Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method Sanshou Applications by Chen Zhonghua

by webmaster2 on 2008/03/14

At the 2008 Hunyuan World Seminiars in GA, USA, I spent several hours one night after the evening class to work with several disciples on taiji fighting.

I will not go into details of what we did, as there is no way to explain it with simple words. We didn’t make any videos of the session either. What I want to discuss here is some of the comments from students. These comments or questions are as a result of the fact that what we did did not APPEAR to be taiji.

  1. It’s almost the same as praying mantis.
  2. It’s the same as karate.
  3. Is taiji this fast?
  4. Master Chen, you kick is so fast we cannot even respond to it.

As a matter of fact, real taiji IS a martial art. It does not resemble that taiji that we see practiced and taught today. What we normally see is the training set or method of taijiquan. Here is a video clip of a simple teaching session with some applications.

Here is another youtube video that has some elementary fighting techniques.



{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

jvanko March 18, 2008 at 4:27 am

#1 and #2: There may be external similarities in the fighting but they are definitely not the same. Each of these is a complete system with its own rules. As we know, there are very precise rules for Taiji theory and technique. I don’t think either of these is based upon the same rules or the same fighting strategy as Taiji, for instance neutralizing with "softness" and "if he does not move I do not move." In his book GM Hong recommended against mixing or supplementing Taiji with other arts and wrote that there are no shortcuts. I think this is because if you mix things together you create more variables, confusion and can actually impede your progress. Also, I think it depends on how far you want to go in Taiji. If you want to make it to the higher levels, you need to focus on it.

On the other hand, I think that general Taiji movement theory can be applied to any other kind of movement including mantis and karate. Also, if you have already mastered another art, I think these can sometimes be complementary to Taiji, especially other Chinese arts.

I will take an example of language. Portuguese and Spanish are quite similar, however they have important differences in grammar and vocabulary. If you don’t have very strong Portuguese before learning Spanish then there is a danger that you may confuse/mix the two and never master either one.

Comments and other views are welcome!


Aaron Bartholomew March 18, 2008 at 7:33 pm

I agree on most points and only disagree on a few points. I think that fighting arts (as different from martial arts) are about 80% common movement / principles. The other fighting arts (those that are left) might not be able to articulate the principles (spiraling/circles, efficiency, relaxedness, power generation, flow, rotation, etc) or don’t train them as well, but a good number of them are there. Chen taiji is a fighting arts, as opposed to a martial art.

I think the largest difference is in the teaching / training method. The important differences (expansion, contraction, reliance on correct body mechanics rather than muscular exertion, etc) are taught initially, and then built upon, rather then left as exercises for the student to figure out on their own.

My martial arts background is 5 Way Method (stick and ground fighting mostly). There is a surprising amount of overlap between the movement patterns and fighting dynamics. The 20% that is different is what gives each fighting art its flavor or distinctiveness. In this case, the result of that difference is that 5 way is great for learning quick self defense and ground-fighting. Taiji is more subtle, more efficient, and harder to defend against, though it takes longer to learn effectively. (My opinion, your mileage may vary.)

There are no shortcuts, but there are fighting arts that teach/train a slightly different perspective, that is useful to have brought into taiji. An example is that I am finding that taiji principles can (and should be) applied to ground-fighting. Is this cross-training, training my taiji on the ground, or training my ground-fighting in taiji? I don’t want so many tools in my toolbox that I can’t find the one I’m looking for, but it’s useful to be able to recognize a screw for a screw, rather than a nail that doesn’t hammer well.

I didn’t know Master Hong, and I don’t know whether he would refer to what I’m doing as mixing or supplementing, or simply switching axis (vertical to horizontal). I’m trusting to my teacher, and his, to help me remove that which is not taiji (my bad habits) from what I’m doing.

To return to your excellent analogy of Spanish and Portuguese (I am conversant in both) the verbs conjugate similarly, many of the nouns are the same, or close. 85%+ of the languages can be understood by someone who is fluent in either, and there’s a lot of simple substitution that can be done to translate one from the other. However unless the student has learned one first, and is then learning the other, mistakes are really easy to make. The word for “embarrassed” in one means “pregnant” in the other, etc.

Thanks for your insights.


Chen Zhonghua March 18, 2008 at 8:16 pm

Thanks for your post. You may find information on Grandmaster Hong Junsheng at:


Chen Zhonghua March 19, 2008 at 6:13 pm

Thanks for the post again. What you are asking is: Can taiji principles be applied to other martial arts?

This question is [color=blue]important, practical and critical.[/color]

It is a topic worthy of a lengthy article. I will attempt to give a brief outline of ideas here.

1. At the begining, all arts are different. That’s what makes it interesting to learn different ones.
2. Later on, you will start "seeing" the similarities in all arts. This will last a long time.
3. In the end you realize that arts cannot be mixed up. It is the uniqueness of each art that makes it the way it is. The similarities are just the things that don’t matter.

So depends on which stage a person is at, the answer can be quite different.

Ultimately, one cannot learn Chen Taiji to help other arts. Conversely, one cannot learn other arts in order to get better at their Chen Taiji.


Aaron Bartholomew March 22, 2008 at 12:53 pm

Master Chen:

Thanks for the short explanation. I’m interested in seeing the lengthy article version when that becomes available.

Until then, I’ll continue to look at what is different, rather than what is similar.




Daniel Mroz March 19, 2008 at 11:59 am

Dear Master Chen,

Thanks for putting this up. For those who read over my notes [url],[/url] Master Chen began to show Scott and I the basic exercises that lead to the applications he’s showing. While the content was different, the dynamics of Master Chen’s movements are the same as what he was showing us.




allanbelsheim March 24, 2008 at 9:21 am

Master Chen continually leads us into discouvering the reality of Taiji as a serious Martial Art. Training slow at first allows us to set the physics and structure of the move that later can be "brought up to fighting speed" for incredible effect. An example of this potential was shown by one of Grandmaster Feng’s disciples recorded at a university. He showed the most ergonomicaly correct body usage and incredible speed using a taiji punch!


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