Knowledge : Learning is to get rid of bad habits…

This category contains posts on common errors in learning taijiquan. Don’t believe they don’t apply to you!


Master Chen Zhonghua only teaches a reference implementation, which represents an example of how the principle is applied.  There are many parts that need to be examined, explored and learned.  We must focus our effort on learning all the parts of the reference implementation, how they form part of a system, how each part functions, and the role each part plays, what the effect when all the parts work together, etc. We have to go over this reference implementation over and over again, because there is always something we miss previously.

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How Question Mark Shows Not Sure And Asking

Master Chen Zhonghua always talks about the method of learning.  The interaction of us asking and him answering is part of it. You have probably heard him say before, “Don’t ask that question”, but yet at a different time, he would ask students to ask questions. Read more

…one of the messages I hear, daily, from GM Zhonghua Chen is that he wants us to use our head as much as we use our body…

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…focused on Yilu corrections and body mechanics…make sure you view the video of this class…

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…class was a part of the online Zoom ‘Make it Real’ series of lessons, focusing on the double-positive circle…be sure to check out the posted video this review relates to…

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Brennan Toh’s Practical Method Yilu corrections in the Edmonton Chen Zhonghua Taiji Academy on Sept. 8, 2020.
Presenter: Chen Zhonghua   Length: 35 min.   In: English   Year: 2020  Difficulty:3/5  At:Edmonton Chen Zhonghua Taiji Academy

Brennan Toh Yilu Correction 2020.09.08
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John Dahms Cannon Fist Corrections 20200907-1

In this video, Chen Zhonghua corrected John Dahms Cannon Fist form. John Dahms is a disciple of Chen Zhonghua. He started Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method with Chen Zhonghua in 2002 when he was 18 year old.
Presenter: Chen Zhonghua   Length: 17 min.   In: English   Year: 2020  Difficulty:3/5  At:Edmonton Chen Zhonghua Taiji Academy

John Dahms Cannon Fist Corrections 20200907
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Brennan Toh Cannon Fist Corrections 20200908-1

Chen Zhonghua corrected Brennan Toh’s Cannon Fist form in this video.
Presenter: Chen Zhonghua   Length: 24 min.   In: English   Year: 2020  Difficulty:3/5  At:Edmonton Chen Zhonghua Taiji Academy

Brennan Toh Cannon Fist Correction 2020.09.08
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Chen Zhonghua corrected John Dahms’ first 13 moves of Yilu in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on Sept. 1, 2020.
Presenter: Chen Zhonghua   Length: 13 min.   In: English   Year: 2020  Difficulty:3/5  At:Edmonton Chen Zhonghua Taiji Academy

John Dahms Yilu 13 Correction 2020.09.01
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Embarassed in Iowa 4

by 胡歌 on 2017/03/14


PM Iowa dinner 2016 John Dahms Hugo etc

From far left: Ed Alvarez, Hugo Ramiro, Jeff Clevenger, John Upshaw, Bruce Schaub, John Dahms, Todd Elihu, Spencer Jones, Brennan Toh

At some point one evening during the 2016 Iowa seminar, in Levi’s basement, a discussion occurred regarding the front kua and a particular orientation of it during a particular move. A statement was made about this requirement, followed by crickets chirping. Sensing that the moment was dying, I decided to wade in and stake my claim; to place myself at risk and bleed, hopefully. “I can do that! I can totally do that!” I crowed. It had been John Dahms, one of Master Chen’s senior disciples, who had stated the requirement. He said, “ok show me”. I sprang up and did something, as best I could, and his response was quick and direct – “You’re not doing it”. As deflated as possible I said “ok” and sat back down (I will come back to this). The discussion continued with some new indications and some new material, revitalised (with the help of my blood, I imagined). That moment still resonates with me many months later as I continue to work on the requirements laid out by John for that move on that evening.

The truth is I lied. I knew I couldn’t do it when I offered myself up, but I also knew something else: if I felt psychologically prepared during the teachable moment I would not really be listening. Somehow I had to create a situation inside of myself where I would be truly receptive, and I knew from Master Chen that two useful qualities in this respect were a. obvious failure (“Invest in Loss”) and b. confusion (“I don’t know”). Even if I simulated these by artificially elevating myself and then coming crashing down in front of everyone it would be better than being ‘very competent’ during the learning process or even not offering myself up at all. The emotional risk is necessary – in other words, I must be ready to put myself aside, no matter how bad it feels so that I can have a chance at real learning, which is always in an unknown and uncomfortable place.

