Chen Style Taijiquan

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Michael P. Garofalo

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Chen Style T'ai Chi Ch'uan

Quotations, Sayings, Wisdom, Poems, Aphorisms, Classics




"When practicing Taijiquan, the requirements for proper practice are as follows: keep the head erect naturally (as if it were suspended by a string attached to the top of the head), stand naturally upright, relax the shoulders and drop the elbows.  Bring the shoulders slightly forward and lower the waist.   Let the internal energy (qi) descend, and breathe naturally.  With the hips relaxed and the knees bent, round the crotch, i.e., the legs should form a rounded shape.  With solid and empty clearly separated, the upper and lower parts of the body move in harmony with each other, blending hard and soft, fast and slow movements smoothly.  External movements of the body should describe an arc (i.e., should follow circular paths) with the internal energy within the body following a spiral path.  With the waist as an axis, movement of the torso leads the movement of the limbs, with a spiraling or twining type of movement.  Gradually, a type of internal energy is produced which is seemingly soft yet not soft, seeming hard but not hard, and which can easily change between extremely heavy or incredibly light action.  Your movements appear outwardly soft but are inwardly firm, like iron wrapped in cotton.  If in the entire set of movement there are not any breaks in the continuity of movement or any motions that don't follow a smooth circular line, then that is the correct way."
-  Grandmaster Chen Zhenglei, Chen Style Taijiquan, Sword and Broadsword, p.64  



"In order to learn Taiji well, the first requirement must be diligence and perseverance.  Taiji classics state: "Without perseverance there can be no gain" and "Learning Taiji is like rowing a boat against the flow of water; if you do not go forward, you will drift back."  In order to glimpse the full wonder of Taiji and to attain a high level of skill, one must possess a will to carry on despite hardships, setbacks, frustration and boredom.  From the beginning, students must be willing to commit themselves to a long-term goal and be patient during the process of achieving that goal.  The process of learning takes time, and the necessary length of time must be allowed to understand the content of the teaching.  One will not succeed if focus is only on the final product."
Davidine Siaw-Voon Sim and David Gaffney, Chen Style Taijiquan: The Source of Taiji Boxing, 2002, p. 212 



"The training exercises of Taiji, like those from all the internal martial arts traditions of China, are designed to build gong.  What does it mean to built gong?  Physically, the accumulation of gong refers to constant improvements in balance, coordination, agility, flexibility, sensitivity, and strength or power.  Mentally and spiritually, the accumulation of gong refers to improved awareness and confidence, and constant advancements toward realizing tranquility of heart and mind.  These physical, mental and spiritual improvements are the benefits and purpose of practice.  The priority of accumulating gong (as opposed to martial technique or trickery) is repeatedly emphasized in many of the most famous sayings from the oral tradition of the Chinese internal martial arts."
-   Yang Yang, Taijiquan: The Art of Nurturing, The Science of Power, 2005, p. 5.



"The Chinese place yin (negative) before yang (positive), because the negative is the Mother of the positive. Therefore, there must be stillness before activity, softness before firmness. In Taijiquan, yin and yang relate to movements such as opening and closing, and qualities such as firm and yielding, fast and slow, hard and soft, expanding and contracting, solid and empty, up and down, etc. In the legs, yin-yang is distinguished by weight distribution that has one leg full; in support of the body while the other leg is empty and capable of instant direction change. The same principle applies to the upper and lower body.  One must balance yin and yang: movements should not be too soft or too hard."
-  Davidine Sim and David Gaffney, Chen Style Taijiquan, 2002, p. 13.  



