Review of Master Chen Zhonghua’s first Practical Method seminar in China

by Li Xinming on 2011/08/23


Master Chen Zhonghua’s first China Taijiquan Seminar has ended successfully. Under the careful teaching both himself and the assistant instructor Hong Sen, each student left with his/her own improvements. I was lucky to have attended three days and feel that I have entered a totally new world and have benefited a great deal.

Superb and Realistic Taiji Gongfu

In China taji masters are numerous like the stars in the night sky. They all claim to “have defeated the world and are next to none in history.” There are all kinds of exchange conferences, discussion forums and competitions. However, there are few who would stand in front of a real audience to give physical demonstrations. The few who did show up only to gain further media exposure but are “afraid their art is stolen” by students.

[singlepic id=3506 w=320 h=240 float=left]Grandmaster Hong Junsheng once said, “Even if I teach you every move physically with my body, you won’t be able to learn it. Not willing to share? Why?” What does this phenomenon reflect? Let’s take a look at current masters. When talking about taiji, they are eloquent in bad mouthing others. When confronted physically, they have one millions excuses why they didn’t need to push with you. More than likely the real reason is that they are afraid that their lack of skill will be exposed.

What I have witnessed on Daqingshan is that Master Chen Zhonghua has never refused to make contact with any visitors, no matter what style of martial art the visitors came from. You can try whatever you want with him. He can easily tell you the usage while dealing with you. Sometimes he even pretends to be the dummy to let you try techniques out to give them a feeling of what correct movement feels like. Often times, he lets many students control him but with the slightest move he can get away. It was wonderful to witness him in action. Each student left thoroughly convinced. This is the real Grandmaster. It is also his confidence based on his superb taiji skills.

[singlepic id=3577 w=320 h=240 float=none]Among the participants, many are famous masters from other schools who came to test Master Chen. They all claim to have experienced Master Chen’s high level skill upon contact. Frankly, Master Chen’s level of expertise in taiji is too high for the so called “famous masters”. He does not need to show techniques. It never took even one round. No matter who the challenger is, Master Chen can immediately go into the role of the teacher, playing with the challenger like a rag doll. Some foreign students are almost twice his size, Master Chen puts them in precise locations and sometimes throwing them like a ball in mid air. Never did we see him use any strength or shed any sweat. Visitors are all simply amazed (there are many videos from students).

My personal experience is that I cannot apply any power to him. All my attacking powers are sucked away upon contact but when my power went into emptiness, his power came from another direction. And it is overwhelming. It is like the taiji treatise said, “Moving in it is too long. Upon treat it is already too late.” When he moves in on me, I felt that he was strong like a wall; powerful like an armored vehicle; omnipresent like water. He left no room for me, no chance to make a move. I was at my wit’s end each time. When that iron wall came towards me, my stance and movements were immediately destroyed. There no no chance. Not even a chance to breathe. Come to think about it, Master Chen is not strong or big. I am equally equipped as him. Why the quantum difference? Master always smiles, “You didn’t put in enough time.”

Flexible Teaching Model

Master Chen taught languages in Canada in earlier years. He has rich teaching experience. He is both strict and humorous in his teaching.  He has methodology but is not rigid in follow teaching patterns. His unique method is to let students learn while having fun.

[singlepic id=3579 w=320 h=240 float=none]Sometimes Master Chen is in his slipper and holds a can of coca cola or tea. He pushes hands with his only free hand while laughing and talking. Students would be bounced out repeated without his foot moving one inch or spilling his drink. At the beginning we thought he was showing his skill. Soon we realized that he was demonstrating his teaching of “don’t move”. He often pushed hands with students apply the theory and principles he just taught. He did not so easily and casually most of the time we did not know until later. This is his way of impressing students into believing what he teaches. Very enlightening indeed. Learning from Master Chen is a process that lasts a long time. Most learning occurs hours, days (and I heard years) after the lesson.

When Master Chen was explaining the foundational exercise of the positive circle, the students cannot keep the principle of “Hand out not elbow”; he then took his glasses out and held them out for the student. Strangely, the student immediately took the glasses from him and did not reach withe the elbow. He then asked all students to try and apply the action to the circle. This is how I personally understood why “martial arts came from real life”.

[singlepic id=3605 w=320 h=240 float=none]Master Chen is friendly and humorous. But is he not a serious teacher? I fortunately saw him “not so happy” twice. One was when I was making moves (of course incorrectly) and talking about my own opinions, He took one look at me and said, “when you are listening to a lecture, you should pay attention. When you watch a demonstration of a technique, don’t imitate.” Another time was when he was explaining the foundational exercise of “fetch water”, he asked me to raise the front kua. At the time, I did not understand taiji movements and only thought that the move did not look good. I refused to move that way. the master said, “Why don’t you follow the instructions?  You should listen if you want to learn.” At that time I was worried. But now come to think of it, he was harsh to me because he wanted me to improve. I am grateful.

