and relaxation may be easier accessed through the Wu style of tai chi. However, more up-front energy awareness is needed at the beginning to appreciate the small-frame Wu style.

Chuan You founds the Wu Style. The Wu style of tai chi emerged from the Yang style of tai chi. Chuan You was a top student of Invincible Yang, who had founded the Yang style. Chuan You went on to develop the Wu style (named such only because his family was forced to change their name for political reasons).

There are three main branches of the Wu family style: Chuan You’s, that of his son Wu Jien Chuan, and those of Wu Jien Chuan’s sons.

The Wu style is the second most popular form of tai chi, after the Yang. Its practitioners tout the increased awareness that comes with the focused internal movements of Wu style tai chi.

Next: Read about the evolution and history of the different tai chi styles.