I invested in loss, and in doing so, with John’s careful and attentive instruction, I invested in myself.

I had an interesting experience lately. I took singing classes with a professional classical singer. It was only one single event, but I learned two important things in those one and a half hours which are not only reflecting back on my Taijiquan but also on my life in general.

Western Learning Methods
Everything is about intellectually understanding things. After listening to my singing for a short time and before the teaching started I got two or three pages of text describing how the breathing organs work and how those relate to singing. Doing Practical Method for a while now and being in contact with eastern learning methods I just skipped through the pages to see if there’s something useful. I asked the teacher whether knowing this stuff is of any importance, especially in the beginning. She said, being a little puzzled, that most people want to know what they are doing, first. Intellectually. I explained, that I do PM and I trust her as a teacher to lead me through exercises which she figures are important for me at my current state. She started teaching me.

Feeling Awkward
With different exercises she tried to get me in a mode where the voice was full. She put me on a stepper on which I had to walk while singing. At some point I had to lean forward in a shoulder wide stance. Singing “dui dui dui” up and down the scale in this position felt strange and she directed me saying “try this” or “try that”. At some point my voice felt awkward. The setting of my muscles in my vocal tract was so wrong. I even got a little scared somehow. I stopped after being in this state for not even a second. Suddenly the teacher almost shouted at me: “why did you stop?! That was wonderful! Do it again!”
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find that setting during the remaining 15 minutes of the lesson.

This moment, when the awkwardness was on its peek was the moment when the door opened. I didn’t step through it, but now I know it’s there, at least. Even if I would have find this door without the teacher, I would be convinced that it’s the wrong door.

Master Chen says that we need to get in, get stuck, and then turn the waist. However, people do not like the feeling of being stuck. We think that we need to move around looking for any opportunity to do something. The reality is that every move is an opportunity.

In today’s Practical Method practice in Toronto, we focused on Step Back to Double Shake Feet, and broke it down to 9 steps as seen in this video:

Here are some points to remember:

  1. Right hand does positive circle, while left hand does negative circle as one steps backwards.
  2. Don’t let the right elbow come out first, and the right hand leads the stretch.
  3. The left hand stretches to the back, and the left elbow pulls the hand over the left shoulder to bring it to the front.
  4. Just before the jump, convert the horizontal force to vertical force. Line up the left kua on top of the left heel, like you are sitting on it. The left kua, left knee, and left heel form a triangle. There is an invisible line between the left kua and left heel, and it is the rod/stick.

photo 2 (1)In Vancouver June 2014 workshop, Master Chen explained a common error when students doing circle. During elbow in the elbow, shoulder, front kua have to come close together. During hand out hand and rear kua have to move apart.

The torso/leg has to facilitate a lever during a circle, it doesn’t reverse in the middle of the move. Common error is for the kuas to reverse then this is doing a circle only on the same side of the body.

Photos by Jay Smith
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qq discussion transcript 

Wilkin:  04:07:11

I feel awareness is a broad term and can mean many things. If I am saying I am maintaining my verticality in yilu through awareness, is this the same awareness that Master Chen talk in the video? Read more

1. Tailbone. 2. Full. 3. Stretch. 4. Yilu applications. 5. Theory. Presenter: Chen Zhonghua   Length: 46 min.   In: English   Year: 2012  Difficulty:4/5  At: Toronto, Canada

Toronto Workshop September 2012 Volume 4
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Leaking out of energy is a general error among Taiji learners. It occurs in many places and happens quite often.

