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태극권의 창시에 대해서는 여러가지 설이 있으나 문헌상의 기록과 일치하지 않는 부분도 많이 있어 지금 무예문화사(武藝文化史)에서는 아래의 세 가지 설을 기준으로 삼고 있다. 첫째가 무당산 도가선인 장삼봉 창시설이며 둘째는 명나라 말기 무장(武將) 진왕 정 창시설이고 마지막으로 셋째는 태극권경(太極拳勁)의 저자인 왕종악 창시설이다.

이 세 가지 설에 대한 여러가지 전설 및 이야기가 전해오고 있지만 중국의 태극권 연구가들 사이에는 명말 무장이자 하남성 온현 진가구의 제9대 진왕정이 창시했다고 보는 견해가 지배적이다. 즉 진왕정이 기효신서(중국의 병법서)의 권법에 황정경(道敎經典도교경전)의 원리를 합쳐서 태극권을 창시한 것으로 본다. '진왕정' 이후 14대인 진장흥때 태극권이 성행되기 시작되었다. 진장흥은 태극권의 투로를 간결화하여 태극권 1로, 2로로 정리 현 대적 체계를 만들었다. 이 진장흥의 제자가 바로 양식 태극권의 창시자인 "양로선"이다. 이때서야 진씨 일족에만 비전으로 전해오던 태극권이 비로소 외부인에게 조금씩 전해지기 시작했다.

진식 태극권을 일반대중에게 보급하기 시작한 사람은 진가구 17대인 진발과(1887∼1957)이다. 현재의 장문인은 제19대인 진소왕 선생이며 현재 호주에서 활발히 태극권을 보급하고 있다. 이미 수 백년의 역사를 가지고 있는 태극권은 동양 고대의 도가사상(太極論태극론), 철학, 무술, 양생(養生),호흡(呼吸: 黃庭經황정경 속의 吐納法토납법) 등의 문화 정수를 하나로 하여 명말청초에 하남성 온현 진가구의 진왕정(陳王庭)에 의해 비로소 완성되었고, 호흡과 권세(拳勢) 그리고 명상을 통해 온몸의 기를 유통시키고, 궁극적으로는 완성인(自然人)으로 가는 길을 제시하는 몸짓 중의 하나이다.


Founders of Taijiquan

Taijiquan is a major division of the traditional Chinese martial art of wushu. It derived its name from the philosophical term "taiji" that first appeared in The Book of Changes written anonymously during the Zhou Dynasty (11th century -- 221 BC): "In all changes exists taiji, which causes the two opposites in all things. The two opposites cause the four seasons, and the four seasons cause the eight natural phenomena." Here the eight phenomena denote the heaven, the earth, thunder, wind, water, fire, mountains and lakes.

Chen Wangting, Father of Taijiquan

There are different assertions as to who was the father of taijiquan. But it is generally believed that the honour should go to Chen Wangting who lived in the 16th century. Although nothing was known about the exact date of his birth and death, it has been confirmed that he belonged to the ninth generation of a Chen family in Wenxian County, Henan Province. According to the local chronicles, he served as a royal guard in his home village in 1641 and retired after the fall of the Ming Dynasty three years later. In an essay written in his declining years he said, "Now I am pining away in old age, my only companion being a book written by Huang Ting. I study the martial art when I am in the doldrums and do some farm work in busy seasons. Sometimes I beguile my leisure with teaching my disciples and my children and grandchildren, no matter what they will become -- dragons or tigers."

It was in the 1770s that Chen evolved five taijiquen routines, a changquan (long-range boxing) routine in 108 forms and a paochui (cannon boxing) routine.

In creating taijiquan, Chen Wangting was greatly influenced by Qi Jiguang(1528-1587), a famous general in the imperial army, who compiled 16 popular routines in his Boxing in 32 Forms as a textbook for military training. Out of these forms Chen assimilated 29 into his taijiquan sets, in a style distinctively his own. He expounded the essential points in a ballad composed by himself for easy memory, laying down the basic theories that are still generally accepted today.

In the following three centuries, the second, third and fourth taijiquan routines and the changquan set in 108 forms worked out by Chen Wangting gradually fell into disuse, while the cannon routine became the second routine of the present-day Chen school of taijiquan. The first taijiquan routine branched into the "old frame" and "new frame" during the 14th generation and later on, into the Yang, Wu,(武), Sun and Wu(吳) schools.

