The transcript below is from the video “Stunning Chen Style Tai Chi” by George Thompson.

George Thompson:

Wuming performs a breathtaking Chen Style Tai Chi form in her Shanghai school. The Chen family-style or Chen-style Taijiquan is the oldest and parent form of the five traditional family styles of Taiji. Chen-style is characterized by silk reeling, alternating fast and slow motions and bursts of power.

George Thompson:

Contemporary t’ai chi ch’uan is typically practised for a number of widely varying reasons: health, external-internal martial art skills, aesthetics, meditation or as an athletic competition sport. Therefore, a teacher’s system, practice and choice of training routines usually emphasizes one of these characteristics during training. The five traditional schools, precisely because they are traditional, attempt to retain the martial applicability of their teaching methods. Some argue that the Chen tradition emphasizes this martial efficacy to a greater extent.

George Thompson:

As for the origin and nature of modern Chen-style taijiquan, documents from the 17th century indicate the Chen clan settled in Chen Village, Henan province, in the 13th century and reveal the defining contribution of Chen Wangting (1580–1660). It is therefore not clear how the Chen family actually came to practise their unique martial style and contradictory “histories” abound. What is known is that the other four contemporary traditional tai chi styles (Yang, Sun, Wu and Woo) trace their teachings back to Chen village in the early 1800s.

George Thompson:

The vast majority of Chen stylists believe that tai chi is first and foremost a martial art; that a study of the self-defense aspect of tai chi is the best test of a student’s skill and knowledge of the tai chi principles that provide health benefit. In compliance with this principle, all Chen forms retain some degree of overt fa jing expression.

Before teaching the forms, the instructor may have the students do stance training such as zhan zhuang and various qigong routines such as silk reeling exercises.

George Thompson:

Other methods of training for Chen-style using training aids including pole/spear shaking exercises, which teach a practitioner how to extend their silk reeling and fa jing skill into a weapon.

In addition to the solo exercises listed above, there are partner exercises known as pushing hands, designed to help students maintain the correct body structure when faced with resistance. There are five methods of push hands that students learn before they can move on to a more free-style push hands structure, which begins to resemble sparring.

George Thompson:

Forms or taolu are series of choreographic moves to simulate an attack or defense. They are the key training methods in traditional Chinese martial arts. Chen style tai chi ch’uan is no exception. This art is defined by a distinct training curriculum. But it is not only the external appearance of the movement that differentiate this style from other martial arts, each movement is based on intricate theories unique to this system. Because it is an art, it is subject to the interpretation of each practitioner. The resulting interpretations created subdivision within the style.

George Thompson:

Each variation of Chen style are due to its history and their particular training insight of the teacher. Currently, the sub division of Chen style t’ai chi ch’uan includes: historical training methods from Chen Village, forms derived from the lineage of Chen Fake commonly known as Big Frame: Old Frame and New Frame, training methods from Chen Fake’s student such as Feng Zhiqiang and Hong Junsheng, another Chen village teaching system known as Small Frame and closely related t’ai chi ch’uan traditions of Zhaobao t’ai chi ch’uan.

George Thompson:

In the distant past, the effectiveness and efficacy of a training method was determined through actual combat. In the modern era, such tests of skills no longer takes place. There are no recognized central authorities for the martial arts. This had led to the determination of authenticity for any style depending on anecdotal stories or appeal to historical lineage. Chen t’ai chi ch’uan also follows this trend. However, the Chen style practitioner follows a more stringent requirement. According to Chen Fake, the last great proponent of the Chen style in the modern era, the external appearance of the form is not important. A correct Chen style t’ai chi ch’uan form should be based on the same fundamental principle and that each element of a form should have a purpose. In Chen Fake’s words: “This set of Taijiquan does not have one technique which is useless. Everything was carefully designed for a purpose.” The understanding of each sub-division should be interpreted with this idea in mind.

George Thompson:

In martial application, Chen-style t’ai chi ch’uan uses a wide variety of techniques applied with all the extremities that revolve around the use of the eight gates of tai chi chuan to manifest either kai (expansive power) or he (contracting power) through the physical postures of Chen forms. The particulars of exterior technique may vary between teachers and forms. In common with all neijia, Chen-style aims to develop internal power for the execution of martial techniques, but in contrast to some tai chi styles and teachers[citation needed] includes the cultivation of fa jing skill. Chen family member Chen Zhenglei has commented that between the new and old frame traditions there are 105 basic fajin methods and 72 basic Qinna methods present in the forms.




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