“WHAT IS IN A NAME”

by Xavier Santiago on 2012/02/13

The following article was once originally part of Master Chen’s former webpage www.chenzhonghua.org. It gives us Grandmaster Hong Junsheng’s first-hand account of what actually happened in the talked about encounter in a martial arts tournament in Beijing between Great Grandmaster Chen Fake and Wu Tunan. I thought it would benefit everyone interested in Taijiquan history to read this article and learn of Grandmaster Hong’s first-hand knowledge of this encounter. I want to thank Shifu Chen Zhonghua for allowing me to re-publish this article in Practicalmethod.com.

WHAT IS IN A NAME:

At one of the first government sponsored traditional martial art competitions in Beijing, in 1952, Chen Fake was invited to attend, as one of the judges.

The famed Wu Tunan (also known as the Northern Star of Taijiquan) was in charge. A discussion came up, with regards to categorization of styles,leading to a great deal of controversy as to where Chen Style Taijiquan belonged. Some suggested that it belonged to the External Division. At the time, the slow and gentle nature of Yang style Taijiquan was considered the standard of Taijiquan. What Chen Fake practiced certainly did not fall fall into this category.

Others countered that it is, after all, called Chen Style Taijiquan, so it should be included as part of the Internal Division. Master Wu Tunan did not concur. He felt that Chen Style should be treated as an external style, similar to Shaolin. Someone turned to Chen Fake, Master Chen, you are the standard bearer of the Chen Family, is it external or internal?

Chen Fake answered, If the revered master Wu thinks it is external, then it is external! We did not have this distinction at home. (Later on, in a remarkable reversal of logic, this statement was actually quoted by some as proof that Chen Style Taijiquan is not the original source of Taijiquan, since family member Chen Fake did not even acknowledge it as an internal style.)

Hong Junsheng, a disciple of Chen Fake, was understandably upset about this treatment of Chen Style. He began his Taiji studies with Wu style, and later switched to Chen Style. For him, Chen and Wu were both authentic Taijiquan styles, and both were internal.

He begged his teacher for an explanation. Master Chen’s answer had nothing to do with either Chen or Wu styles: My ancestors invented it. My great grandfather practiced it [translator’s note: This refers to Chen Changxing, who taught Yang Luchan, the creator of Yang Style]. My father practiced it. I practice it now. We do not call it Taiji. We do not have a name for it. You can call it anything you want, I will still practice it the same way I was taught. I don’t care what they put in the name!

Chen Fake was certainly not a philosopher. However one might appreciate the profound depth of his perspective. He saw the name as nothing more than a shallow symbol of the object. What Chen Fake learned and taught was Chen Style Taijiquan. The change of the name by others or the views of others will never affect what it is.

Is Chen Style Taijiquan the original source of Taijiquan? Is Chen Style internal? State whatever opinion you have and present all your research papers. You might even patent the name, and forbid the Chen Village masters and direct lineage holders from using the name. But can you change the fact that it is their art and what they do is the right way? You will never change its essential nature. It is what it is.

From the archives of www.chenzhonghua.org, the article

 

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Alex February 13, 2012 at 9:45 pm

thanks for sharing that. Anybody know of how and when the name taiji was applied to the art?

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bruce.schaub February 14, 2012 at 10:14 am

i have heard that it was likely the Yang family who originally perpetuated the name in an attempt to popularize the art developed based on Yang Lu Chan’s study with Chen Changxing. some say his art (yang lu chan’s) was known as cotton fist, or hua quan (neutralizing fist) prior to what was perhaps clever marketing (co opting the name Taijiquan) taking advantage of a resurgence of the popularity of Taoism among the scholarly class at the time…. the Chen family of course had no need to give it a fancy name and were not attempting to popularize their family’s system of boxing…it seems a bit ridiculous that Wu Tunan who was a student of Yang Jian Hou….son of Yang Lu Chan….who learned all he knew of boxing from Chen Changxing, would say Chen style is not real taiji… i really cannot understand this….thank you for sharing the article!