"No school of Chinese martial arts is as well known and popular as Taijiquan.  It is suitable for both the young and the old, not only because Taijiquan possesses special features of stretching, flexing the joints, softly twining, exercising both the inside and the outside, dispelling diseases and prolonging life, but it is also the martial art that best reflects Chinese traditional philosophy.  More and more people from other countries, especially those interested in Chinese culture, are beginning to practice Taijiquan.  Taijiquan is becoming popular all over the world.  Because of this, Taijiquan has no national boundary and is beyond the category of culture, and belongs to people everywhere."
-  Fan Chun-Lei and A. Frank Shiery, Traditional Chen Style Taijiquan



"Essentially, the control of your movements at a more advanced level can be viewed as the evenness of the speed rather than at the same speed. In Chen style, fast and slow is intermixed.  The force delivering movements (fa jin) requires speed. But even in this style, there is evenness within all the variations of the speeds. This evenness contained within different speeds is the key to cultivating elasticity and internal power of your force. In Yang and Sun styles, most of the movements appear to be at the same speed, but with close examination you can find almost unperceivable differences between parts of the movements."
-  Dr. Paul Lam, "Variation in Speed,"  Tai Chi Health and Lifestyle Newsletter, May 2003



"Exercises are performed singly or with a partner, and contain both slow and fast movements. The system includes: Old Frame First Form, Cannon Fist (Pao Chui), Taiji Single Sword, Taiji Single Saber, Taiji Double Saber, Spring-Autumn Halberd, “Five Tigers Swarming Sheep” Staff (Wu Hu Qun Yang Gun), Three-Opponent Staff, Pear Blossom Spear/White Ape Staff (Li Hua Qiang Jia Bai Yuan Gun), Taiji Sphere, Taiji Ruler (Xing Gong Bang), pole shaking (dou gun zi), the five push-hands techniques of Chen Village, and joint locking and grappling (na fa). The empty-hand forms contain the core principles of Chen Family Taijiquan: silk reeling (chan si jin), leading into emptiness (yin jing lou kong), neutralization (zhou hua), the basic energies, etc. In addition to these skills, weapons are used for building up explosive force (fa li), sensitivity (ling ji), and improving footwork."
-   Mark Chen, Chen Style Taijiquan



"What makes Chen unique, in my opinion, is that it starts with more of a physical training regimen through forms training. This can be called  houtian/post heaven/body building in nature and it stresses building the body up in ways that Chen style needs. Apsects that are stressed include extending the postures, holding lower stances, spreading the feet wider, going lower in movements to work the dang, working on peng or groundpath, and perhaps using exaggerated fajing and chansijing by some groups in order to get a feel for those requirements. These attributes will often be exaggerated to some extent because doing so allows beginners to get a better feel for them. It's easier to grasp bigger movements than smaller, exaggerated over subtle. This is movement over stillness."
- Chen Style as External, Part III, Formosa Neijia  



"Taijiquan is like a bright mirror -
it reflects our physical and mental weaknesses,
we need to polish it constantly to see our true selves."  



"Chen Zhaokui lists sixteen requirements that must be present throughout each posture:
Eye movement (the direction of the eyes)
The shape of the hands, and how the hand changes as the movement is being performed
Footwork (how to execute changes when stepping)
and ni-chan of the legs
Open and closing of the chest and back  
Rising and falling of the buttocks  
Dantian rotation (waist and lower abdomen) 
Shifting weight (the relationship of substantial and insubstantial) 
Beginning and end points, as well as the transition movements of the upper and lower limbs 
How much strength to us, and where the strength should be concentrated (i.e., where is the attack point) 
Position and direction of posture 
The rise and fall of spiral movement (top and bottom coordination) 
The change in tempo (alternating slow and fast) 
Breathing (coordination of breathing and movement)  
-   It might be helpful to consider each posture from the perspective of the "Sixteen Requirements" set forth by Chen Zhaokui (1928-1981) in his book "Entering the Door of Taijiquan" (Sim and Gaffney 2002: 116)



"Yi lu (the first empty hand form) at the beginner level is mostly done slowly with large motions interrupted by occasional expressions of fast power (Fajing) that comprise less than 20% of the movements, with the overall purpose of teaching the body to move correctly. At the intermediate level it is practiced in very low stances (low frame) with an exploration of clear directional separation in power changes and in speed tempo. The movements become smaller and the changes in directional force become more subtle. At the advanced level the leg strength built at the previous level allows full relaxation and the potential for Fajing in every movement."
Chen Taijiquan, Wikipedia



