Brazil Seminar 1 Notes

by JVanko on 2012/12/07

Master Chen gave a seminar in Guaratinguetá, Brazil (near São Paulo) in November 2012. He asked me to post my notes, and so here they are. I am posting the summarized version now, and will post more detail on these from time to time.

The seminar was amazing. Our teachers and students had the good fortune to be left with not just a lesson in Taiji, but also with lessons to be applied in their lives.

Teaching Method

Master Chen has a teaching method. He is always asking certain things, over and over, to get you used to learning from him.

1. Listening – you must REALLY listen to him (much easier said than done).

2. Focus – once you listen, you really need to focus so you can understand. Because after every question he will ask “do you understand?” and, you had better understand or he will ask again, and again. What you need to actually understand may be quite simple, but your complex, modern mind may have a hard time understanding anyway. It is best to use the KISS (Keep It Simple Silly) principle in taking directions, especially if you have done other martial arts. Just learn what  he is teaching. Just do what he is saying.

3. Big No No – do NOT compare what he has just taught you with other learning experiences you have or ask about “what if” scenarios. In any particular example, he is trying to teach you something specific, so if he tells you to look at his arm then look at his arm and forget about his foot. It is just an example, so don’t ask what if’s that are not relevant. This will only detract from the lesson, cause problems in your learning process and can even be seen as a challenge.

4. It’s Physical – Lots of touching. Why so much? Master Chen asks you to touch his body in specific ways to feel how he is moving since you can’t see it, and touching lots areas you might not think were being used. Applications are shown and occasional tests of martial skill are not out of the question. Master Chen uses lots of props, including sticks, staffs, and pieces of paper to get his points across. There is training using the wall and rubber cords.

5. Watch – When he is doing something it is time to watch. Don’t copy the movement while he is doing it, since he intends for you to watch.

6. Learning vs. Usage – these 2 are different. For instance. Taiji and Aikido masters can both make someone fall, but it does not mean the Aikido master is also a Taiji master or vice versa.


I am going to list some of the concepts discussed below. Just keep in mind that listing them doesn’t mean we know them, anymore than writing about basketball means we can play in the NBA. Keep in mind these were all demonstrated, they are not just concepts.

DON’T MOVE #$@%$#! – enough said. Don’t move, period. But do this while you are moving.

Always have 1 part that doesn’t move – enough said

Make it dead – important concept for not moving and also giving more power. Example with a  a stick in place of your arm.

 3 Point Circle – one of the most simple circles. 1) lead with ELBOW on a line and pull elbow to ribs. don’t move front kua. 2) pull elbow way back, maintaining the line and moving front kua backwards (up to this part you were compressing) then 3) start to expand, rear kua opens and sink the rear shoulder.

Energy Alignment – get inside the line (shoulder is outside). Whoever gets the inside has an advantage. If the opponent gets your rear foot you have lost.

Circle and Triangle – our bodies are not circles and cannot move in circles. divide the body into triangles and adjust the body parts to make something closer to isoceles triangle.

Rotation – example using 2 sticks. I won’t try to explain, but it always has a fixed point that something revolves around.

Start with the opposite – when pushing forward, go back first

Linking – part of pulling in/compressing. Linking means to change many things into 1.

Heavy arm (exercise) – arm cannot be moved down.

Push the wall (exercise) – feel the line. don’t leak out. the longer the line, the more power.

Making 2 points into 1 (exercise) – for resisting pushes. e.g. make points on waist and foot into 1

Bicycle – regarding the hip movement. in conjunction with knee up/down

Use the Line – imagine scraping along a wall for refined power. much more diffult in the air.

Qiao – move from 1 energy point to another (demo with staff)

Connected line of energy – there must be a connected line, the longer the better. Energy alignment.

Combined force -combine 2 straight lines into 1

Shuffle step to get under a push and push back. Stepping is called “shovel out”.

Face the wall (exercise) with arms extended. Lower body to get power to arm.

Hold the finger, finger doesn’t move (exercise)

The first time you learn the form it is like draft version. The form only has 9o or 45 degree angles. Not 50 degrees, not 48, not 45.02. 45 or 90 degrees only. Trained to the highest precision. This makes the form a quest for perfection.