Chen Xin (1849-1929), Exponent of the Chen School

Taijiquan was invented by Chen Wangting and passed down to later generations of his family by word of mouth. There were little or no writings about it. Chen Xin, who belonged to the 16th generation, was both a man of letters and wushu expert. He decided to record the movements and explain them in written form as an authentic document for future followers.

In his childhood Chen Xin took a great interest in the new-frame taijiquan, invented by his grandfather's brother Chen Youben. But he did not achieve much as his father intended him to be a scholar. Neither did he go far in his academic pursuits; he was just a gongsheng, almost on the bottom rung of the literary ladder. It was in his later years that he devoted himself to a serious study of taijiquan. He spent 12 years writing the Taijiquan of the Chen School with Illustrations, in which he described the correct postures and movements and explained, from the philosophical and medical points of view, how to govern "external force" with "internal force."

The manuscripts, in more than 200,000 words, were completed in 1919, when Chen Xin's health was sinking rapidly. Having no son to inherit them, he called in his nephew and said to him "Pass these on if they're worth passing on; burn them up if they aren't." It was not until 1932 that the manuscripts came to light, and they were published next year in four volumes -- as the most original and complete book on the orthodox school of taijiquan.

After Chen Xin, the most outstanding exponent of the Chen school was Chen Fake(1887-1957). He was invited to Beijing in 1928 and lived there until his death, teaching the old-frame routine handed down from his great grandfather Chen Changxing.

Yang Luchan (1799-1872), Founder of the Yang School

Born into an impoverished family in Yongnian County, Hebei Province, Yang Luchan left his home at ten and worked as an indentured servant in the Chen family in Wenxian County. His master Chen Dehu, a fellow of the Imperial Academy, was fond of martial arts and employed Chen Changxing of the 14th generation to teach the young men in the evenings. Yang Luchan would watch attentively while waiting upon the wushu master, who readily accepted him as one of his disciples. Yang trained very hard and distinguished himself as a wushu artist.

Yang returned to Yongnian at 40 and lodged at a pharmacy owned by his late master Chen Dehu, making a living by teaching taijiquan. The premises of the drugstore belonged to a landlord named Wu Yuxiang who and his two brothers were all wushu lovers and took lessons in taijiquan from Yang.

Not long after, Yang left Yongnian for Beijing to teach taijiquan there. Drawing on his years of experience, he adapted his routine to suit people whose main object in learning it was to keep fit. Later, it was revised and further improved by his third son Yang Jianhou, who changed its style into a "medium frame" with moderate postures and slow, steady and flowing movements. These were later repeatedly revised by Jianhou's third son Chengfu and eventually developed into the "big frame," which is the present form of the Yang school of taijiquan.

Sun Lutang (1861-1932), Founder of the Sun School

Sun Lutang was a native of Wanxian County in Hebei Province. He first learned xingyiquan (form-and-will boxing) under Li Kuiyuan and then baguaquan (eight-diagram boxing) under Cheng Tinghua. As a master of both, he enjoyed a high reputation in Beijing and was nicknamed "Living Monkey King," a legendary hero in Chinese mythology.

In 1912, Sun happened to meet Hao He at an inn in Beijing. Hao had come to the capital to visit his relatives and friends and fallen ill. Sun took good care of him and got the best doctor to treat him. Grateful for Sun's kindness and help, Hao later taught him taijiquan, which he incorporated into the routines he had learned, thus creating the Sun school characterized by a smooth and coherent sequence of movements in advance and retreat. When the whole set is performed it is like the clouds drifting in the sky or water flowing down a stream.

Sun has left behind him many books on different wushu routines he was versed in.

Wu Jianquan (1870-1943), Founder of the Wu(吳) School

Wu Jianquan was of Manchu nationality and a native of Daxing County, Hebei Province. His father learned taijiquan from Yang Luchan when the latter was teaching it in Beijing, and then from Yang Luchan's second son Yang Banhou(1837-1892), who had in his childhood studied the small-frame routine from Wu Yuxiang.

Shortly after the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, Xu Yusheng founded the Society of Physical Culture in Beijing, where Yang Shaohou was engaged to teach the big-frame and Wu Jianquan to teach the small-frame taijiquan of the Yang school. After repeated improvements in the years that followed, the Yang style gradually developed into one of slow and gentle movements without jumps and leaps, thus making it increasingly popular among the people. Later members of the Yang family stopped teaching the small-frame routine completely, but Wu Jianquan continued his research and made it more and more popular until it was finally recognized as a distinct style known as the Wu school of taijiquan. In 1928 Wu was invited to teach as a professor in the Shanghai Wushu Society and the Jingwu Sports Society. In 1935 he himself founded the Jianquan Taijiquan Society, which played an important role in further promoting the Wu School. The Wu style is a combination of the big and small frames, with movements that are both compact and unrestrained.

