Rachel, Daniel and James did an excellent job organizing an Open House and Workshop for the Weekend of April 05-06, 2014. On a fine spring morning, more then 50 people showed up for an introduction to Chen Style Practical Method and to meet one of the system’s outstanding proponents, Master Joseph Chen Zhonghua. This Open House was helped by Daniel’s group at the University of Ottawa and supported by the Ottawa Tai Chi Chuan Association (OTCA).
For more then two and half hours, the audience was treated to a history and philosophy of Taijiquan that eventually lead to the establishment of the Practical Method by Master Hong Jungshen. Master Chen started the demonstration by performing the first section of the
A video summary for this open house is now available (for members only)
Questions and Answers
Near the end of the open house, Master Chen asked the audience if they have any questions. You can see the video of the Q&A session here. Two questions stand out in my mind and those questions are often asked by many beginners around the world.
Q1. What is the “best” style (Yang, Chen, Wu, Wu (Hao), Sun) to practice?
Master Chen was polite and never directly answered the question by promoting The Practical Method. Saying that Taijiquan is based on one underlying principle. Different styles represent the signatures of the particular teacher. My understanding of this question is related to the interest in the difference in different branches of the Chen style. I am satisfied with the answer reached by Master Hong. According to Hong, his teacher, Chen Fake himself changed over his life time. The guiding principle for any change is according to Chen Fake’s words: “This set of Taijiquan does not have one technique which is useless. Everything was carefully designed for a purpose.” (“这套拳没有一个 动作是空的, 都是有用的”) . This principle, according to Hong, can be derived from “The Taijiquan Treatise” (太极拳论) by Wang Zongyue (王宗岳). This idea is expressed by the phrase “Although there are myriad variations, there is only one underlying principles.” (“虽变化万端, 而理为一贯”).practice by
Q2. “How to find the best teacher?”
Master Chen started that in the end it is a matter of fate. Master Chen relates how he was lucky that he happened to come across Master Hong and later was introduced to Master Feng. It is also fate that a teacher meets the right student. This is the customary traditional Chinese and Taoist approach.
My personal opinion is a bit more pragmatic, you can open your mind so that you can recognize the opportunity when presented. Based on my experience, I look less in to the fame and ability of the teacher but in the quality of his students. If the instructions cannot raise the standards of his students, how can I personally benefit from the training? Regardless of Master Chen Fake’s personal achievements, his lasting legacy was through his students such as Master Feng and Master Hong. Similarly, Master Hong have students such as Master Chen and Master Li who are regarded as the new representatives of the Chen Taijiquan tradition. I have now met and seen some of Master Chen’s disciples such as Ronnie Yee, Steve Chan and Chen Xu. I feel they are acquiring the skills of their teacher.
Push hands and the eye of the Tiger
The Ottawa group was very excited after the success of the Open House. A few members of the audience stayed for the workshop. In Ottawa, each workshop has participants that ranged from novices to seasoned practitioners of the Practical Method. I have participated in a few workshops and now can see the progress of different participants over time. It was a great pleasure to try out techniques with students from Toronto, Montreal and Philadelphia and see their improvement since the last workshop.
Push hands are an important component of the Practical Method training because it is a direct test for your understanding of the principles. In general, beginners like me will go back to relying on pure strength rather then on the Taijiquan training to elicit a response from the opponent. Master Chen will personally show you how a technique should really be performed in accordance with Taiji principles.
An interesting observation I had during this period of push hand training. In a previous post, I have commented on Master Chen’s push hand’s skills. I was a little bit more comfortable and energetic so I liked to experience Master Chen’s longer range skills. I happened to touch Master Chen from the side as he walked by. His instant reaction was to turn and execute a direct straight line strike to the bridge of my nose and a stomp to my knee that stopped within fraction of the target. From a martial arts perspective, the technique was a thing of beauty. From a personal perspective, my action was as dangerous as the time when I petted a tiger (a story for another time). Not recommended for the faint of heart.
Another personal note at the end of the day, I was so tired and every muscle in my body ached. This just shows you my lack of understanding of the Practical Method.
– Positive and Negative
The use ofis the of Taijiquan applications. According to Master Chen, can also be known as Indirect Action or “Structural Power”. According to this principle, reaction from the opponent is not due to action at the point of contact but else where. Direct power exists at the first point of contact. In Taijiquan, this point of contact represents an anchor, hook or handle where other actions can occur. A clear analogy of this concept can be seen in fishing. The fish hook catches the fish but it is the line and reel that drags the fish in. comes in two forms, Positive and Negative.
Positive Indirect Power
In terms of Positivein Taijiquan, there are nine levels of holds (due to the joints existing on the human body). You can classify the levels of based on the number holds that your action has involved. For example, direct power involves only one hold (the point of contact). A first class involves two holds. A second class involves three holds. Finally, an eighth class involves all the holds (joints).
Figure 1 is an illustration of this concept. In Figure 1, the opponent is fixed in position A. He grabs an arm at point B. The points A and B creates the first hold. In normal action, the fight is on this line A-B and it is considered to be an application of direct power. Through Chen Taiji training, you will maintain the distance A-B and add the actions of the kua (Point C), this represents Level 1. If you add the actions of the knee (Point D), you will achieve Level 2 (using three holds). By adding the actions at each joint, your opponent will feel that that is a force on A-B but this force is not due to the direct power at A-B but the indirect (structural power) created by the Chen Stylists. Conceptually, each level (addition) can be understood as an increase in distance due to the involvement of each joint. For example, for Level 1 , the increase in distance is from BC. Similarly, for Level 2 , the increase in distance is BD. The difficulty in the use of is over emphasis on direct power (moving the point of contact) and leakage (other body parts moving).
Negative Indirect Power
Negativerequires two actions. The first action reduces the distance and the second action creates a reaction.
Figure 2 is an illustration of negative. In Step 1, X and Z denote two points created by the Chen Stylist (X) and his opponent (Z). The distance between point X and Z is X-Z. The Chen stylist then takes the space in Y (for example, by moving a leg). The Chen stylist has reduced the distance by X-Z by the distance X-Y. In Step 2, the Chen stylist can create a reaction from his opponent based on this reduced distance. For example, the Chen stylist can extend his hand. Again, the reaction is due to structural power (through the reduced distance) rather then direct (muscle) power. The problem with using negative is that the point of contact must not move. The opponent should always feel that he is still in control.
according to Master Hong
Master Chen once told us this story aboutand now I finally understand its meaning. Master Hong was training at his usual spot. Close by, some young muscular young men were playing basketball. During a break, one of those young man came over and asked Master Hong what he was doing and how useful was his “quan”. Master Hong points to a big rock and tells the young man to move it over to Master Hong’s position and then he will answer his question. The young man dutifully picked up the rock and moved it over to the feet of Master Hong. Master Hong then replied “This is my quan – moving the rock from there to here”. I did not get it when I first heard the story but now I see how it illustrates perfectly the concept of indirect power!
Difficulty in Learning the Practical Method
Master Hong reminded us, in order to learn his quan:
還需要， You also need
有良朋， To have good friends
同學拳， To practice
可互助。 And experiment
Workshops are perfect opportunities to meet new friends and test your understanding of the Practical Method.