This is quite difficult to explain. Let me use an example and imagine the following scenario:. Read more

Concepts to avoid! 1

by webmaster on 2013/01/02

We must avoid even thinking about these words or concepts:

strong, weak, fast, slow, stiff, hard, soft, locked, smooth, round, circle.
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When I asked about the concept of “needle wrapped in cotton”, the master countered with a question, “Do you fight with cotton or with needle? I answered that I would use needle instead of cotton. “In that case, why did you ask me, then?” the master said. “Cotton” is just a decoy to “cheat” the enemy is off his guard, make him think you are not strong. When you use your power to get him, he does not have the time to react. The bottom line is that we train power “jin”. Without power there is no basis for anything in martial art. Read more

Rationalization 6

by webmaster2 on 2012/12/10

The most pervasive human behavior is rationalization. Rationalization happens after people make a mistake.

Here is an example. On our 2004 trip to China, a Chinese master was explaining a technique to Yaron Seidman. He said that his arm was so rubber-like that it was not possible for Yaron to catch it (usually catch means to render it straight thus losing ability to neutralize). Read more

Most people will say, “I cannot do it myself but I can tell right taiji from wrong taiji.” Read more

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“虛領頂勁“ is one of many Tai Chi principles. 虛 means void, which really has misled many people.

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Master Chen corrected circles of 12 students. Good video to see if you have the same mistakes.

Author: Chen Zhonghua   Length: 27 min.   In: English   Year: 2011  Difficulty:2/5  At:Daqingshan

Circle Corrections Daqingshan 2011
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Clip from Yilu Correction Collection

In this clip, Master Chen corrected a common mistake in yilu practice. Normally, people use one part of the body to accomplish two tasks.  This causes the use of local power, which means you are using your hand to grab but also use it to make moves. This is an error in taijiquan practice. On the other hand, you should use global power (heli), which means that if you use your hand to grab, you have to use your elbow to pull or push.

This is the third mini lesson on the topic of tossing. This one deals with the nature of tossing in turns of energy, not physical movements and shape.
Author: Chen ZhongHua   Length: 11 min.   In: English   Year: 2010  Difficulty:4/5  At:Edmonton

Tossing 2
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This term refers to the attempt to engage in rotation without the ability to maintain one’s center. This flaw results in destabilization of structure and balance, and loss of power as a consequence. 

In Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method “tossing” is considered one of the ills of the practice, a weakness to be overcome if progress is to occur.

1. 混淆传承和名誉的问题

传承是练拳习武的首要问题,然而给这个问题一点思考的人极少。无论国内国外,崇拜师父是最突出的表现。 Read more

Slack i

by webmaster2 on 2008/04/16

A common mistake is that after you have taken up the slack and are in and have an action on O, you then let go to attack somewhere else. Once you are on, and your attack is there, don’t retreat or change anything, just continue to apply that action, and then ad another element (most commonly a rotational action) – don’t push him here, and then let go to jerk him there. If your energy is going into O at point A, don’t stop and start putting energy in at point B, instead keep point A going and ad energy at point B. This avoids telegraphing your intention to O. When the first action remains smooth and you ad, your intention is hard to discern and he will be surprised by the addition of the new energy. Once you have two going, ad a third and so on.

“Don’t Move Your Hands!” Contrary to what most believe, the hand in most cases move too much. Everybody wants to learn how to move the hand. In fact, they should learn how NOT to move it!

When the hand moves too much, the following will occur:

  1. The hand will skip off the contacting surface, resulting in loss of power on the opponent.
  2. The power leaks out to the hand which is not directed towards the opponent.
  3. Power becomes front-drive: flexibility but less power.

So it is very important to keep your hand inline (that’s a different topic) and don’t move it around too much!

Practice taiji and doing taiji push hands is the exchange of position, time, and space. In taijiquan, this exchange is called “turning of the joint”. Time and space have five layers (dimensions). Chen style calls this spiral movement, or Peng Energy.

It is therefore East, West, North, South, and Center. In the human body, it is left hand, right hand, head, feet and huiyin. There are two feet but they only represent one direction: the lower/bottom position. They are split from the point of Dantian into two. Because they are one of the same, it is not a matter of which foot the weight should be on when we talk about double weight or double heavy.

Double heavy is a problem in the synchronization of the head, hands and foot. It takes at least ten years of practice to have a basic grasp of what this means.

The original of this was in a note form hand written by Chen Zhonghua.

Because there have been many educated people practicing Taijiquan many periodicals on Taijiquan have been published, even before liberation [1949]. Read more