My Conversion

by Michael Koh on 2011/05/24

I have been practicing Cheng Man Ching 37 style for 2 years, and in 2010 Apr, I started learning Chen Style Taiji in Singapore. After 3 months, I walked away feeling frustrated as I realized that what I learnt was “flower punch”. Nothing more than moving and waving my hands in the air. I didn’t give up and searched further on the internet brought me to a direct lineage from one of the master from Chen Village. I told myself, this teacher cannot be wrong. I signed up a 3 months course.
My son and I chanced upon Master Joseph Chen’s demo video one evening. We both laughed at the jerky fajin and said this guy was trying to imitate Taiji as it didn’t seem like the form that I have learned. We watched Master Chen’s workshop trailer and we were impressed that the techniques and principles were clearly explained and demonstrated and the students were able to repeat the technique without “years of training”. My teachers were only able to quote the principles, not even able to explain clearly. Most principles were not demonstrated and they only said after years and years of training, maybe we can achieve the results! I was converted by Master Chen’s workshop videos.
I emailed to Master Chen in September about my intent to learn from him and seek his advice. He did not have any student near my area. My only mean was to learn from his videos. I bought all his instructional videos and started my learning path. Every month, I would send my progress video to Master Chen for corrections. I have stopped going to the other taiji classes. I didn’t want to look beautiful in the form, but effective and practical. It took me 5 months to learn the whole form with long hours studying the training videos.
I signed up for the DaQingShan event in early 2011. I trained 5 days a week, each day about 1 and a half hours. I wanted to learn the form as much as possible so that Master Chen will correct me on the finer details. Finally, the day had come. It was my first time meeting Master Chen. He also signed me up for the form competition after watching my last video of my form. This was my first competition. I told myself even if I made a fool out of myself, nobody will remember me. I made it through the competition with some mistakes but at least did not embarrass myself too much. The following days were training and learning and fellowship with the new found taiji brothers and sister. Getting to know Master Chen better and understand the history of the practical method system. Learning the training drills and techniques and how the principles are applied. The facilities on the mountain might be quite basic, but the services are more than made up for it. The food was organic, delicious and the jokes we shared added more flavor to the dishes. We learned from each other and with each other. I have not had this feeling for a very long time.
I know that I have found the real path of Taiji. I have found the right teacher. And I know that I will be back on the mountain next year.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Carlos Hanson May 24, 2011 at 10:45 pm

I have been studying Taiji since 2003 and Chen Style Taijiquan since 2006. As of February this year, I started following the same path you did. While it was easy for me to learn the outline of the whole form, I know it will take time to learn the details, so I am working on refining it more before I am ready to send a video to Master Chen. I want the video to show that I have dedicated myself to learning the Practice Method.

I plan to attend the seminar in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada this summer, so I hope Master Chen will accept me as a long distance student at that time. I also want to try to attend at least a little bit of the full-time training at Edmonton.

I learned many things from my Chen Style teacher, but I want to understand the entire system and Master Chen can do that. He describes how I feel inside my body, but adds many things that I haven’t even thought about yet.

I look forward to meeting him and becoming at student rather than just someone who has learned from his fantastic videos.


Anonymous May 25, 2011 at 9:17 am

Sorry, after reading your interesting and enticing entry I was still left in suspense as to why you were converted? You did say “I know that I have found the real path of Taiji. I have found the right teacher” but can you share your experience as to what you mean by finding the “real path” and the “right teacher”?


michaelkoh May 25, 2011 at 8:41 pm

Mr Anonymous, dont take our words for it. Go touch Master Chen to find out. I took 2 weeks of my time from my business and family and traveled thousands of miles. I am not disappointed. I am sorry this is not an intelligent answer you are expecting.


