In this workshop many deep Taiji concepts were explained and practically demonstrated by Shifu, Chen Zhonghua. Videos recorded during this workshop include the following: “Body Structure”, “Differential 2″, “Space and Time”, and “Rotation 1.” Shifu, please correct any incorrect statement that may be found in my notes. As time allows, I will continue to transcribe and publish the rest of my notes:
Everything we do in the Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method must have a center. A center is a point that does not move; something else moves around it. Never deviate from that lesson. Anything else is not important. You must have a center. First in the beginning, you don’t have a center. That is the first stage. In the second stage you have a fake center. In the third stage you have a real center. A real center is a point that does not move and something else moves around it.
Taijiquan is Yin and Yang. In order to correctly interpret the classics, you must understand that Taiji is Yin and Yang. Yang is imbedded in Yin, and Yin is embedded in Yang. Yang arises out of Yin, and Yin arises out of Yang. Anything that does not conform to these rules is NOT Taiji. Application of Yin and Yang refers always to the same object. Yin and Yang is not referring to two different objects. It is referring to opposites in the SAME object. Whenever we do Yin/Yang separation in our Taiji form, we are always talking about the same part. In order to do that you need a center, which is a point that does not move and something else moves around it.
Whenever you see a master demonstrating never dare to say, “that master is fake.” Saying “that master is fake” is saying that this person is being unethical and purposely cheating others. Such accusations themselves are not ethical if they are not true. Many masters, when they are demonstrating, they are not faking it. The problem arises when masters are used to working only with their students or only with a certain type of student. The demonstration with that same student is always going to be the same. However, in order for there to be Gong Fu, you must be able to reproduce your martial skill with any opponent, at any place, and at any time. That only arises from practicing with other people, not just your students. Or not just with people that you feel are easy to push or easy to beat.
When learning, don’t just focus on what Master Chen is doing. What you think you are seeing is NOT the same thing as what he is doing. According to students of Chen Fake who Master Chen interviewed, when Chen Fake moved you could not see exactly what he was doing. That is true Taiji. Your opponent can’t see or feel what you are doing; yet he/she is thrown out. In learning you must, therefore, LISTEN to Master Chen’s instructions, and LITERALLY FOLLOW exactly what he says. Do not focus on anything that he is not teaching you at the moment. The only question allowed when learning should be “could you repeat, please.” That way the lesson will remain focused on its original purpose and will not deviate to unrelated matters that will not help you learn. An example was given of a plastic bottle cap. Master Chen said, “Imagine I am teaching that this bottle cap is green. Your question should be; could you repeat, please. I will then point out to that bottle cap again and say this bottle cap is green. However, if you are asking if the chair is also green then you are now talking about the chair and your focus is now away from the bottle cap. Next, someone else may focus on that the chair also has wheels. Now the purpose of the lesson is totally lost.” Therefore, when Master Chen is correcting you about a movement with the elbow, do not start asking about the kua or anything else not related to the elbow, which is what he is teaching you at that moment.
There are many possibilities of Yin/Yang separation in the body, but you must focus only on the ones that have been handed down for each one of the movements. The first move of “King Kong Nailed Fist”, Hands go up and the body must go down. However, the body goes down without it actually lowering down. That pressure causes the hands to rise up. YOU CAN’T DEVIATE FROM THAT. That is what Chen Fake taught Hong Junsheng, and that is what Hong Junsheng taught Master Chen.
Anybody who says that they have “qi ability”, in order to verify that claim the person must be able to demonstrate physical ability beyond that of what anybody else can do. That will show that this person has been trained. We DO NOT TALK ABOUT QI IN THE PRACTICAL METHOD. You do not want to talk about things that cannot be proven or not proven. However, when somebody wants to talk to you about “qi”, ask that person, “What physical abilities have you accomplished that others can’t do?” There should be some form of standardized physical test in order for that physical ability to be constant and reproducible. Taijiquan training CHANGES THE BODY. If you don’t have any physical ability to show that your body has changed, you then have NOT BEEN TRAINING AT ALL. YOU HAVE NOT BEEN DOING TAIJI AT ALL.
When creating a center, a center can be physically created outside your own body. At the beginning, the center is physically located in your own body, and in the opponent’s body. Later on, that center can be a reference point in space that does not move, but something else rotates around that point will affect your opponent. Your opponent will not be able to know how he/she was thrown out. You must be able to perform the techniques physically in Taijiquan BY HAVING CONTACT WITH THE OPPONENT. Later on, with minimal contact you will be able to manipulate the opponent’s structure in the same exact way when you were maximizing contact. THIS IS A PHYSICAL ABILITY. IT IS NOT MYSTERIOUS OR MAGICAL IN THE SENSE OF BEING SUPERNATURAL. IT IS BASED ON PHYSICAL PRINCIPLES OF SEPARATION OF YIN AND YANG.
You need to break the practice threshold. Practice many years. Do it over and over again. It does not matter at that moment if you are doing it right or wrong. Don’t focus on the technical details all the time. When you are focusing on the technical details you will naturally be tense as well as when you are doing the Yi Lu moves and following the rules. However, when practicing just flow with the form. Once you break the practice threshold, then the corrections can be put in place. Everything that Master Chen mentions in his workshops are high level concepts that the body can’t physically perform until you pass that practice threshold by doing lots of repetitions of Yi Lu. If you have not arrived to the threshold yet, then you have not done Yi Lu enough.