Learning the Practical Method: from Videos to Seminar

by Carlos Hanson on 2011/07/09

I started learning the Practical Method from video in February of this year (2011). Because I had studied Chen Style Taijiquan since 2006 and did not have a Practical Method teacher in my area, I thought I could learn from the wealth of information and videos available on the Practical Method website.

My first videos were the Basic Foundations and Yilu (First Routine) Detailed Instructions. I have since bought the Energy Alignment videos and various Mini Lessons. I also recommend Yilu Corrections.

Everything I have read and watched has been very useful. The instructions enabled me to quickly learn the choreography of Yilu and helped me understand some of the details of the Practical Method.

All this is well and good. However, it is one thing to watch the examples of the Practical Method in a video. It is completely enlightening to feel the examples applied to your own body.

I felt that it was important to go to a seminar to physically validate what I understood from the videos. I quickly found out that I made the correct decision. During the Edmonton week long seminar Master Chen manipulated and aligned my posture in such a way that I had a stronger structure. Naturally, it is up to me to continue to practice and work towards those ideals, so I can create the structure myself.

During the seminar there were many things covered directly and indirectly that I had learned from the videos or the information provided on practicalmethod.com. There were additional discussions that added to my understanding and gave me a path to follow and improve.

I used to think that you can learn Taijiquan on your own. However, it has taken many generations to get to this point. Each generation has transfered their learning to the next to continue and improve. This transmission is essential to learning Taijiquan. I now believe that I cannot learn it on my own.

The videos were an excellent start. If that is all you have, do it. Follow them and learn. But also know that you will need a qualified teacher at some point to show you how to really move and demonstrate the depth of learning that is possible.

About Carlos Hanson

I have studied Chen Style Taijiquan since 2006. I started learning the Practical Method in February of 2011. Before studying the Practical Method and attending a seminar with Master Chen Zhonghua, I maintained interest in Baguazhang and Xinyi. However, the Practical Method is now more than enough for me to learn.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

David Fadjar July 9, 2011 at 5:38 pm

I agree… in the absence of good teacher nearby, I would think the DVD or trailer and videos from this website is a great source to make a start. A lot of things are covered in the instructions and other videos, all that limit our success is ourselves. I am particularly weak when it comes to flexibility or speed, as well as weak at memorizing the sequences… so having a rewind button with a DVD player is an absolute must for me……

And yet after meeting with Master Chen, there are many little things and major things that are mentioned in the videos but would not be understood unless we learn it from him directly. He said, “GM Hong touched hands with GGM Chen Fake, it means he touched hand with all the previous masters that “HANDED DOWN” the transmission to GGM Chen Fake”. I am happy to have touched hand with Master Chen Zhonghua because it means I was also handed down the transmission received by GM Hong. So many things to learn but only for my limited ability that I cannot yet achieve it. Still need to practice more and learn more from Master Chen Zhonghua.



Carlos Hanson July 10, 2011 at 12:00 pm

David, thank you for picking out the essential points and expanding on them. I quickly realized how much I did not know after Day 1 of the seminar. But I didn’t start Taijiquan to learn it overnight.


Rickygene January 18, 2015 at 10:02 pm

I don’t often post or comment because I am still a beginner and cannot offer much insight on many subjects. However, learning from videos is something I feel confident about so I thought I would share my experience here. I started learning Yilu from ‘Yilu Detailed’ back the US May of 2012, when I purchased hard disk copies of all 4 Energy Alignment, 4 disk Applications set, Foundations, as well as Erlu videos from Wilkin (PM Website Admin), had them sent to me via mail. That may seem like a lot to purchase at one time, but my intention was not learn from them right away. I simply was highly motivated after seeing Master Chen’s ‘Recommended Yilu’ on You Tube, and I knew I finally found the system I had been searching for.

I practiced only from the ‘Yilu Detailed’ until I could perform the basic choreography in about three months. I started on the energy alignment there after and that took me all the way through my moving to Beijing to get through (one year), on a basic level. It wasn’t until May of 2013 I meet Master Sun in Beijing, then Master Chen and Tim Duehring in June, that I had a chance to experience learning PM in person. I must say that the information contained in the videos is so complete, full of great knowledge and so in-depth that I still reference them every week over two years later, and I still learn something new every time. I happen to own almost a hundred DVD’s collected over a 15 year period on Weng Chun, Wing Tsun, Yang Taiji, and Chen Taiji, amongst various other Chinese systems. I hold my PM videos at the top, and haven’t looked at any other system or videos since I started. I rate them so high because of the obvious vast knowledge contained in them, but also because learning from them is relatively easy compared to many other produced videos I own, for a few different reasons.

