Learning the Chen Style of Taijiquan
Old Frame, First Form, Laojia Yilu
Suggestions, Comments, Notes, Research, Progress Reports, Studies, Plans
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Breathing Train the Body Not the Techniques
1. Practice! More Practice! Even More Practice! Then do some more practice. Continue to practice each day!
2. A good teacher is essential to your progress in Chen Style of Taijiquan. I live in a rural area of Northern California, 130 miles north of Sacramento. There is no Chen Style Taijiquan teacher in my area. Therefore, being that I am determined to learn Chen Style Taijiquan, I use instructional DVDs and books. Someday, when opportunities and finances permit, I look forward to direct instruction from a qualified teacher. Until then, I can make steady progress in studying and learning more about the Chen Style Taijiquan by using instructional DVDs and books.
3. In 2011, I studied and learned to practice the short Chen Taijiquan 18 Movement Form created by Grandmaster Cheng Zhenglei. I now practice this form on a daily basis. I learned this short Chen Taijiquan form by using instructional DVD's by Master Jiang Jian-ye and Patrick Martin. I favor using instructional DVDs where the instructor speaks English, not a subtitled or voice over instructional DVD. I own and use many books by Grandmaster Chen Zhenglei, and own and use many of his Chen Taijiquan DVDs. Also, I have now taught 12 people this form, and by teaching you learn even more.
4. Starting in 2004, I began to share my research and intellectual knowledge of the Chen Style of Taijiquan with others on my many Chen Taijiquan webpages. When you share your research and knowledge, it motivates you to improve.
5. In October, 2013, I began reviewing and relearning the Chen Saber Form. This is a 32 movement form. I practice this form with a broadsword and/or my cane. (The inside of the crook of the cane is substituted for the curved blade side of the saber, and the long flat side of the cane is substituted for the backside unsharpened side of the saber.) I am learning this Chen Taijiquan Saber form using the instructional DVD by Master Jesse Tsao.
6. Success in the practice of the Chen Style of Taijiquan requires that you be in good physical condition. I physically condition my body in a variety of ways. I work on physical conditioning in some way every day. I lift weights with a bodybuilding routine, walk outdoors, walk on a treadmill or stationary spin bicycle indoors, teach four yoga/qigong classes each week, teach two taijiquan classes each week, practice Taijiquan and Qigong each day, and actively garden and work on home improvement projects. I am in fairly good physical condition for a 68 year old man.
7. Chen Taijiquan has a clear recorded history:
"The special nature of Tai Chi Chuan practice was attributed to the ninth generation Chen Village leader, Chen Wangting (陳王廷; 陈王庭; 1580–1660). He codified pre-existing Chen training practice into a corpus of seven routines. This included five routines of tai chi chuan (太極拳五路), 108 form Long Fist (一百零八勢長拳 ) and a more rigorous routine known as Cannon Fist (炮捶一路). Chen Wangting integrated different elements of Chinese philosophy into the martial arts training to create a new approach that we now recognize as the Internal martial arts. He added the principles of Yin-Yang theory (the universal principle of complementary opposites), the techniques of Doayin (leading and guiding energy) and Tu-na (expelling and drawing energy), theories encountered in Traditional Chinese Medicine and described in such texts as the Huang Di Nei Jing(《黃帝內經》; Yellow Emperor's Canon of Chinese Medicine). In addition, Wangting incorporated the boxing theories from sixteen different martial art styles as described in the classic text, Ji Xiao Xin Shu(繼效新書; "New Book Recording Effective Techniques"; ~ 1559-1561) written by the Ming General Qi Jiguang (戚繼光; 1528–1588).
Chen Changxing (陳長興 Chén Chángxīng, Ch'en Chang-hsing,
1771–1853), 14th generation Chen Village martial artist, synthesized Chen
Wangting's open fist training corpus into two routines that came to be known as
"Old Frame" (老架; lao jia). Those two routines are named individually as the
First Form (Yilu; 一路) and the Second Form (Erlu; 二路, more commonly known as
the Cannon Fist 炮捶). Chen Changxing, contrary to Chen family tradition, also
took the first recorded non-family member as a disciple,
Yang Luchan (1799–1871), who went on to popularize the art throughout China,
but as his own family tradition known as
Yang-style t'ai chi ch'uan. The Chen family system was only taught
within the Chen village region until 1928."
- Chen Style Tai Chi Chuan - Wikipedia
Chen Wangting (陳王廷; 1580–1660)
8. I study books about Chen Taijiquan every week. You can find these listed by title on my Chen Taijiquan Old Frame First Form webpage. I own and use many Chen Taijiquan books and media marked with the code VSCL (Valley Spirit Center Library).
9. I regularly make posts to my Cloud Hands Blog about Chen Taijiquan. Look in the right side bar for the Chen Taijiquan subject heading and follow the leads to posts and webpages on the subject.
10. As of November, 2013, I am continuing my daily practice and study of the Chen Taijiquan Old Frame, First Form, Lao Jia Yi Lu. Really getting comfortable with the practice of the entire form and gaining a basic understanding of this traditional form is my main learning objective for 2014.
"When practicing the First Form, you should not try to control your breathing except when issuing. Simply breathe naturally through your nose. When issuing, exhale through the nose as you punch, then abruptly close off the exhalation when your waist terminates your travel. The closing is instantaneous; your breathing should continue normally immediately afterward."
