There has to be real power

by Khamserk on 2014/12/10

12-10-2014 7-44-40 PM
We must train to use a lot of power.

If you want to learn how to move a big rock and you just go up to it and use your hands to tip it back and forth, you are wasting your life. You have to get a good grip on it and try to lift it. If you can’t move it then:

1. It’s a reality check that you have no power

2. When you do it over and over and can finally lift it, you will have real power.

Why does it look effortless when you see higher level practitioners throwing around opponents? Because dealing with power has become a normalized process in their bodies. I am a large, tall 250lb person. When I walk around, climb stairs etc. does it look like I am carrying 250lbs around with me? No because I do those things all the time; my body is dealing with that weight constantly. If it looks like it is a struggle for me to carry my weight around then it means my health is deteriorating.

So, the lesson is, our Yilu and push hands are too light. There must be power on each move. In Yilu, imagine your opponent is fighting your move. You go as far as you can and then lock, then move your waist. Same in push hands.

Once you get one single feel of what it’s like to use power then you can improve very quickly.

About Khamserk

Edmonton Instructor for the Practical Method Academy. Kham Serk studied with Master Chen Zhonghua at the age 15 and thorough many full time courses and other learning methods, became a disciple in 2012 on Daqingshan in China.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Steven Chan December 10, 2014 at 8:26 am

I agree. People often say it looks like someone was thrown out effortlessly. They then draw the wrong conclusion that there is no power. In reality there is a lot of power there, but the ability to use that power is effortless.


Pavel Codl December 11, 2014 at 7:59 am

Very well written Khamserk, agreed here 100%, that was a evening dinner lesson of Master Chen, right?! I realized this in 2013 in DQS, when Master Chen said to me: “I never told you to be loose…”.. since that I changed my Yilu quit a bit. 😉
Thanks for the article and all the best


charlie wishon December 11, 2014 at 9:48 am

The good question is what type of power ? What type of power does it take to really do Taiji ?


Chen Zhonghua December 16, 2014 at 10:54 am

The good question is always “how I can do that”, not what. This discussion is about using real power, not what type of power.


Frank December 11, 2014 at 9:51 am

We must train to acquire real power; however, we must also train to use as little power as possible.
Taiji Chuan is not about training to lift a big rock, Taiji Chuan is about training to dig a hole under the rock so that it falls on its own.

My 2 cents.


Chen Zhonghua December 16, 2014 at 10:56 am

Taijiquan is about both and then there is a choice between the two depending on the situation.


Hugo Ramiro December 11, 2014 at 2:39 pm

That’s a good point about part of our training, Frank. Too many of us get stuck on using lots of brute force, which is, by definition, inefficient. It is very important to understand your point about efficiency. The original post is about the integrity of our body; whether we can receive, channel, sustain and emit significant power. And of course, we wish to use this power appropriately – to go through the door and not try to go through the wall (which i believe is your point about efficiency). We must be directly able to handle our opponent’s mass better than our opponent can.


pingwei December 11, 2014 at 5:29 pm

“一层功夫,一层理” Simply say: you only understand the principle based on what level you are on.
Power is power. Push hand is ultimately the litmus test.
Khamserk re-stated Master Chen’s training method. It’s extremely difficult. But people would rather choose an easy way out, ie, seeking the magic with a sounding excuse.


Frank December 11, 2014 at 8:03 pm

For those who don’t read Chinese, I shall try to translate what Master Chen said: (please make corrections as necessary)

One level of kungfu, one level of understanding of the principles.

“虽变化万千,理唯一贯” 太极拳只有一个理。是一个不变化的理。我们看到的变化只不过是那个“理”的很多表现形式而已。 我们只能说对于这“同一个理”的理解是根据个人功夫的变化而变化的,而不是“理”本身有变化。
“Though there are many variations, the principles are the same”. There is only one set of principles, the principles don’t change. The variations that we see are just the different manifestations of the same principles, not changes in principles themselves.

So what I would like to understand about the statement “We must train to use a lot of power” is:

Is ‘train to use a lot of power’ a principle? If this is not a principle but just a manifestation of a principle as a result of Kham Serk’s current understanding, and I assume he is correct, then what is the principle behind? Is training with and use of a lot of power the right path for the students?


bhargavk December 12, 2014 at 5:21 am

In Practical Method power has a relationship to structure and since we train for structure would it be right to say that the power referred to in PM is structural power or one that is derived from a structure?
From that perspective ‘train to use a lot of power’ would mean, use power in training to develop the structure and use structure to efficiently and indirectly apply power.


young1 December 12, 2014 at 12:24 pm

that was beautiful bhargavk
I love these discussions, much to learn from
thank you all


Hugo Ramiro December 12, 2014 at 2:36 pm

Perhaps the corollary can help create a context: a weak, loose, lax, ill body has no power, structural or dynamic. Can this body dig under a rock so that it falls? Better question, can this body *do* taiji (not practise the form, but apply it in combat)?


Frank December 13, 2014 at 6:59 am


In your post you have introduced a few concepts: structure, structural power, efficiency and indirectly apply power. These concepts do not exist in the original post by Kham Serk. Regardless if your interpretation is correct or not, isn’t it a bit demanding if readers have to go through the hoops to solve the riddles to figure out what Kham Serk really mean? Do Master Chen always say: ‘Don’t interpret’?


Your point is valid, but this is not the focus of the discussion. The focus is: Do we use a lot of power?


Frank December 13, 2014 at 8:01 am


Perhaps the recent video done by 001 in his Ottawa workshop can drive my point more clearly. He created an empty space (a void) in front of the opponent. His structure is not there and he used little, and may be none of his structural power to get the job done. No doubt he has tremendous structural power but he doesn’t have to use it.