Wu Yuxiang (1812-1880), Founder of the Wu(武) School

Wu Yuxiang came from a family of wushu lovers and profited from his brief association with Yang Luchan from whom he learned taijiquan. In order to get the hang of the Chen style, he paid a visit to Chen Changxing in 1852, only to find him too old and feeble to give instructions. So he found one of his distant nephews, Chen Qingping, who taught Wu the new-frame taijiquan as distinguished from Chen Changxing's old-frame style. After more than one month of hard training, Wu acquired its essential points, as shown by what he said to his brother: "Now that I have obtained a deep understanding of the Chen school, all that needs to be done is persistent practice."

Meanwhile his brother had by change obtained a copy of Manual of Taijiquan written by Wang Zongyue, which was of great enlightenment to Wu. It was on the basis of this book that he wrote two of his own, namely, Important Points for a Wushu Master and, ironically enough, Four-Character Secret Formulas Not to Be Passed On to Anybody. Concise and to the point, they laid down the foundation of the unique Wu school of taijiquan, which is characterized by quick and short-range movements.

While his brothers served as officials in different parts of the country, Wu Yuxiang lived a secluded life in his home village studying and teaching the martial art. Even at his death bed, he was still discussing taijiquan with his attendants.

Wu's most outstanding disciple was his sister's son Li Jinglun (1832-1892), who in turn passed on his skills to his fellow townsman Hao He (1849-1920). It was said that Hao was so strong that, in practising the push-hand exercise, he could lift his partner and hurl him to settle securely in a chair ten feet away. It was one of his pupils who founded the Sun school of taijiquan.

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태극권은 기공(氣功)을 이용하여 숨터(丹田단전)를 단련하여 기를 확장시키는 몸짓으로 널리 알려져 있다. 때문에 기공권으로 불리기도 하는데, 태극권은 어디까지나 기가 자유롭게 순환, 소통 되도록 하는데 목적이 있으며, 또한 인간과 지구, 그리고 우주와의 조화를 추구하기 때문에 터(場)에 대해서 매우 중요시하며 음과 양 그리고 오행의 원리에 기준을 두고 있다.

태극권을 체득하기 위해서는 다음의 네 가지 기본원리에 주목해야 한다. 이완(弛緩), 평온 (平穩), 자각(自覺), 동작(動作)이다. 태극권을 시작할 때 여러분은 숨터(丹田)에 자각을 집중함으로써 숨(呼吸)을 조절하는 방법을 배우게 되는데, 이는 폐활량을 크게 하고 몸 속의 독소를 제거하는 효과를 나타낸다. 수련을 계속해 나감으로써 태극권의 자세와 연속해서 이어지는 동작으로 인하여, 이 새로운 호흡법을 자유자재로 조절할 수 있게 된 다. 태극권을 수행함으로써 당신은 고요한 각성과 육체적 유연성 그리고 평온으로 나타난 자유로운 기의 흐름을 느낄 수 있다. 태극권은 비록 그것이 신체적인 동작을 통한 것이라 할지라도 정신을 중요시하며, 하나 하나의 동작 속에 마치 명상과도 같은 고요함이 들어있다. 태극권은 자연스럽게 당신으로 하여금 우주 에너지의 흐름에 연결될 수 있도록 함으로써 여러분 자신의 내부에 존재하는 그 에너지의 흐름을 느낄 수 있게 해 준다. 태극권에 숙달되기 위해서는 끊임없는 도전과 실천(자기와의 싸움)을 필요로 한다.

태극권의 동작은 아름답지만 아름다움 이상의 특징을 지니고 있으며, 그것은 명백한 단순성, 힘들이지 않는 부드러운 동작, 동작과 일치하는 호흡, 체중의 끊임없는 이동, 그리고 강력한 표현력 등 여러가지 중요한 특징들을 지니고 있다. 그리고 태극권에 있어서 정확한 자세, 동작표현은 특히 중요하다. 그런데 이것은 단순히 육체적 건강에만 좋은 것이 아니라, 정신적 영역에 더욱 커다란 효과를 가져다준다. 이런 이유로 태극권을 동선(動禪:움직이며 행하는 참선)이라 불러 왔던 것이다.

