First Experience with Practical Method

by Michael Winkler on 2010/07/07

My first experience with Chenstyle Taijiquan Practical Method: A complete new understanding of some main principles

Hello, I’m Michael from Berlin, Germany and after being on Daqingshan Mountain for 12 days I’d like to share my first experiences with the Hong Style Taijiquan. Here at the Full-Time training I met Master Chen Zhonghua for the first time in person.

After about 7 years of practice in Chen style Taijiquan with various teachers I started to learn the Yilu of Master Chen Zhonghua with the teaching videos available on his website. Mostly I used “Yilu – Detailed Instructions” and “Energy Alignments” together.

Soon I decided that I really want to learn something from this branch of Chen style, because there have been so many points explained by Master Chen Zhonghua – lots of things that made me think about the basic principles of Taijiquan again. After watching the videos of Chen Zhonghua I had a strong feeling that I should prove my understanding of all the principles of Taijiquan again.

Here I like to describe how my understanding of the principles have recently changed.
The following is only my own understanding so far, I really don’t know if I’m right or wrong, nor am I sure if I’m on the right path, so please reply to discuss these points.

“If one part of the body is moving, there is no part which is not moving.”
and
“Center never moves” – “Don’t move your hands”

These are some expressions I have been familiar with since some of Chen Zhonghua’s words and demonstrations in the public videos made me think again …
My understanding so far lead me directly into a kind of movement that is considered “tossing” in Practical Method.

I had heard about “Waist as an axis” before, but without really turning it into practice.

In Practical Method we say “Center never moves” and “Don’t move your hands” – Master Chen never tires of mentioning this over and over again.
Is this contrary to the first principle mentioned?
I don’t think so. I guess the key is the definition of “to move”.

According to my understanding of Master Chen’s words “Don’t move” he means roughly two things:

  • Not to move the hands in space, I mean in relation to the floor or the room we are moving in.
  • Not to move hands and arms by themselves, they should be moved by the body. He mentioned once that he never said “the hands must not be moved”. Instead he says “Hands should not move.”

According to the principle “One part moving – no part that is not moving”, I think there is another definition of movement.

Master Chen teaches us to move all joints in a spiraling manner (which is mentioned in all other Chen style schools I know as well), but they must stay in position (which I never have heard in other Chen style schools so clearly).
Especially for the center, the hips and the shoulders it seems to be very crucial not to move them around in space, so that the dantian can work as an axis.
Next, power should pass through the whole body from foot to hand.

So if we regard any kind of motion (like internal spirals from joints staying in position) as a movement, the description “If one part is moving there is no part which does not move” could be right in the sense of Practical Method as well, right ?

“Body as one” / “Unit of all body-parts”
and
“The seperation of Ying and Yang”

Another principle which lead me directly to tossing and being double heavy …
I have heard before about double heavy as a state where yin and yang cannot move anymore, which means that in application you get stuck or trapped. But for practicing taolu I did not know how to use this principle well.

Master Chen demonstrated how body parts should be able to move independently of each other. As far as I can understand, this is the basis of being able to avoid double heavy. e.g. hand goes out, body stays in position.
Usually the body always wants to follow. We need to get rid of this bad habit.

The illusion of moving hands

Paul mentioned this today.
Because the hands are moved by the body, and the body being moved around in space, hands and arms always seems to move a lot, but actually they are not moving – it is a perfect illusion.

Master Chen mentioned that there are lot’s of students that think that he has changed his form after they start to understand this point – even if they are watching old videos …
Really funny … perception and illusion …

Master Chen mentioned that the intellectually understanding Taijiquan does not actually help to develop skill. The body needs to learn and habits need to be changed.

Nevertheless I think and hope that we are able to use our intellect to adjust exercises in a way that they will lead us in the direction to fulfill Taiji principles and develop real skill.
Otherwise we probably will never understand and always practice in a manner that will not change anything.

According to my experience, it so easily and often happens that we understand principles in a superficial way. Conclusions drawn from superficial understandings will lead us to practice in a wrong way, so it is really necessary to clarify all these understandings well.

