“Common Errors in Taijiquan”

by Hong Junsheng on 1986/10/12

Because there have been many educated people practicing Taijiquan many periodicals on Taijiquan have been published, even before liberation [1949]. After liberation, there have been publications in Chen, Yang, Wu (武), Wu (吴)and Sun styles. The National Sports Commission has compiled the Simplified 24, 48, and 88 forms. Kan Guixiang compiled the Chen Style 36 form. Chen Xiaowang compiled the Chen Style 38 form. These have all gone abroad. From the point of view of forms, these were originally good endeavors. But from the point of view of Chen Style, there are many differences in wording and in pictures because of the understanding of the people compiling them. Learners of this style will have no idea what to follow. Here I will raise a few important questions.


Chen Xin was the first to propagate the concept of chan as a major principle of Taijiquan. He solemnly declared, “Without knowing this, one does not understand Taijiquan!” But in “Chen Style Taijiquan” by Shen Jiazhen, chan sijin [silk reeling energy] was listed as the third characteristic of Taijiquan. He used the example of “White Crane Spreads Its Wings” and said that it uses the “right shun and left ni chan method.” In the explanations of the posture he said, “Double shun turns into double ni.” He obviously contradicted himself. He said that the standard for shun and ni is the turning of the palm up and down. In his shun and ni illustration, he had six stages. Only the first and second turned the palm. The rest only had the fingers turn in or out. In explaining the shun and ni of the hand, he said there is one shun, one ni, double shun and double ni. But in the hand and leg shun ni coordination, the explanations are the opposite again. The book also said that the hand and leg chan are the same. This is another contradiction. In other books the explanation of chan is not consistent either. It seems that they don’t really care for chan or they don’t understand chan.

Center of Gravity

The “Taijiquan Treatise” is the origin of the sayings “erect like a balance” and “the waist is like an axle”. Balance and axle are all about the pivoting point of a lever. The pivoting point cannot shift. However each Chen Style Taijiquan book in dealing with the changes of stance says that “the center of gravity should move to one leg.” Not only does this contravene the requirements of balance and axle, it is also contrary to the Chen Style principle of balance as one moves.

Double Heavy

This terminology was first used in the “Taijiquan Treatise”. The treatise already explained what double heavy is and how to avoid double heavy. “Heaviness on the left will cause it to be empty. 
You will not recover control when sinking into the right.” This is actually about the coordination between the hand and the foot. If we added the words hand and foot to the original text, it will be very easy for the learners to understand: When the left hand is solid the left foot must be empty. When the right hand is solid the right foot must be empty. Because classic language is very abstruse, the proponents all hold their different views.

Some say that the “Horse Stance is double heavy.” Some say that “when pushing hands and the opponent is solid then I should be empty to entice and neutralize him”. There was an anonymous author who wrote “Explanations of Taijiquan Light, Heavy, Float and Sink”. This text says that “double heavy is an error while double sinking is not. Double sinking is superior hand [skill] and the practitioner will be light and floating.” There are also those who would only talk about using single weight in order to avoid double heavy. The validity of the above theories can be tested against the hand and foot coordination in Chen Style Taijiquan.

When the left foot advances in “Buddha’s Warrior Attendants Pounds Mortar” the left hand is turning to the right top corner. When the right foot advances in “Block Touching Coat” the right hand is withdrawing to the left. These examples show that if the hand is solid then the foot must be empty [or the other way around.]. If the front hand and foot are both solid, then the front foot cannot move freely. When practicing the routine empty handed, how can one know whether the front foot is empty? Chen Xin said that when practicing solo, one should imagine that they are fighting with someone. This is to require that the practice must have an imagined target in mind. Practice as such will be both strict and practical.

Since there is an imagined target, I must have in mind what the opponent’s technique will be. I will also know what technique to use to counter him. In the first “Buddha’s Warrior Attendant Pounds Mortar” the opponent attacks from the front with his right fist. I take it with my right hand. My left hand touches the outside of his right elbow and pulls it in towards the right top corner. At this point the sinking and grinding out action of my left hand is solid. Therefore my left foot must be empty so as to make an advance.

In the second move of “Block Touching Coat” the opponent pushes my right wrist with both hands. Though I don’t resist with force, my energy and the power of the opponent’s push will combine to make my right hand solid. If my right foot is not empty, it cannot advance either. The Chen Style verbal key is “front issues while the rear sinks”. Master Chen [Fake] only used a Half-Horse Stance when he issued in push hands. He did so in order to avoid being double heavy.

Other Issues

In the Chen Style revolution of the positive circle, the shun chan portion must first sink the elbow and stick it to the ribs. The forearm turns sideways while the middle finger is raised. The right hand of the “Buddha’s Warrior Attendants Pounds Mortar” is like this. When changing into ni chan, the hand must lead the elbow to turn outwards. The elbow should be about five inches lower than the shoulder. The elbow is not allowed to be level with the shoulder. Nowadays, Chen Style practitioners always have their fingers pointing down. This is obviously erroneous.

In addition, the revolution of the left hand in “Buddha’s Warrior Attendants Pound Mortar” is a negative circle. When turning upwards the elbow must withdraw first. Nowadays, Chen Style practitioners never pay attention to the withdrawal of the elbow. This is a serious error.

To read more from Hong Junsheng, please purchase his book (English translation by Chen Zhonghua) at:http://practicalmethod.com/2010/03/chen-style-taijiquan-practical-method-book-by-hong-junsheng/.

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