대부분의 서양 스포츠가 근육의 힘이나, 외부적인 것들을 중요시하는데 반해서 태극권은 대조적으로 정신적 자각의 힘이나 내부적인 것들을 더욱 더 중요시한다. 뿐만 아니라 내면의 각성을 통하여 몸 안에 짜여진 영육(靈肉) 의 통일성을 이끌어내도록 구성되어 있다. 그러므로 태극권은 어떤 운동보다도 균형적인 운동이라고 할 수 있다. 동작의 완만하고 느림을 통하여 통합적이고 더욱 균형적인 것을 재발견할 수 있도록 하여준다. 태극권은 능히 강한 것을 제압하며 움직이는 것을 제어하는 고도의 기술로써 이루어져 있다. 그것은 병든 자를 낫게 하고, 허약한 자를 튼튼하게 하며, 겁쟁이를 용감하게 만들어주는 동방인(東方人)의 현묘(玄妙)한 몸짓이다.

태극권에는 완성이라는 것이 있을 수 없다. 그것은 우리 자신으로 하여금 언제나 끊임 없이 배우는 자의 자세, 즉 초심자(初心者)의 마음을 지니게 함으로써 궁극적 경험의 특성을 부여하지 않는다. 태극권의 진정한 완성은 영원한 초심자로서 남아 있게 되는 것, 바로 그것이다.


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無極而太極 太極動而生陽 動極而靜 靜而生陰 靜極復動.
一動一靜 互爲其根 分陰分陽 兩儀立焉.
陽變陰合 而生水火木金土. 五氣順布 四時行焉.
五行一陰陽也 陰陽一太極也. 太極本無極也.
五行之生也 各一其性. 無極之眞 二五之精 妙合而凝 乾道成男 坤道成女.
二氣交感 化生萬物 萬物生生而變化無窮焉.

惟人也得其秀而最靈 形旣生矣 神發知矣.
五性感動而善惡分 萬事出矣. 聖人定之以中正仁義 而主靜立人極焉.
故聖人與天地合其德 日月合其明 四時合其序 鬼神合其吉凶.
君子修之吉 小人悖之凶.
故曰立天之道曰陰與陽 立地之道曰柔與剛 立人之道曰仁與義.
又曰 原始反終 故知死生之說.
大哉 易也! 斯其至矣

무극이 곧 태극이니 태극이 동하여 양이 생기고 동이 극에 달하면 정이 된다. 정이 극에 달하면 다시 동이 된다. 하나의 동 하나의 정이니 서로 그 근본이 같다. 음을 나누고 양을 나누면 양의가 성립한다. 양이 변하고 음이 합해져 "수화목금토" 를 만드니 다섯 기운이 순조롭게 아우러져 네 계절이 운행된다. 오행(수화목금토)은 하나의 음양이다. 음양은 하나의 태극이고, 또한 태극은 본래 무극이다. 오행이 생겨남에 각각의 하나의 성질이 있다. 무극이 바로 참성질인 것이다. 이오지정? 이 교묘하게 섞이고 엉겨서 건도는 숫컷이 되고 곤도는 암컷이 되어 두 기운이 서로 상호감응하여 모든 물질을 만들어 낸다. 만물이 생겨나고 나고 변화하는 것은 끝이 없도다.

오직 사람만이 우수하여 그 최고의 영기를 가졌다. 형용이 생긴 후 정신이 지혜를 발동한다. 사람의 다섯 성정이 작동하여 선과 악을 구분하고 이로써 모든 일을 나타낸다. 성인은 중정과 인, 의로써 모든 일을 결정하는데 정을 주로 삼는다면 그 사람은 참으로 지극한 이다. 그러므로 성인은 하늘과 땅의 이치와 사람의 덕을 함께 고루 갖추고 있는 것이다? 해와 달이 조화하여 밝음을 주는 것이고, 사계절이 합해져 일년이 된다. 귀신의 조화로 길흉이 있다?

군자는 공부하고 수양하여 길해지고 소인배는 패악을 저질러 흉하게 된다. 그러므로 하늘의 도를 세운다는 것은 음과 양의 조화로움을 말함이며 , 땅의 도를 세운다는 것은 부드러움과 강함의 조절이며, 사람의 도를 세운다는 것은 인과 의를 갖춘다는 것을 말함이다.

또, 원래 시작이란 반드시 끝이 있는 것이니 그러므로 생과 사의 이치를 알 수 있다고 말하는 것이다.
크도다 역이여 ! 그 지극함이여 !

- 주돈이(周敦 )의 태극도설(太極圖說) 中에서spacer.gif