Andre December 13, 2014 at 10:09 am

Pingwei and Steven Chan summarized it well I believe.

In 2012 in the Brasil workshop i asked master chen how much power i should use, he said as much as you can, so long as you don’t throw yourself off.
Now a few years later i can say 100% that in our system we use more power and our training is more demanding than working out in a gym(lifting weights).
If you wanna take this seriously that is.

Shoveling out or whatnot is irrelevant, it has to do with the quality of your move, its the action at the time.
Though, at -all times-, there has to be absolute power there.
But, “people would rather choose an easy way out, ie, seeking the magic with a sounding excuse.”

So if when you train, your muscles don’t explode, and you are not totally exhausted, my understanding is you haven’t trained taiji at all. Because you haven’t done full power, not yet.

Power is power, no excuses.


Frank December 13, 2014 at 10:25 am


When you asked Master Chen ‘How much power I should use’, did you mean ‘in training’ or ‘in use’? Did Master Chen understand your question correctly? Is it your understanding that we should use full power in both cases? Do you mean that our body should run like a car with one gear?

If you watch this video from Master Chen, he dropped someone and in it he clearly said that there was little power used.


Frank December 13, 2014 at 12:33 pm

According to Kham Serk: “Why does it look effortless when you see higher level practitioners throwing around opponents? Because dealing with power has become a normalized process in their bodies. ”

In my opinion, Kham Serk is suggesting that the higher level practitioners have a lot of power (which is true) and it is normal that they use it (which is not true) and they don’t even know that they use it (which is not true).

In my opinion, the higher level practitioners look effortless because they find the sweet spot, they find the 51-49% imbalance of the opponent, and they use the correct technique and the minimum power to get the job done.


pingwei December 15, 2014 at 3:46 pm

Hi, Frank.
Master Chen just posted the following quotes in Chinese site. Could you please translate them and share with English speaking students? (I’m not good at translating. My English ability is limited.) Thanks. 初学实用拳法的三个用力。 过关
The following was from Chinese QQ conversation.
大青山-陈中华 09:03:19
大青山-陈中华 09:03:47
大青山-陈中华 09:04:15


Frank December 16, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Hi Pingwei,

Here is my take, please post corrections as necessary.


‘Overcome Barrier’ is a term used to describe a process in the course of learning Taiji Chuan. In summary there are 3 major barriers and 72 minor barriers (Exact details will not be discussed here).

会变得越来越省力,越来越自然。除非得了脑溢血之类导致偏瘫的病, 会骑车的人是不会无缘无故突然不会骑车的。

What is the meaning of ‘Overcome Barrier’? When something (or a technique) reaches certain level it is
overcome. When it is overcome it becomes natural. ‘Naturally’ as compared to ‘strenuously’, there is no
need to be deliberate, there is no need to make an effort. It is like riding a bicycle, it is very difficult initially, it is difficult to balance. One uses a lot of ‘force/energy’ and one still falls. But once it is known, once the barrier is overcome, it becomes easier and easier to ride a bicycle, it becomes more and more natural. Unless one gets a stroke and becomes paralyzed, one will not lose the ability to ride without reasons.


In Grandmaster Hung’s “Naturality” chapter he talked about ‘Strictly adhere to the rules, subconsciously digest and tacitly understand the meanings; eventually the heart and hands are forgotten, but every move is correct.’.


When I taught my Canadian Student Kham Serk who weighs 250 pounds I said: ‘For a healthy person, body weight is not a burden. Everyday he carries 250 pounds and walks around, feeling easy, not knowing that he is carrying 250 pounds. It means that he has overcome his weight barrier.’.


Similar examples include swimming, speaking, typing, calligraphy, etc. The ‘action’ to overcome a
barrier is done at a very deep level, so it fits into the realm of ‘internal kungfu’.


The barrier for learning form is about ‘correcting (mistakes)’. Once one really knows how to ‘withdraw’ the elbow, one can use the same principle to correct other moves. There is no need for the teacher to teach and correct every move.


The barrier for practicing form is about ‘overcoming tiredness’. When one follows the rules to practice the form one can feel very tired. But one has to persist until (one day) one is not tired anymore, then
one can move to the next stage in training.


The barrier for push hand is about ‘overcoming shortness of breath’. Push more and one will overcome this. When one doesn’t run out of breath then one can begin to push according to the proper methods/rules.


The barrier for learning Taiji theory is about ‘uniting theories and methods’. Simply speaking, when one
says ‘Don’t move’ then one really doesn’t move. When one says ‘Don’t sway’ then one really doesn’t sway. When one says ‘Spiral’ then one really has an axis (to spiral on).


One has to meet certain pre-conditions in order to ‘overcome a barrier’. Even when the pre-conditions are there, it still takes strenuous practice to ‘overcome a barrier’. What are the pre-conditions? It will be answered at another place.


‘Overcome the barrier’ is different from ‘turn the gate’.


Frank December 16, 2014 at 2:45 pm

Here is the other one:


One has to pay attention to the use of force while learning the FORM, don’t practice in a relax and loose manner.


One has to pay attention to the use force in every MOVEMENT while learning the form, don’t practice the form in a loose and scattered manner.


One has to pay attention to the use force in every MOVE while learning the form, don’t treat the move like a performance.


Allan Haddad December 19, 2014 at 2:15 pm

Thank you for the instructions Shifu.
Thank you Pingwei for posting them here.
Thank you Frank for translating.
Much appreciated!


charlie wishon December 16, 2014 at 8:16 pm

Thank you master Chen . And thankyou to everyone else for your input.


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