Master Chen once told an anecdote. In his advance age, Grandmaster Hong’s hook hand showed a bent wrist. Master Chen pointed this out according to the rules that Hong himself had set. The grandmaster smiled, “I am too old to hold my wrist.” and corrected it immediately. The art is pure and is scientific. There is no personal ego involved. Master Chen Zhonghua often accepts criticism from his students. Grandmasters like them have set the record straight for us to follow the rules correctly. As late comers, we have an obligation to follow these valuable teachings.

Down to Earth Personality

Historically there is the tradition of “The poor will learn to be a scholar while the rich can practice martial art.” Martial art requires money and time. There is no way around it. Master Chen is an exception. He told me, “You must find the time. Time will not find you.”  Working class people often work hard without any spare time. If we succumb to the chore of life we will never accomplish anything. Therefore, do not day dream that you will be enlightened one day into having this magic power. We must find time to practice and practice correctly. Each bit of time put into practice will benefit you that much. With gradual accumulation of practice time, you gain more abilities.

Mr. Lin Ketong, an international lawyer from Hong Kong, said that Master Chen’s approach is all encompassing. Indeed, among the student, there are professors, government officials, rich businessmen, and there is me, a simple factory worker. I have no higher education, no government post and no money. Master Chen treated me exactly the same as anyone else. In some ways he paid more attention to me knowing that I need more instructions. My gratitude will turn into motivation for me to work hard on Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method.

[singlepic id=3576 w=320 h=240 float=none]Many people came to Daqingshan. Some other senior masters of other styles. Upon contact, Master Chen had demonstrated his superior skill and all others have showed respect. And yet Master Chen never showed any slight over others. He always approached every issue from a technical point of view, giving attendees full explanations of advantages and disadvantages of the techniques without criticizing styles or people. Each visitor to Daqingshan was given a full picture of the Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method and each one opt to convert to this style out of their deep respect for Master Chen.

Three days on the mountain were short but fruitful. From 5 in the morning till 9 at night. Aside from meal time and lunch nap, Master Chen and Master Hong Sen were with us the whole time. Their personal teachings are still vivid in my memory. I found spare time to sort out my experiences to share with my fellow practitioners. My review does not present Master Chen in full but a show of my gratitude in the spirit of sharing.

Li Xinming in Huangdao
August 23, 2011

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelvin Ho August 26, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Li Xinming, thank you for this article. This is such a good reminder.
“You find the time, and don’t expect time to find you.” Who isn’t busy with his/her daily life? If you let your errands get in the way, nothing will be accomplished at the end. So don’t just hope that you will get the ability/skills one day, make it a priority to practice. Practice according to the rules. Every piece of practice improves you a little. Accumulate bit by bit. Once the critical amount is reached, the ability will be realized.


Jay Smith September 6, 2011 at 6:26 pm

I can’t agree more.
Great article! thanks for sharing.


Niko September 6, 2011 at 11:04 pm

Nice article !


Massimo Neresini September 8, 2011 at 3:30 am

Li Xinming I completely agree with you. I have had the fantastic possibility to spend some days of training in Daqingshan this summer and I felt the same perceptions. I can say everybody “get there and try personally because sometime it could appears that we overvalue or exaggerate and ‘add colour’ to the great experience and energy of Master Chen… Try to go there, try to spend some time and share your experience with the Daqingshan’s training people and meet Master Chen!”. I’m 55 and for me it’s a challenge! I can tell everybody that my son Leo (he is 13 and he is been practicing Kungfu and Wushu for more than 8 years and spent some days with me in Daqingshan this summer, he was very proud of him because he finished the Yilu form) told me: “dad, when I come back to China, I want to come back with you in Daqingshan I want to learn the real Taiji taught by Master Chen”.
Simple question to Li Xinming: I’m writing an article for an italian sportive magazine “SPORTIVISSIMO” on my experience in Daqingshan and Taijiquan Hong Practical Method, may I catch something from your article?
Thank you very much and a huge HUG to all my Taiji friends!


James Tam September 5, 2013 at 7:59 am

This is another very good article by Li Xinming that I find useful to revisit. It is a good reminder of how lucky we are to be able to learn from a very capable, knowledgeable and generous teacher (Chen Zhonghua Laoshi). As well, it is a good reminder of how critical it is to put in the time to practice. Great motivating article!


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