I’m not sure if the written above is right or wrong, so please let’s discuss these points if necessary.

Thanks to Charlie from Canada for correcting my English before publishing !

All best from Daqingshan, July 7th 2010,
Michael Winkler

 

About Michael Winkler

2003 Chen style Taijiquan (Laojia-Style from Chenjagou) 2004 getting in touch with various Qigong syltes (e.g. Zhong Yuan Qigong with Xu Mingtang, later Xuan Ling Gong with Xiong Chunjing) 2005 Chen style from Xiao Jimin (son of Xiao Qinglin, a student of Chen Fake) 2010 first fulltime training on DQS (6 weeks) 2012 second fulltime training on DQS (3 month) 2013 becoming disciple of Master Chen Zhonghua Since 2010 the only Taijiquan I practice and teach is the "Practical Method" as passed on by Master Chen Zhonghua.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

jchan July 7, 2010 at 5:40 pm

The translation “If one part of the body is moving, there is no part which is not moving” is a superficial translation of the Chinese words without putting them into context.

There will be no leverage without a fix and stable center. The center (leverage point) could be any where dependent on the situation. The center must not move. I see results following Master Chen’s explanation and method. I see no result as soon as I deviate.

My attempt to translate is as follows: “All body parts should be able to move independently. Multiple body parts can also move collectively as a larger structure. However, each move must have a center and the center must not move”.

Reply

jchan July 7, 2010 at 6:02 pm

With regard to “Otherwise we probably will never understand and always practice in a manner that will not change anything.”

I beg to differ. True understanding of Taiji (and changes) will not come until we practice diligently for a long period of time (assuming you are provided a correct method). Understanding taiji is an experience that comes with time, not an intellectual discussion.

Have to go practice my yilu now.

Reply

MichaelW July 8, 2010 at 7:38 am

Hi there,
Thanks for the comments.
And thank you for pointing out the issue of a center which can be anywhere.
That is one of many other points which are left to be clarified.
Before I was taught that lower dantian has always to be the center and I think, most practitioner of Taijiquan think so.

According to your second comment: yes, I agree with you. Just as you say “assuming you are provided a correct method”, that was actually what I’d like to express there, because I think that is one of the major problems with Taijiquan in general.
But at that point I think we can and must use the rational mind (for “getting provided a correct method”). For sure this is before you start to develop anything through nothing else but practice for long time (gongfu).
Without correct explanations and/or corrections I cannot believe anymore that it is possible to find “the right track”. At least it must be very difficult, I think. With good explanations and guideance, like those of Master Chen, I think it’s still very difficult …

Nice greetings and best wishes,
Michael

Reply

Kelvin Ho July 8, 2010 at 7:52 am

According to your words, you and I have more or less the same understanding. However, I’d like to consider myself wrong all the time until the day my body displays the proper movement with Master Chen’s confirmation.

A few points I always try to keep in mind:
- Hand out, elbow in.
- Don’t move the hand.
- Don’t displace/bend/extend the knee, but the knee can rotate.
- The spine is like an axis, which can’t move/toss. The truck rotates on it. It should be (always?) perpendicular to the floor.
- Head hung from a string.
- All movements start from the foot.
- Body joints are like gears linked together – if your hand seems to move from one location to another, it is pushed or pulled by another part of the body, I think it’s the foot.

Reply

jchan July 9, 2010 at 7:15 pm

With regard to “but the knee can rotate”, I think you need to put this in context. The knee by itself is not designed to rotate. Rotating the knee joint itself will damage your knee.

Reply

Chen Zhonghua July 9, 2010 at 7:31 pm

Thanks for pointing this out, James. The knee does not rotate, the energy rotates around the knee.

Reply

jchan July 10, 2010 at 6:18 pm

Thanks Master Chen for reinforcing my understanding.

Reply

Kelvin Ho July 11, 2010 at 6:49 pm

Thanks for the correction. Although I understand the knee doesn’t rotate, I think that I am doing something wrong when I use the knee to initiate the turn of the kua, since the knee or the muscle around it does hurt.

Reply

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