İstanbul Tai Chi Club



Founded by Ahmet Ozkan to introduce and develop Chen style tai chi in Turkey, Istanbul Tai Chi Club (ITC) is the first Chen Style Tai Chi center in Turkey. ITC was born out of the reference and suggestion of Ahmet Ozkan’s teacher, Master Liu Yong. Our club is also affiliated to Man Lian international tai chi schools of Master Liu Yong based in Lianyungang, China. Being one of the best internal disciples of Grandmaster Chen Zhenglei, a 19th generation Chen family member, Master Liu Yong also taught martial arts in the Chinese police army.

At ITC, Chen style solo forms are taught by Ahmet Ozkan to people in a way that is commensurate with their skills. ITC students will also have an opportunity to benefit from Master Liu Yong’s great ability and experience, who said he would be pleased to come to Istanbul for workshops and shows. In the future, it is among our plans to arrange group trips to Man Lian schools in China, tai chi’s motherland.


Tai chi chuan or taijiquan is one of the most famous close-range martial arts of China. The distinguishing character of tai chi chuan is that it integrates the bioenergy flow called chi or qi in China which is believed to circulate along certain paths and vessels in our bodies with certain breathing techniques and martial movements in harmony.

Taichi chuan is not all composed of fast and strong movements, instead it is a combination of speed and power with slow and relaxed movements in line with the Yin-Yang principle. In other words, for the maximum power to unleash suddenly, it must be born out of relaxation and stillnes. Tai chi chuan goes parallel with our body, not against it. Tai chi chin na, which is the art of control and seizing of an opponent’s joints formed the basis for such Japanese martial arts as Aikido and Juijitsu.

Taichi requires the training of qi, body and mind together. It obtains the explosive power necessary for martial applications from the internal energy of the body. Tai chi exercises that help build body strength are also believed to strengthen the immune system of the body as they improve the blood and energy circulation. This feature of tai chi caused it to be generally known as a series of dance-like routines for health rather than a martial art in the west. The primary reason for this is that tai chi’s martial applications were little known up until 15-20 years ago in the western world. Tai chi chuan’s martial applications are not immediately taught to beginners until a skill of controlling body and chi at will is developed to a certain extent by the help of solo routines. The amount of time that passes from doing tai chi for health to doing it as a martial art depends on the quality and intensity of training, as well as the student’s talent.

I would like to state that today tai chi routines are performed by many in the world including China for health and relaxation purposes, and most people are satisfied with that. As for martial applications, they come out as a way which martial artist candidates are expected to continue in their tai chi travel.

Tai chi chuan training is composed of the following steps:

For health and body strength,

1) Qigong; a series of chi and breathing exercises

2) Silk reeling (Chan szu jin); circular movement training exercises, most pronounced in Chen style tai chi chuan

3) Certain solo forms with or without weapons (like sword, broad sword, spear, falchion, stick, pole) that vary according to the style of tai chi performed

When taichi is considered as a health improving training, these three groups of exercises mentioned above are performed. As a matter of fact, the solo movements in items 2 and 3 above were derived from martial movements which assume an imaginary opponent fighting against the person doing the solo routines.

Taichi as a martial art requires the following additional training steps,

4) Push hands (Tui shou), two-person standard training exercises; Two students try to control each other without losing contact in stationary or moving positions. These set of exercises were created to help students to learn how to listen, stick and adhere to the opponent without getting serious injury.

5) Martial applications of push hands

6) Martial applications of movements performed in solo forms and tai chi chin na training

The trainings mentioned in number 5 and 6 above are advanced level real tai chi fighting often with full contact. 

In Chen taichi, there are 5 levels: 

  1. Hui: Forms are learned with an emphasis on correct directions, angles, keeping the torso upright, relaxing the shoulders and elbows. The internal energy is not felt yet. The movements are external rather than internal and circular.  
  2. Dui: The forms at the hui level are corrected by putting more emphasis on dantian led, smooth and circular origination of  movements rather than the external characteristics of the hui level.
  3. Hao: One can direct the qi in the body with well coordinated smooth movements and the combat skill in each form and applications can be started to study.
  4. Miao: This is a master level in which he can easily dissolve an oncoming attack. Fajin and gong fu energy are well developed.
  5. Jue: The highest level. Only few grandmasters achieve this level. The circular characteristics of taichi are mastered almost invisibly. Usually grandmasters at this level discover new things, can make innovations or compose new forms.

All these levels require years to achieve. Most students stay in the dui level, some can reach the hao level.  


Although there are several stories as to the origin of tai chi, based on the historical researches and evidences found in China particularly in 1930-1960, today it is generally accepted that taijiquan was developed by a Chinese genaral called Chen Wangting in the 1660s, 20 years after the Ming dynasty had been over. Chen Wangting created taijiquan out of his own martial experience and a book “32 form cannon fist” written by Qi Jiguang (1528-1587), which combined the methods of 16 famous fighting schools prevailing in China at that time. Another important invention of Chen Wangting is push hands exercises, which made it possible to develop martial techniques without getting injured.

