The Internal Styles And Their Differences
By Erle Montaigue
February 25, 1990

When ever I have asked any Chinese master of T'ai Chi about the differences between the three internal styles of T'ai Chi, Pa-Kua Chang and H'sing-I Ch'uan, they always give the same answer. "No sameness in forms but they all have the same internal movements."

At first, this statement seems to be correct. Upon looking at all three forms, one can really see no likeness at all. T'ai Chi with it's big open circular movements, Pa-Kua with it's twisting turning dynamic movements and I-I with it's straight forward explosive movements. All three seem to be totally different.

However, when we look at the older forms of T'ai chi we then begin to see a different story. It was not until I learnt the Old Yang style that I began to notice some similarities also in form between the three martial arts. And this would indicate that all three were invented around the same period and took some techniques from each other. Some people say that T'ai Chi is the mother while Pa-Kua is the daughter and I-I is the son. This does not seem too unreasonable as I-I is much harder in nature while pa-Kua is softer and more fluid.

So, where are the alike movements. If we look at the posture of 'fist under elbow from the Yang Cheng-Fu form and compare it with the same posture from the 'Old Yang Style', we begin to see some similarities between the metal postures from I-I. If we again take the Old Yang style San-sau and look at the posture called 'sweeping the grass' and compare it with the posture called 'Flock Of Wild Geese Fly Out' from Pa-Kua, then we again see a great similarity.

These similarities occur all throughout the 'Old Yang Style' and it is easy to see where both I-I and Pa-Kua came from.

When we look at Tung's fast form, we again see a great similarity between pa-Kua , I-I and T'ai chi. When I asked Chen Fei whether or not Tung Ying-Chieh practiced pa-Kua and I-I he said that he thought not. So these similar postures must have come from Tung's T'ai chi training.

Applications are Similar in The Internal Styles

Even the applications from the Old Yang style T'ai chi, Pa-Kua and I-I are similar using the same straight forward economical movements throughout. However, if we take what most people's version of T'ai chi fighting is all about then we see absolutely no similarities between the three arts. For instance, many people believe that we should take the postures from the Yang Cheng-Fu form and actually use them as they are for self defence! Big open movements, yielding to an on-coming force, impractical strikes and grabs, take downs etc.. I have used T'ai chi as a self defence art against many different types of attack an body sizes and I am here to tell you that yielding does not work! Getting the hell out of the way does work however.

It is my belief that the Yang Cheng-Fu Form should not be used for self defence but rather as an excellent interim form until one has learnt the Old Yang style with it's dim-mak principles. And this is where the sameness between the three Internal systems comes into being. All three internal styles were invented to teach people how to strike to the vital acupuncture points of the human body. The Yang Cheng-Fu form was not for this purpose. It's main purpose was so that people could use it to heal themselves of disease and to become strong again. Which of course is just as important if not more than being able to defend oneself.