When you see excellence, you should try to surpass it.
When you see the opposite, examine yourself.
-   Lao Tzu



"No school of Chinese martial arts is as well known and popular as Taijiquan.  It is suitable for both the young and the old, not only because Taijiquan possesses special features of stretching, flexing the joints, softly twining, exercising both the inside and the outside, dispelling diseases and prolonging life, but it is also the martial art that best reflects Chinese traditional philosophy.  More and more people from other countries, especially those interested in Chinese culture, are beginning to practice Taijiquan.  Taijiquan is becoming popular all over the world.  Because of this, Taijiquan has no national boundary and is beyond the category of culture, and belongs to people everywhere."
-  Fan Chun-Lei and A. Frank Shiery, Traditional Chen Style Taijiquan



"The Way begets One;
One begets two;
Two begets three;
Three begets the myriad creatures.

The myriad creatures carry on their backs the yin
And embrace in their arms the yang
And are the blending of the generative forces of the two.

Thus a thing is sometimes added to by being diminished
And diminished by being added to.

What others teach I also teach.
'The violent shall not come to a natural end.
I shall take this as my precept."
-  Laotzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 42, Translation by D. C. Lau, 1963



"In practicing taijiquan, the requirements on the different parts of the body are: keeping a straight body; keeping the head and neck erect with mindfulness at the tip of the head as if one is lightly lifted by a string from above; relaxing the shoulders and sinking the elbows; relaxing the chest and waist letting them sink down; relaxing the crotch and bending the knees. When these requirements are met, one's inner energy will naturally sink down to the dan tian. Beginners may not be able to master all these important points instantly. However, in their practice they must try to be accurate in terms of direction, angle, position, and the movements of hands and legs for each posture. At this stage, one need not place too much emphasis on the requirements for different parts of the body, appropriate simplications are acceptable. For example, for the head and upper body, it is required that the head and neck be kept erect, chest and waist be relaxed downward, but in the first level of kung fu, it will be sufficient just to ensure that one's head and body are kept naturally upright and not leaning forward or backward, to the left or right. This is just like learning calligraphy, at the beginning, one need only to make sure that the strokes are correct. Therefore, when practicing taijiquan at the beginning, the body and movements may appear to be stiff; or 'externally solid but internally empty'. One may find oneself doing things like: hard hitting, ramming, sudden uplifting and or sudden collapsing of body or trunk. There may be also be broken or over-exerted force or jin. All these faults are common to beginners. If one is persistent enough and practices seriously everyday, one can normally master the forms within half a year. The inner energy, qi, can gradually be induced to move within the trunk and limbs with refinements in one's movements. One may then achieve the stage of being able to use external movements to channel internal energy'. The first level kung fu thus begins with mastering the postures to gradually being able to detect and understand jin or force."
Seattle School of Chen Style Taijiquan



"Taijiquan was created over 360 years ago in Chen village (Chenjiagou), Henan province. It combines fighting techniques from General Qi Jiguang's 'The Canons of Boxing' with Chinese medical knowledge, Qigong, and the Daoist philosophy of yin and yang.  Much of today’s Chen teachings are attributed to Grandmaster Chen Fa Ke (17th generation) who died in 1957. The current head of the Chen family is his grandson Chen Xiao Wang (19th generation).  Practicing Chen Taijiquan is very good for health, but it is also a very powerful martial art that involves both external movement and internal training. Every movement contains spiralenergy (Chan Si Jin); the energy starts from your dantian (centre), twists through your waist, muscles, bones and joints to the tips of your fingers. This is what makes Chen Taijiquan both healthy and powerful. In the form sometimes you move quickly, sometimes slowly, sometimes in a high posture, sometimes in a low posture – this is one of the principles of Taijiquan, balance of Yin and Yang."
Chen Taijiquan Denmark