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Bun August 30, 2013 at 11:58 pm

Accordingly, Chen style “Taijiquan” was originally just called Chen style Long Fist. And by researching, especially its martial nature and how it can be rather raw military like it is, one could conclude it indeed was derived from Chen Wang Ting’s experience and so forth. Further studies indicate that the teachings has similar ties to Shaolin Taizuquan. Even comparatively, take for example Bajiquan, which is considered “external” or generously called “external/internal” has very similar jings as Chen style. It was even mentioned that Chen style Long Fist was called “Tong Bei” at one point because of how the power came out “through the back”. All of this point out that Chen style had shared ideas/curriculum during conception. It was stated that even the Chen Wang Ting had General Qi Jiguang’s manual of effective combat to help develop his refined ideas. If you ask me, I essentially see Chen style as being a unique Long Fist style. It is still a Long Fist, just with its unique expression and complete overall systemic training. Whether it is considered Taijiquan or not does not matter, what matters is that the training is effective and complete. All the way from the foundations to the very high level skills, it must be a whole system and made functional to be used.

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bruce.schaub August 31, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Generally speaking I agree with what you are saying, that Chen Taijiquan very likely has some of it’s roots in longfist, Shaolin, etc., but what people often fail to realize is that there is a very fundamental difference in how they function. Chen Taiji has had one of the most characteristically Taoist methodologies applied to it that makes it internal. Reversal of Yin and Yang. Every Chinese martial art has Yin Yang theory applied to it in various ways, but whereas typical longfist works with “normal” human tendencies and capacities and seeks to enhance them, Taijiquan, quite to the contrary, gradually reverses the inner dynamics in such a way that on the outside it may appear the same as a “normal” “longfist” type of martial art, as soon as you touch someone like Master Chen who has put themself through that training, you know immediately, this is anything but simply a longfist variant.

The problem is so few people actually teach the true process required to reverse and transform yourself internally, that these types of ideas get perpetuated. Another problem is that people often make these types of statements without identifying themselves or there backgrounds, and use terminology like “by researching” , ” further studies indicate “, ” it was even mentioned ” and ” it was stated ” …. who researched? who’s studies? who mentioned ? who stated ? etc. It sounds very official and scholarly but if those things are not sourced and identified, then basically people can say whatever they want and bend the truth to whatever direction they want, and unfortunately often people will read something like that and believe it or be influenced by it. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but it’s really more important to keep an open mind and keep looking for the deeper truth. Fortunately, Master Chen is very open with his sharing of knowledge and is meticulous about maintaining very strict integrity when it comes to the information he shares.

As I said, i think there is some truth to what you are saying, but also there is much more to it than that.

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studentofmethod September 1, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Nicely said Bruce

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Bun December 2, 2013 at 2:55 am

Oh boy, I forgot to leave information about this.

http://www.bgtent.com/naturalcma/CMAarticle30.htm

For those interested, I found this piece of info interesting as it does a comparative explanation of Taizuquan and Taijiquan.

As for the Bajiquan and Taijiquan comparsion, well, one would have to read into Grandmaster Liu Yun Qiao’s life and his opinions on Chen style Taijiquan. Both styles derive Qi Jiguang’s ideas of empty handed combat. They way I see it is that originally, the methods were made as military arts. Eventually, they did get refined by great masters in so much that they reached a level of “catching clouds with their hands.” Basically they reached a level many at that time did not or could not perceive.

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Ricardo Sealy December 27, 2016 at 4:01 pm

If Yang Lu Chan’s Boxing was called Taijiquan in Beijing. Why did Chen Fake also call his Boxing art Taijiquan?

Reply

Kelvin Ho December 29, 2016 at 11:20 pm

We might never know. The fact was that they came from the same source. From other readings, Yang Lu Chan also didn’t call it taijiquan at first.

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