A. Master Chen makes a conscious accurate effort to perform the forms in the intended directions (North, South, East, West etc).
B. His knowledge and way of description to a native English speaking person is as highly understandable (a very key point for me).
C. The audio and video quality is clear and precise, DVD menus are easy to navigate, and the online videos stream very well.

I have practiced PM with the Beijing PM group under Master Sun Zhonghua’s direction, for 1 Year and 7 months, plus the year learning from the videos. I have been to DQS mountain 6 times (each time only a week or two) along with having attended several Chinese seminars with MC. I feel that if I did not start with the videos, I would have been so much further behind, and not had any idea for what to expect when I started in person. Of course as many state, learning in person, and feeling from the instructor is the best way to learn. However the is no better supplement for me than the videos, when no live instructor is present, because you simply cannot remember everything, and repeated learning over time is the only way to truly digest a principle or concept. I now practice Yilu, Erlu, Push Hands & Straight Sword all of which I started with videos, then transferred to in person teaching, and still reinforce daily with videos over a 2 year 7 month period, and will continue to do so.

So, if your just beginning PM or have studied for many years, I highly recommend owning many of the videos this website offers. If your like me, and love the hard copies, know they come well protected in nice sleeves and have great printing on the top sides. I like them because often I am away from Wifi access and can study anywhere with my computer/DVD player. I have since purchased a vast amount of online videos to which I reference everyday. I am never disappointed and super grateful that these videos are produced and affordable. My collection continues to grow, as does my knowledge of PM, thanks to these videos and this website.

Ricky Gene Pietila
Beijing Rick


Carlos Hanson January 20, 2015 at 7:51 am

Thanks for adding your experience. A YouTube clip of Single Whip is what made me investigate the Practical Method in more detail. When I purchased my first video (Yilu Detailed Instructions) I found that Master Chen provides more information than I have found in any other video. I also found that Single Whip clip.

With each new one he works to explain what he knows in ways that we can understand. Whenever I notice something new in my practice, it seems a video shows up talking about that very thing.

I say get the videos. Start practicing. Go to a seminar. I also think that order is valuable. You will have a base of knowledge at the seminar and experience from which to work. When you return to the videos, you will find more than you first realized. You won’t be disappointed.


Patrick Dickson January 21, 2015 at 8:02 am

Carlos and Ricky

Reading your experiences makes me realize how similar my trip has been. I came across a video of Master Chen on You Tube in December of 2012. It blew me away. I had already practiced a different form of the Yilu and also the long form of Yang Style since 1978. I was astounded by the amount of information Master Chen put in his video. I also purchased the Yilu detailed dvd, as well as the Energy Alignment DVDs and the Application set of DVDs. Since two years ago I have purchased approximately 150 videos. I have not watched many of them, but having access to so much information I felt that if I didn’t get them they might not be available. later. I spent four months or so learning the choreography of the PM Yilu, and 10 months after I started my solo studies I attended a two day seminar and had an hour and a half private lesson with Master Chen in October of 2013. I do not have anyone around me who is a PM practitioner, so I mainly work with my students who I had taught other styles of Taijiquan and we work together on the core principles, foundations and drills. I read, watch videos, work with my students and study as much as I can. The videos were invaluable in preparing me for the first seminar. Although I had misunderstood some of the concepts, I got a lot more out of the seminar than I would have if I had not studied videos first. I tend to check videos at least a few times a week, if not more, but it is the daily practice that is transforming my yilu. I very much envy those students who have a support group around them, and those students who are blessed to have Master Chen come to their area on a regular basis. If needed, I might have to figure out how to pay for a trip to Phoenix this coming fall to take another seminar. As it is I don’t see any seminars planned for the northern California area. It has been a fascinating experience to come across Master Chen’s teachings, and at the beginning of December I took on the yilu challenge of doing 20 a day. I’ve had to take a few days off here and there since the challenge, due to injuries from a motorcycle accident that have still not healed properly, but I average at least 500 yilus a month even with the occasional day off. I love the PM brother/sister/hood, and I feel like I’ve won the Taijiquan lottery by coming across this information. Happy Yilus to everyone.