"Chen Taiji Quan ( Tai Chi Chuan ) has many varieties that have developed over the years. Some of them are authentic, some of them are bizarre, and some of them are focused on particular areas of development at the expense of other areas. The art integrated techniques of many of the prominent martial arts of Chen Wangting's day. These are techniques that are commonly shared by many martial arts, but the difference is in the method of application and cultivation.  The Chen practice consists of mainly two forms that have been compressed from perhaps seven at some point in the past. The two main sets are first road, Yi Lu, and second road, Er Lu. The first road is sometimes called the negative (Yin) set because it leans more towards internal development and cultivation of internal energy, techniques of yielding, attaching, and changing in relation to opponent's movement. The second road is sometimes called the Yang set as it focuses more on expression of developed internal energy, offensive striking, non attachment and hardness in relation to opponents force and movement. In fact both of these forms cultivate both Yin and Yang elements in regards to martial arts as well as cultivation, but the second (Yi Lu) is often more visibly outwardly aggressive."
Chen Gongfu  



"The technique I have developed to work directly with my Grinch (inner critic) is first to acknowledge its reaction and then ask a question. For example, if my Grinch says, "That was lousy." I reply, "Yes, that's true, it was lousy. And, if there were more smoothness in my body, what would it feel like?" This is what I call the "Yes, ... And, ..." technique." By acknowledging the negative voice, we blend with it. We soften the negative blow by going with it and not resisting. Then we shift our attention by using the conjunction "and." Using "and" affirms that we can simultaneously hold our vision of how we want to perform without excluding our negative assessment. Asking the question leads our attention toward exploring the sensation of what we want to develop instead of fighting against our Grinch. ...
    I do not delve into the content of what the Grinch has to say, but instead I choose to put my attention on the rush of energy in my body. From using the basic practice techniques, we know something about working with energy. When we feel the rush of energy or notice that we are tensing or speeding up, we can stop, focus on our breath, balance our energy field, feel gravity, and evoke our quality. When we stabilize and soften in this way, the energy can begin to self-organize in a way that allows us to deal with the situation more skillfully. ... Pause and feel any sensations that arise. A new perspective on the situation may come with the sensations."
- Wendy Palmer, The Intuitive Body: Aikido as a Clairsentient Practice, 1994, p. 48 



"Centuries later, Chen Wang Ting had been an army officer in Shan Tung Province in 1618, and had become an accomplished martial artist. In 1641, three years before the fall of the Ming dynasty, he became the militia battalion commander of Wen County (cited in Gazetteers of Wen County and Huaiqing County), where it appears that he was exposed to Chang Nai Chou’s Nei Jia Quan (the almost lost Chen 108 Techniques Long Form has many similarities to Chang’s style). When he returned to the Chen village in 1644, according to recent research in China of the very recent discovery of lishi jiapu, or the Li Family Genealogy, Chen took the boxing methods he learned from various sources and began to refine and perfect them with his cousins from the Li family, at the Qianzai Temple, about 30 miles from Chen village.

These researchers (Yuan Quanfu; Li Xiangyi; Li Bing; Qu Jian) examined very ancient Li family . Ming historian Wang Xingya of Zhengzhou University spent a year tracing and studying the origin and the authenticity of the Li Family Genealogy. He concludes that “the Li Family Genealogy was edited by the tenth generation Li Yuanshan in 1716, and is taken from eye witness accounts.” According to the Li Family Genealogy, the early patriarchs of Li, Chen (Chen Bu), and three other families became sworn brothers on their migration from Shanxi in the fourteenth century. This event took place in the Qianzai Temple of Tang Village in Boai County, which is about 30 miles away from the present Chen Village. By the ninth generation, the Li patriarchs Zhong and Xin, and their inter-marriage cousin Chen Wangting again swore themselves to be brothers like their forefathers, and took the abbot Bogong Wudao as their master at the Taiji Gate of Qianzai Temple. The contents of the papers day that Chen and the Li brothers created taiji yangshen gong, or "the art of Taiji Cultivating Life," and practiced and transmitted wuji yangshen gong, or "the art of Wuji Cultivating Life," shisanshi tongbei gong , or "the Thirteen Postures Boxing." "The art of Wuji Cultivating Life" and "the Thirteen Postures Boxing" had been created by the Qianzai Temple priest Shi Li (614-741), or Li Daozi, according to stone tablets at the temple, who well studied the Three Teachings, Qianjin yifang: "Revised Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Pieces of Gold;" daoyin: "guiding and pulling"; and tunai: "expelling the old breath and drawing the new."

