Sun Style Tai Chi Chuan was developed by the famous martial artist Sun Lu Tang (1861-1932) also known as Sun Fu Quan. It contained the essence of his martial arts experience and techniques. Sun was famous also for his Ba Gua Zhang and Xing Yi Quan which he learned from famous masters. He was already highly skilled when he came to learn Taijiquan and in the later part of his life, taught it as his preferred art.
Sun Style Tai Chi Chuan is the most recently developed of the five major styles which were taught when Taijiquan was first made public. His great reputation as a martial artist made Sun a sought after master but Sun never taught his art to promote violence, he taught it to promote peace and good health. His form of Taijiquan incorporated what he felt were the key elements of Ba Gua Zhang and Xing Yi Quan into the framework and theories of Taijiquan.
Having learnt from the great Hao Wei Chen (1849-1920). Sun Style Tai Chi Chuan retains many of its characteristics like the high standing and emphasis on opening and closing. With more emphasis on mobile stepping, Sun Style Tai Chi Chuan is often referred to as the active step small form of Taijiquan.
In order to more fully understand Sun Style Tai Chi Chuan, we must first examine the arts which Sun Lu Tang studied and for which he was famous for. Even though Sun Lu Tang is a recent historical figure, there is much legendary material about him. Fortunately, his daughter Sun Jian Yun is still around to provide us authentic details into the life of her father. A diary of his which recorded his experiences in martial arts was stolen, a great loss to the martial arts community, perhaps one day it will be recovered and the precious wisdom of a great martial artist be shared with the martial artists of the world.
Through the efforts of Sun Lu Tang’s family and students, and his great reputation as a martial artist, Sun Style Tai Chi Chuan is quite well known and is practiced in many countries. Since the liberalisation of China, Sun Jian Yun, his daughter, has been able to meet with foreign enthusiasts adding new impetus to the promotion of the style. Sun Style Tai Chi Chuan stylists from China are also beginning to make their presence felt throughtout the world. Both bringing the precious treasure of the life work of Sun Lu Tang and the spirit which he taught and lived to all.
Sun Lu Tang – The Man
Sun Lu Tang was born poor and physically weak, the son of a poor farmer. Though he was very poor, Sun’s father bartered the produce he grew for Sun’s education. Sun was a very intelligent child and progressed quickly in his studies. Unfortunately, he only managed to study for a few years. Due to a bad season, his father could not afford let him continue his studies and due to the Imperial Tax, his father was forced to sell all that he had. And to make the situation even worse, he died shortly after that.
So poor was Sun and his mother that in the end, his mother had to beg a rich man to take Sun in as a servant so that he would at least not go hungry. The man saw that Sun was frail and weak, so he said he would provide him with food but would not pay him any money. The man’s son was a bully and would beat Sun any chance he got. For the sake of his mother, Sun endured the suffering and worked hard for his keep.
Later he studied martial arts with a local teacher, who was skilled in the external school of martial arts. Sun wanted to learn martial arts in the beginning because he didn’t want to be bullied by the rich man’s son. But he soon developed a genuine love for the martial arts. He was a quick study and his teacher taught him quickly. Later, because he injured a member of the rich man’s family when he tried to beat him, he was fired from his job and returned home to his mother.
There, he was only interested in martial arts and would not work but spent his time practicing. In order to relieve his mother’s burden, he often ate wild vegetables which he found in the country side. Things got so bad that he decided that he wouldn’t be a burden on his mother any more and commited suicide by hanging himself. Fortunately for posterity, two men saw him hang himself and quickly cut him down, bringing him back to his mother. They told him that no matter how bad things got, it was not worth dying. They gave him some money and left.
Sun and his mother used the money to send Sun to live with his uncle. His uncle owned a calligraphy shop and Sun would help in his uncle’s shop. His uncle was a kindly man and would not only feed and house him but also pay him for his work in the shop. Through his uncle’s contacts, he met his first internal martial arts teacher and learned Xing Yi Quan.
Later, he would go and live with his teacher and train full time. To progress further, he would later learn Ba Gua Zhang under the famous Ba Gua Zhang master Cheng T’ing Hua. All this time, Sun was very respectful of his mother and made sure that she was well taken care of. So great was his love and respect of his mother that when he visited her grave, he would take a bow every five steps.
Sun taught at many places and because of his skill became a famous martial arts teacher. Always heeding his teachers’ words, he always taught martial arts in terms of morality and never advocated violence and even turned away students who wanted to take up martial arts to learn how to fight. He once said that if somebody wanted to fight, he should use a gun.
Later Sun would meet up with Hao Wei Chen, the famous Wu style Tai Chi Chuan master and learn Taijiquan from him. Sun later integrated Ba Gua Zhang and Xing Yi Quan principles into his Taijiquan and developed Sun Style Tai Chi Chuan. He also wrote books on the internal martial arts he practiced and these have become important works for the martial arts community.
There are many legends about the man but as Sun Jian Yun, his daughter, cautions, her father was an exceptional martial artist but he was not superhuman. Sun always stressed that the keys to success in martial arts was to persevere in correct practice.
Sun Style Tai Chi Chuan Today
With Sun Jian Yun’s presence made available, the Sun Style Tai Chi Chuan practitioners around the world have access to the direct transmission of Sun Lu Tang via his daughter who was privy to many of the private aspects of his life and art. The popularity of Sun Style Tai Chi Chuan has grown because of that and through continuing efforts of the teachers of Sun Style Tai Chi Chuan is being spread to every corner of the world.
The Taijiquan community throughout the world continues to regard Sun Style Tai Chi Chuan as an authentic expression of the internal arts and one of the major styles of the art. Sun Lu Tang’s martial art and spirit continues to bring health, morals and martial skills to all those who practice the system.