Gary Readore May 25, 2011 at 7:31 pm

I’ll chime in here as well. I had a similiar experience as Michael Koh as far as it relates to Master Chen. I have studied Yang Style taichi for 20 years now, and feel I have actually had good teaching and training as far as learning the “internal” side of taichi (as compared to most people I have run into). I still had questions though after reading the taichi classics and other literature. My teachers had answers, some or many good and accurate, but some I felt were somewhat lacking. Things such as yin-yang separation, why were certain things done in a certain way or outlined as such in the classics, usage of the kua, … I happened to come across Master Chen’s videos about 1 1/2 years ago and what impressed me the most were three things, 1.) his openess and willingness to share what knowledge he has with others, 2.) the reasonable cost of his videos (which showed to me he wasn’t in it for the money, although I know he has to make a living) and most importantly, 3.) his ability to apply the taichi principles in application to an extent I have not seen in my 20 years of taichi. He didn’t just talk a good game, he could actually walk it as well. Many taichi masters seem to resort to “technique” or sometimes even force/strength to accompany their years of acquired skill. Master Chen is different, he embodies something, the essence of taichi, you rarely see. His explanations just turned on “light bulbs” and answered and clarified many of the questions I had. Although the concepts and ways of movement in the Practical Method Style and different than almost all other taichi styles out there, it makes a lot of sense and he proves that it works. I started learning the Yilu form from videos and recently have been lucky enough to run into someone here in town who knows the Practical Method form and has agreed to teach me. Although I am still learning it, I really enjoy this form now and the concepts contiained in it parallels and clarifies some of what I have already learned, but expands on it immensely as well.


Gene Hess May 25, 2011 at 10:56 pm

Hello Mr Anonymous,

A lot of Master Chen’s students have had previous martial arts experience before beginning their studies with him. I am one of them. I have studied Karate, Judo and Yang Style Tai Chi. I was also a seasoned wrestler when I was a student in school. I have always looked forward to a chance to grapple. When I went to my first Chen Style Practical Method workshop about seven years ago, I had the chance to push hands with Master Chen. I assumed that I would be able to use some of my previous skills during our push hands exchange to get the upper hand (or at least hold my own). I was very wrong. There was nothing that I could do to knock him off balance, and in fact, there was nothing I could do to maintain my own balance! I had no idea how he was manipulating my structure so as to keep me off balance the entire time. It was quite baffling. That was when I realized that he possesses something very unique. That was when I knew that I wanted to learn Taiji from Master Chen. This is my experience of why I was converted and how I knew that I had found the right teacher. I hope this helps.

The experiences of the other students in this thread, like mine, speak of the same thing: Master Chen not only has a very high level of skill in Taiji, but he also is an outstanding teacher.

You will also notice from these posts that there is another thing in common. We all know that it is absolutely necessary to learn the Yilu and practice it regularly. Once we learn this choreography, practicing the Yilu is key to gaining the kinds of skills that Master Chen is teaching.


Gino May 26, 2011 at 8:35 pm

I could not agree more with Gene and Michael. Yi lu … Practise practise practise ….and lucky to have found a great teacher to assist and guide along the path. Master Chen’s ability to connect to the opponent and then move his kua is extraordinary.

Michael, the mountain is not the same since you left…so yesterday we climbed Tai Shan.


pingwei May 30, 2011 at 12:18 am

Those who can find the true path are the lucky ones. Everybody has a path, though. But majority of them are just in the wrong direction, and thought they are on the right path.


jediah willow July 14, 2011 at 4:17 pm

The push hands competition pictures looked more like sumo than taji. The winner outweighed the other guy in the picture by a good twenty pounds I though taiji was the force of one ounce over comes a thousand pounds? I would be interested in attending a future event if it is to be held again in the future. Is this event open to the public? Thank you for your time. ^i^


admin July 14, 2011 at 5:27 pm

Your assumptions about taiji are correct. However a competition must be simply a competition. There is no distinction between taiji and non-taiji. This means taiji students should be good enough to deal with a student of any style and any weight category. A competition of this kind is in such a way to give the student a chance to test whether the taiji learned has any validity. It is a long path to make taiji work in any situation and to follow taiji principles at the same time. During a competition, the student is first matched up against someone of the same age and weight. After that the champion of each category then has a chance to work with champions from other categories.

The Daqingshan Taiji Competition is designed to give students a chance to test all aspects of taiji as a health exercise, sport and martial art. There will be another one in May, 2012.


jediah willow July 17, 2011 at 11:48 am

It makes perfect sense to preserve the essence of martial arts through testing. I thought taiji was all but lost as a practical martial art, it is good to see another beautiful art that can actually be used as well. Grandmaster Helio shared similar beliefs. Does this competition allow for martial artists from other disiplines to compete? ^i^


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