Early notes from Cannon Fist Workshop

by Rion Swanson on 2010/07/27

July 26, 27. Cannon Fist Workshop.

Thank you Master Chen and Allan for your time and excellent teaching so far. The first two days have been great!

Covered so far:

Twisting the Towel, Drawing Water, Circles (single and double stationary), ‘hinge’ stepping then with elbow (as in Cannon Fist routine).

Beginning movements of Jian form.

Foundations, foundations, foundations.

Silk reeling (with lots of focus on the shoulders to help open them up).


Cannon Fist choreography and details/corrections


Elbow in. Hand out. When doing circles, there is a wall/plane going up from your thigh so your elbow/shoulder/hand must never pass beyond it. Your elbow must not lead hand. Hand must lead going out.

When rotating on the hinge/rod through kua/shoulder on one side (and crunching down), make sure the other shoulder does not go up. It should remain unmoved.

To internalize (to make it your own) is a flaw; this is false as there is nothing to know.

We are training in awkwardness!

Do not apply strength in Cannon Fist. Using muscular strength immediately brings out old habits which fully inhibits learning anything new. The ‘ripping’ movement of the Cannon Fist was used as an example to describe how the arms (biceps, then forearms) must be relaxed/empty and not stiff with tensed muscles to allow the flow of the movement to go through both arms out into the fists to hit. The tense muscular power you want to avoid here is know as ‘Li’.

Producing ‘rods’! Starting with just one rod/line. Once you can make one, you’ll be able to make another (but never 2 at once…yet). Then eventually, through more training you’ll be able to produce 2 or more rods at one (multi-dimensional). The rod is intention. If it were real(physical form), it would break. The elastic band wraps around the  rod (of intention).

The arch is a key concept. Note that the rod can also arch.

Muscle has bands/fibres going in a cross/width-wise direction, while tendon strength goes in a length-wise direction. It is the tendon strength, not  muscle strength that is used in Taiji.

The Taoist view is that smaller is stronger.

The standard is that you cannot deviate from the line. The standard is set. Follow it and do not deviate.

Start with a thick line, then use a thinner line later as you progress. Avoid starting on something other than a line.

All punches must be lined up to use the long tendon in the middle of your thigh (name of tendon?). The amount of power generated is huge once you can use this. Eventually you can use the deep core muscles (eg: psoas?, others) and gain tremendous power.

We are aiming to eliminate space (while with an opponent).

Of all the fighting tecniques, none of them have to do with fighting! It’s just the foundation moves used on the upper body combined with the feet nudging forward that cause the opponent to feel like it’s a fighting technique.

All the movement is done in a mechanical way (in the sense that the body parts are able to and do move separately – separating yin and yang).

First, get rid of elbow. Then get rid of shoulder. Then get rid of waist. In the end the opponent can feel nothing but a hand and foot (ends of the rod). The opponent (can find you here?) and you have strength here.

Use of ‘elastic tension’, not muscular strength.

When doing shoulder silk reeling, avoid moving shoulder/body on the other side of the centre line. Ex: if you’re working the right shoulder, you do want to get the stretch through the body but avoid moving your left shoulder up and down as the right one is being moved. The is just another point to remember so you can learn to isolate the parts of the body.

‘Peng’ is a consistent energy.

The Eight Techniques were discussed, including some mis-interpretations of a few of them, most notably ‘An’.

The Five Directions(?) were also mentioned.

You need 2 and 3 to move 1! 1=upper body. 2=hip kua A. 3=hip kua B

Wall exercise: Stand back against a solid wall. Partner pushes hard into your chest or anywhere on your torso. Without moving body off the wall, and without moving shoulder as you do this, use hands to push partner’s hands off you.  Your back (especially the part of back directly behind the partner’s hand position) must not move at all. This should be very easy to do requiring hardly any force. Note that if you move your shoulder up, it will be very difficult to do this.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Lee Hrappsted July 28, 2010 at 4:43 am

Great notes, thanks for posting.


Pavel Codl July 28, 2010 at 6:17 am

I agree with Lee, great notes, very helpful. Thanks.


Todd Elihu July 28, 2010 at 8:36 am

Thanks for posting these excellent notes, Rion!

Could you illuminate for us what the correct interpretation of “An” is?


Rion August 3, 2010 at 8:39 am

You’re very welcome! Hopefully the notes will help somewhat rather than confuse.
I did not write down the specifics of the An interpretation in my first notes but remember Master Chen mentioning incorrect interpretations of a few of the techniques. I seemed to remember these as being Ji, An, and Zhou. Below is from going through my remaining notes, although I cannot remember the correct meaning of Zhou. Maybe someone else can add this.

An = to push causing a separation. Ji and An always work together. Most people do Ji and believe it is An.
Ji – squeeze/taking up space (this is critical to Taiji). A common mis-translation of Ji is ‘Press’. The example used to describe Ji was of a sponge expanding and filling the space.
Zhou – elbow strike (?). I believe Master Chen had mentioned a different translation for this..



Todd Elihu August 4, 2010 at 8:16 am

Your understanding of An is the same as my own. At the point of maximum compression the opponent is squeezed out and your bodies are separated.
I have heard Master Chen define Zhou as “twist” in the past.
我在过去也听陈老师说过“肘” 其实是“扭”。


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