Jason October 6, 2017 at 8:56 am

This post is really helpful and encouraging for someone thinking about doing practical method. I was curious how the progress is several years on for those who began learning remotely/ online. I have begun trying the foundations from the online videos but worry about going down the path of practical method if I do not have anyone to train with – even if other novices. For those who trained remotely, did you have other novices to work with between hands on sessions with Master Chen or a qualified PM teacher, or as one respondent said peers or students who study other styles of Taiji/ martial arts?

It seems from some past comments that some who did this had other taijiquan experience as well. Did you supplement existing practice with practical method or did you replace? I have found that the explanations of body mechanics in th videos have significantly increased my existing understanding of taijiquan already, which is why I have thought more about going more fully in the practical method direction.


Carlos Hanson October 6, 2017 at 4:37 pm


Good questions. I have spent the majority of my time as a remote learner. The first lesson is choreography. If you are interested, follow the videos to learn the movements. Don’t expect it to be correct, but that is ok. It is the starting point.

If you really want to learn, you must attend a seminar. Ideally, a minimum of two. The second one teaches you that you didn’t learn as much as you thought you did the first time.

At that point, maybe you’ll have enough to work on if you can’t regularly attend seminars. That is where I am. Three key points: don’t move, open kua, rotate.

Occasionally, I ask my oldest son if I can push him around. It surprises me how easily I can and how hard he works in comparison. If you can find someone, even occasionally, that will help.

My only concern at this point is if I am deviating from learning properly. I don’t know what my real progress is. But what I have learned and the potential I see is awesome. After my first seminar, I chose to make the Practical Method my primary, rather than supplemental, practice. I saw no point in anything else.

If you can get to a seminar, you won’t be disappointed.


Hugo Ramiro October 19, 2017 at 7:27 am

Hi Carlos! Great summary, thank you for writing it. On your last point, deviation: Especially as a remote learner, submitting videos is potentially nerve wracking, but incredibly useful. I recall enjoying and appreciating the videos you used to post. Posting videos of ourselves allows us to connect with other practitioners, participate in a sense of community and receive and give feedback, which does not have to be wrong or right – it just has to be different from the mental rut that each of us gets into on our own.
Thanks again for your summary!


Carlos Hanson October 19, 2017 at 2:47 pm

Hi Hugo! Thanks!

You are absolutely correct. I kept making videos for awhile, but didn’t feel like they were the ones I wanted to post. Then I realized it had suddenly become years since I posted one.

Part of my issue is letting my practice subside. It is definitely harder when you don’t have the incentive that comes from regular contact and missing the corrections or encouragement that comes from a teacher and classmates. However, this is a very open and welcoming community, so being more involved with posting videos, adding comments and participating in any remote access opportunities can definitely help with that.

I will work on that. Thanks again.


Kelvin Ho October 23, 2017 at 9:26 am

The key is to be consistent (including in posting videos with a set frequency). I understand how we want to do it right, but we are never right. Often than not what the video showed was the hard truth: I wasn’t doing what I thought I was doing. As long as it was basically the best you could do at the time, it served well as a record of the practice. Over time, when you re-watched these videos, you could see progress given you had been practicing. Keep the video posts coming.


pingwei October 6, 2017 at 3:26 pm

There’s an old saying, “Seeing is believing.” In Practical Method, most often, seeing is “deceiving”. What you saw is not what really happened. You have to touch Master Chen to get to understand how a move was executed. That’s the significant difference of learning from videos vs learning in a workshop or classes. Of course, videos are powerful resources. Workshops are irreplaceable.
Master Chen’s scheduled US workshop will be on January 20 and 21, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona.


Kelvin Ho October 23, 2017 at 9:28 am

Once you feel the movements physically, when you re-watch the videos, you may see something you didn’t notice before. It’s like peeling an onion.


Jason October 8, 2017 at 3:27 pm

Thanks Carlos and Ping Wei. Are there many Practical Method practitioners around NYC? I have only seen a school on Long Island, but perhaps thought there are those still at earlier stages in their training that they are not teaching and may be useful to work out with?


Dan Bixler October 9, 2017 at 5:38 pm

Hello Jason. Michael Calandra is a long time student and disciple of Master Chen, located in Floral Park, NY. I can vouch for him being an awesome teacher. I had a private lesson with him a couple of years ago, and learned so much. I haven’t been able to make it to a seminar yet, but I’m hoping to in the near future.


Dan Bixler October 9, 2017 at 5:40 pm

Here is a link to Michael’s website – http://isja.com/seishinkan/Seishinkan/Welcome.html


Kelvin Ho October 23, 2017 at 9:30 am

Michael Calendra invites Master Chen to do a workshop in NYC at least once a year.


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