Chen Wangting originally formed the five set shadow boxing series, a 108 form long-range fighting set and a dynamic set called pao chui. These 7 sets were passed down from generation to generation in the Chen family and kept as a secret. Yang Luchan (1799-1872) was the first person outside the Chen family to learn Chen style taijiquan. Impressed by the outstanding ability of Yang Luchan, Chen Changxing (1771-1853) accepted to teach him the original old form. Later, Yang Luchan and his generations developed Yang style tai chi. As Chen family taijiquan were spread outside the family, different styles like Wu, Sun, Zhao Bao were also developed. Today, Chen family taijiquan is primarily divided into two:

New form (Xin Jia)

Created by the 17th generation Chen family member Chen Fa ke.

Old form (Lao Jia)

Composed by the 15th generation Chen family member Chen Chang Xing out of the 7 set routines that had been prevailing until then.

1st routine (83 form) 1st routine (74 form)
2nd routine (71 form) 2nd routine (40 form)
5 types of push hands 5 types of push hands

In addition, there is the so called “small frame” Chen taijiquan. The most famous weapon routines of Chen taijiquan are the 49 from straight sword and the 23 form broad sword. There are also double swords, double broad swords, long pole, spear routines, which are less known in the world.


Chen style tai chi is very effective in rendering the opponent ineffective even with one defense movement. It has four main characteristics; 

1.  Circular movements and turning the body: Chen style taichi uses all three dimensions, not only linear movements. Using an angle of momentum in a different direction from that of the attack to deflect it helps the defender use minimum power for defence thus saving energy to use maximum power for offence. Turning the body not only provides a protection of chest and crotch instead of leaving the vitals exposed to attack in a face-to-face encounter, but also gives the free arm or shoulder an opportunity to counterattack by the effect of turning. Circular movements of the hands and shoulders add to the effect of turning the body particularly in china against hand or arm seizing. Even in throat seizing, leg attacks and bear-hugging it is possible to defend just by using turning and circular movement of the body. This property of Chen style chinna sets it apart from the chinna techniques of other martial arts. In most other chinna techniques more than one movement is used to control the opponent. Yet, in real combat situations, considering the effect of anxiety too, there is no time to apply complicated multi-stage chinna techniques. One movement must be enough to incapacitate the offender. Chen taichi uses such techniques.
2.   Maintaining the softness of the body: A martial art is useful if it helps the body and mind to remain healthy throughout one’s life span. Maintaining the softness of the body is essential to keep one’s martial art alive in old ages. Otherwise the body will burn up and get older too quickly. A good Chen taichi practitioner must have soft muscles instead of those of a body builder. Stiffened muscles and joints cause the body to lose flexibility, which is paramount in Chen taichi as the joints and muscles must be flexible and relaxed enough to allow the necessary fast spiralling defense movements. In a sense, maintaining softness can be likened to being like a baby and getting stiff can be likened to getting old and ultimately to death. In a real combat situation the body and mind must be calm enough so that the attack can be defended softly and easily without using much power. This is the “yin” part of the art. The internal power must be preserved to use in the “yang” part, that is in fajin when attacking. In Chen style training, a long time and effort is spent to first earn the body this softness before applying proper fajin, explosive power, techniques. Without learning to be soft and slow one cannot be strong and fast.
3.   Breathing: Correct breathing is very important in martial arts because the energy one can spend is dependent on the amount of oxygen taken in. To utilize the optimum oxygen level, we must work the correct muscles. In taichi, abdominal breathing is preferred over chest breathing, that is the abdominal muscles should work when the air is taken in, not the upper chest muscles as we usually do. By abdominal breathing we optimize the amount of air taken in and do not force our chest muscles. Breathing must not be too deep but natural. Calmness must be preserved before fajin.
4.   Fajin: Fajin, which is an explosive power outburst is quintessential in Chen style. It is used when attacking and only for a very short time. In Chen style solo forms a large part of the sequences is slow and gentle, the fajin parts are scattered along the sequences. Since fajin requires a lot of internal power, it takes too much chi level to apply it frequently and consecutively. In martial applications, once the opponent’s attack is controlled, which is preferably done in a soft manner, the ensuing counterattack is fast and explosive, that is after Yin, comes Yang. The speed of reaction is determined by the speed of attack, which does not mean a head-to-head stopping of it but a nice and circular deflection. Then, provided that the conditions in the three headings mentioned above are met, in a blink of moment an explosive attack associated with a “He” sound, which helps to breath out the exhausted air is performed on the opponent. Fajin transfers the energy in dantian to the extremeties used in attack like fist, shoulder, chest, elbow, knee, foot, hand, hip. The power of fajin is born out of softness. When the fajin is exerted, the whole body shakes with motion rather than only the attacking extremity. The origination of the attack from body movement is very important to produce maximum effect. If only the extremities move, they will lack to utilize the main power source of the body, the dantian. Since this is the case in most external martial arts, Chen tai chi has a big advantage over them.