  •  Mastering Taiji is nearly a futile effort. You will never perfect Taiji. In every 100 years, only a few Taiji masters are produced and only a few Qigong masters as well. i.e. your chances of becoming one of these is close to nil. You may have better luck becoming the president of your country. The secret is that even knowing this, you do not quit.
  • Beyond that, even if you were able to master Taiji, then nobody would know it because it cannot be seen and it also can be duplicated by using external methods. The only way to know is if you can still do it when you are older.
  • After around the 30’s people lose mind body connection and have to relearn movement. Like a language, if you learn after a certain age, most likely you will not be able to use it as a native speaker would, or someone who has been learning since they were a child  (e.g. you will have an accent). This is especially true if you are learning practical method after learning other martial arts, and when you are older.
  • Do the form as if you were touching physical objects. MUCH harder than it sounds.
  • When you push forward first go backwards. When you are good it feels as if someone is pushing you from behind.
  • Stories – Master Chen really likes to tell stories, and they are quite entertaining. Some of them are easy to believe and others are very interesting.
  • Fighting theory – your attacks never land on me, but mine always land on you
  • Taiji only goes forward. No retreat. This is called “Withdraw is to issue” (shou ji shi fang).
  • There was also a lot of talk about the quality of the body. It should always be firm and strong, never too relaxed or limp. This reminds me of “needle wrapped in cotton” and “not on, not off.”
  • Don’t let the opponent push get to your rear foot, but when you push connect to the rear foot.
  • Taiji cannot be combined with other martial arts. If you think you can combine them, then you don’t understand Taiji.
  • Be honest. In terms of skills and in terms of believing in the art. Easier said than done. Honesty in China is different than in the West. In China it does not refer to ethics, but rather a meeting of the minds, a common understanding between people.
  • If you are not athletic, then you cannot learn well.
  • Training vs teaching. Teachers (including famous masters) who do not train with anyone are doing themselves a dis-service. If teachers are giving a class, then they are not training. Even worse, if they never allow anyone to push with them, they won’t get any better at pushing. So famous teachers who do not train anymore or push with others are actually at a disadvantage in terms of preparation. In this way, a teacher could even have less ability to defend him or herself than a student. Being famous can be counterproductive to skill generation.
  • Learning needs to be scientific to be repeatable. Otherwise you may get lucky sometimes but not know why.
  • Be scientific about your training to achieve best results. The best unit of measure of experience is the yilu and the foundation exercises. For instance, if you say you have “studied Taiji” for one year but done only one yilu per month, then you actually have only about one hour and 12 minutes of experience (instead of one year).
  • Hong was challenged all the time. In China, this was common in public parks where space would be claimed.
  • Hong’s disciples all had special skills, but could only execute very consistently on their own students. Only Hong could execute 100% on non-students.
  • Hong never “pushed” anyone out. He let them push themselves out. He would make you feel you were safe when you were not, and then let you go. You would feel like you slipped, or something, but not that he did it.
  • Develop your peng energy to be like a ball with highly compressed air. People who push on such a ball will bounce or roll off.

Master Chen’s generosity was extraordinary, and all of the students were deeply moved. We highly recommend his seminars to Taiji practitioners, other martial artists, and even non-martial artists. There will be a precious gem for everyone.


About JVanko

Hunyuan Taiji Academy do Brasil.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelvin Ho December 7, 2012 at 11:30 pm

Thank you very much for your notes. They are very good reminders.


drew kruszelnicki December 10, 2012 at 2:05 am

thanks awsome notes very helpfull . greatly appreciated


Jeffrey Chua December 10, 2012 at 10:44 pm

Looks like you guys covered a lot of ground. Tks for notes!


Matt Landau June 8, 2013 at 4:24 pm

It is reassuring to know that Chen Laoshi is 100% consistent all the time in his teaching of fundamental taiji principles that never change. With hard practice, hopefully, we can learn to physically embody them. Your notes assist with (and confirm) this. Thank you,
Matt Landau


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