It is said that various martial art postures (from nearby Shaolin and other sources, such as the Chang Nai Chou’s Nei Jia Quan, from the neighboring Wen county) were combined with classic Chinese internal health theories of passages of blood, air flow, and energy. This new art eventually became known as Chen family boxing. By the 1700's, Chen Wang Ting's style had developed into the Five Routines of Pao Chuoi and Hong Quan, a 32- and a 108-posture Tai Ji form, and one Duan Da (short strike) form. Over time many of these forms were said to have been lost. By the end of the century, the art had been passed to Chen Chang Xing, 14 th generation, who united and simplified the various routines. It is said by some that Chen Chang Xing re-introduced Nei Jia Quan into his Chen family art via teachings from Wang Zong Yue and Jian Fa. According to an interview (by Yuan Quan Fu) with Li Libing, the present eighteenth generation of Li family, Wang Zong Yue came from Shanxi, and lived in the Tang village as a schoolteacher for five or six years. There, Wang studied martial arts with Li Helin, who was born in 1721, the twelfth generation of the Li Family. (Chen Chang Xing was also the teacher of Yang Lu-chan, originator of Yang Tai Ji Quan. What is very interesting is that the Chen linage, Yang Lu Chan, and Wu Yu Xiang and his brothers, ALL had learned Shaolin Hong Quan in their youth. Many of the ideas and movements seen in Yang style, but not obvious in Chen style, can be found in Hong Quan forms, especially the Xiao Hong Quan form. The concept and movements of Tai Ji Quan’s Push Hands are also found in the Step Forward Push Palms postures in Xiao Hong Quan, along with the Fair Lady Works at Shuttles movement.)

Much talk surrounds the form found in the Ming imperial general Qi Ji Quan's (1528-1587) famous book, Classic of Pugilism (Tang Hao), as being a source for the moves in Chen Tai Ji Quan. Qi claimed to have collected and surveyed about sixteen both ancient and contemporary boxing styles, and synthesized them into a thirty two-posture form intended for troop training. Tang Hao and Gu liuxin listed twenty-nine postures from Qi's Classic of Pugilism that can be found in the Chen Family forms, along with the language paralleling that in the Classic. Other researchers say that the form shown in Qi's book was an actual Tai Tzu Quan form, not a synthesis of styles."
-   The Hidden Song Taizu Chang Quan Roots of Chen Taiji.  By Salvatore Canzonieri.  Shaolin Kung Fu Magazine, January/February, 2007, Article #30. 



"1.  Develop your ability to maintain your vertical centerline as an axis from the Bai Hui downwards through the perineum.  
2.  Develop your ability to always move fluidly from your center.  
3.  Maintain your root so that you do not bounce up.
4.  Allow  your spirit and intention to manifest within each movement.
5.  Develop your Ting Jing skill in order to listen and perceive what needs to be perceived.  
6.  Always strive to integrate the different parts of your body, as well as the different parts of your self.
7.  Always attend to stregthening the weakest part.
8.  Breath naturally.
9.  Like water, seek the most natural path.  Employ the least amount of force necessary for any given action.
10.  When issuing force forward, root down to the back and draw in the front.  When receiving for from the front, root to the front and ground down to the back.  
11.  Remember that both life and T'ai Chi are temporary gifts.  Celebrate them accordingly."
-   John Loupos, Inside Tai Chi, p. 181






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