- Mark Chen, Old Frame Chen Family Taijiquan, p. 90
"Breathing in Taijiquan form practice may
follow a pattern, such as to inhale with this movement or exhale with that, but
it is not rigid. A breathing regimen may be helpful to regulate breath,
but strict adherence can become a hindrance as one has to adjust readily to a
change of tempo. Breath changes according to the pace and execution of
movements. Naturally, one breathes heavily when short of breath. But
in heavy breathing, the body heaving up and down affects form and internal
balance. Heavy breathing may in natural in the circumstances, but it is
not the natural breathing of Taijiquan. The rationale of natural breathing
in Taijiquan practice is for the breath to follow the fangsong relaxation
of nurturing qi. The rule is for breathing to follow the demands of
practice, rather than for the practice to be dictated by the demands of a
breathing regimen. In throwing a punch (a fajin), breathing out is
natural with the action, sometimes accompanied with a cry of exertion, like a
kiai in karate. So, one breathes out in executing a power action and
breathes in to gather energy - xu xi fa hu (inhale in collecting energy
and exhale when discharging power. Also, generally, one inhales in rising
and exhales in lowering, and breathes in to open and breathes out to close."
- C.P. Ong, Taijiquan: Cultivating Inner Strength, p. 259
"The importance of naturalness and
spontaneity (zi ran) in breathing cannot be overemphasized. The
Chinese term zi ran literally means "own nature" ― that which occurs by
following the rules of its own character. ... A common mistake is to
put too much emphasis on trying to control the breath during movement.
Left to itself, the body will adjust the breathing to accommodate the activity
such as running or swimming, as they put in greater effort, the breath naturally
responds to the body's needs. ... When normal breathing is being employed,
the stomach expands as the practitioner inhales and contracts as he exhales.
The breathing method of Taijiquan follows certain principles, such as: inhaling
when "closing" or bringing in, and exhaling with "opening" or extending;
inhaling when storing or gathering energy, exhaling when emitting energy;
inhaling when rising up, exhaling when dropping down. However, even within
these requirements breathing may vary depending upon the circumstance."
- Davidine Siaw-Voon Sim and David Gaffney, Chen Style Taijiquan: The Source of Taiji Boxing, p.82
When practicing the First Form, "Keep the
- Chen Zhenglei, Chen's Tai Chi Old Frame One and Two, p. 111.
"The basic breathing of Tai Chi Chuan uses
the nose only, not the mouth. This differs from the common people who use the
nose to inhale and exhale through the mouth. The beginner does not have to
concentrate upon this breathing technique, but concentrate instead on the forms
for the correct movement and postures. The only requirements for beginners are
slow movements, natural breathing, and a relaxation of the entire body.
The beginner should let the breathing be natural and not emphasize the breathing
technique. The details of the intermediate method are: when practicing the
forms, one exhales when extending the arm and inhales when withdrawing the arm;
one inhales when rising and exhales when sinking; to lift is to inhale, to lower
is to exhale; when opening up, one inhales, when closing, one exhales.
When turning the body and in between movements, there should be a "little
breathing". A "little breathing" means taking short breaths quickly and
has the quality of relaxation and stoppage. Generally, breathing is used
to lead the movement. The movement must be coordinated with the breathing.
The body opens up and the chi closes. The chi opens up and the body
- Master Chen Yen Ling, Tai Chi Chuan Method Of Breathing and Chi Direction
Breathing for Taijiquan by Byron Grush
Breathing and Taijiquan, Cloud Hands Blog
Breathing in Yoga and Qigong by Mike Garofalo
The Eight Basic Methods of Chen Taijiquan by Master Cheng Jincai
Tai Chi Chuan Method Of Breathing and Chi Direction by Chen Yen Ling
12. Train the Body Not the Techniques
"Train the “body” means to train the capability of the body as a
whole. Train the “techniques” means to work on special defensive and offensive
techniques of an application. At the beginning stage, most people are interested
in understanding the applications of each move. However, such training in
focusing on explaining and understanding of the applications of Taichi defensive
and offensive techniques will not lead one to the essence of Taichi. The correct
process of learning Taichi must involve learning the forms and routines, correct
postures and moves, reduce stiffness, achieve softness so as to reach the level
when the whole body is coordinated, the internal and external are coordinated
and the internal qi is full and solid. Let the skill be part of the body. Taichi
training is for the complete ability of the body. According to specific
situations in application, Taichi principle is to lose the self to follow the
opponent and adapt when situation changes. It never resorts to the specific
application of specific techniques. When the internal qi is full and solid, the
body is like a well inflated balloon. It responds to any sensation of external
impact. It enables the Taichi practitioner to strike with the part wherever is
being attacked, such as described in On Boxing: “When achieved, one can
counterattack according to the attack without thinking. The application will
come naturally and automatically.”"
- Grand Master Chen Zhenglei, Three Training Principles of Chen's Tai Chi
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Biography of Michael P. Garofalo
Red Bluff, Tehama County, North Sacramento Valley, Northern Central California,
Cities in the area: Oroville, Paradise, Durham, Chico, Hamilton City, Orland, Willows, Corning,
Rancho Tehama, Los Molinos, Tehama, Proberta, Gerber, Manton, Cottonwood,
Anderson, Shasta Lake, Palo Cedro, and Redding, CA, California.
© Michael P. Garofalo, 2013, All Rights Reserved
This webpage was last modified
or updated on October 18, 2013.
This webpage was first published on the Internet on October 1, 2013.
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