You don’t know Taiji
After seven years of studying Yang-style, I thought that I knew Taijiquan – very well. At 6’2” and 200lbs, push-hands came easy. The Yang philosophy of relax and turn fit well with my hippie thinking. But with forms named “Cannon-fist”, Chen-style raised my curiosity. How could this be Taiji?
I met Chen Zhonghua at a Chen-style workshop in Winnipeg in 1999. There was no doubt in meeting him that he exhibited great skill and knowledge. He said all the right things that a good teacher should say; he showed us some effective applications. But this workshop was hard on the ego because he told us that we did not know Taiji and would have to start studying at the beginning. What did he know? I knew I was good at Taiji.
“Go ahead and try to push me over,” Chen said to me to demonstrate rootedness. Chen Zhonghua, at least a foot shorter and 80 lbs lighter, faced me square, feet shoulder width apart – no apparent Taiji stance at all. Putting both hands on his chest I proceeded to push, lightly at first. Moving his shoulders a bit, the push was neutralized, so I pushed harder. Realigning his chest, my push disappeared; so I pushed as hard as I could. And then I was airborne. I bounced back several feet, amazed that this guy could absorb that much power and knock me back without using hands or any real “Taiji stance”. I had never experienced such a thing before… it just did not seem possible.
The next day I gave up Yang-style altogether and dedicated myself to the study of Chen-style under Shifu Chen Zhonghua. I still do not know Taiji and still cannot push him over.