Learning the Chen Style of Taijiquan

Learning the Old Frame, First Form, Laojia Yilu of Chen Taijiquan

Suggestions, Comments, Notes, Research, Progress Reports, Studies, Plans


Notes, Research, and Studies by
Michael P. Garofalo
Valley Spirit Taijiquan in Red Bluff, California 


Cloud Hands Blog     Chen Blog Posts     Chen Style of Taijiquan     Taijiquan     Qigong

Silk Reeling     Chen 18 Form     Chen 74 Form Laojia Yilu     Chen 23 Broadsword    

Breathing     Fundamental Principles     Train the Body Not the Techniques 


This webpage was last modified or updated on March 21, 2016. 




1.  Beginning to Learn Chen Taijiquan



2.  Learning Strategies and Tactics


a)  I learned the Chen Taijiquan 18 Form of Grand Master Chen Zheng Lei in 2011.  I continue to practice this form every day.

b)  I practice various versions of Silk Reeling exercises every day. 

c)  In March of 2016, I began my serious study and my daily practice of the Chen Taijiquan Old Frame, First Form, Lao Jia Yi Lu.  Really getting comfortable with the practice of the entire form up to movement 40, and gaining a basic understanding of this traditional form is my main learning objective for 2016.   I use many books and, most important, instructional DVDs in this order.

       1.  Chen Tai Chi Laojia Yilu.  By Sifu Ken Gullette.

       2.  Chen Style Tai Chi Old Frame Routine One.  By Master Jesse Tsao.

       3.  Traditional Chen Village, Chen Style Tai Chi, Lao Jia Yi Lou.  By Shifu Jiang Jian-ye.





Chen Wangting (陳王廷; 15801660)



3.  Breathing

"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 mouth closed."
-  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 closes."
-  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



3.  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



4.  Fundamental Principles


"The fundamental principles for Chen Style T'ai Chi Ch'uan are summarized as follows:

Keeping the head upright (虚领顶劲, xū ling ding jin)

Keeping the body straight (立身中正, lshēn zhōngzhng)

Drop the shoulders and sink the elbow (松肩沉肘, sōng jiān chn zhou)

The chest curve inwards and the waist pressed forward.(含胸塌腰, hn xiōng tā yāo)

Sink the energy to the dantian (心气下降, xīn q xi jing)

Breathe naturally (呼吸自然, hū xī z rn)

Relax the hips and keep the knees bent (松胯屈膝 ,sōng ku qū xī)

The crotch is arch shaped (裆劲开圆, dāng jn kāi yun)

Keep the mind pure and clear (虚实分明, xū sh fēn mng)

The top and bottom work together (上下相随. shng xi xiāng su)

Adjust hardness and softness (刚柔相济, gāng ru xiāng j)

Alternate fast and slow (快慢相间, (kui mn xiāng jin)

The external shape is curved (外形走弧线, wi xng zou h xin)

The internal energy travels a spiral path (内劲走螺旋, ni jn zou lu xun)

The body leads the hand (以身领手, yi shēn ling shou)

The waist is an axis (以腰为轴, yi yāo wi zhu)

Chen Style T'ai Chi Ch'uan, Wikipedia







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Michael P. Garofalo, 2016, All Rights Reserved

This webpage was last modified or updated on March 21, 2016. 

This webpage was first published on the Internet on October 1, 2013.   


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