Author: James M. Riviera
Jim is a retired Information Technology Project Manager for Hewlett Packard Enterprise. When Jim is not working on his 10 acre ranchito (small ranch) in Central Texas, he is pursuing his interest in Martial Arts and Sciences, amateur photography, and the preservation of the ecology of Texas, as a Texas Master Naturalist. Jim can be contacted at email@example.com.
The following document is a review of the Chen Taiji Practical Method workshop held in Phoenix Arizona on 20-21 January 2018. The workshop was attended by myself, Jim Riviera, along with 20 other individuals who have interest or are participating in the Chen Taiji Practical Method martial art. The workshop was sponsored by Ping Wei, senior instructor for Chen Taiji Practical Method in Phoenix. The two days of the workshop was taught by Master Chen Zhonghua, current International Director andof Chen Taiji Practical Method. The purpose of this review is to report my workshop experience and overall impression of the workshop training.
The purpose of the workshop was to train in the concepts of Chen Taiji Practical method. This involved the techniques of, , practical applications and push hands. With no formal experience in this style of Chen Taiji, I truly feel that Master Chen’s methods in teaching and demonstration along with the organized structure of the art, successfully conveyed for me a basic understanding of the principles and the combat effectiveness of Chen Taiji Practical Method.
At times during the course, I was amazed at the simplicity of the movements and the effectiveness against opponents larger in build and stature. Master Chen has a unique way of explaining and demonstrating the scientific theories of the techniques as well as the philosophical Chinese origin to many of the movements. This is a great approach in helping to understand the overall history of Chen Taiji but also how Practical Method evolved.
This workshop was my first time involvement with Chen Taiji Practical Method. However, I do have a 36 year background in the martial arts and sciences thru training in Aikido, Daito Ryu Aikijujitsu, and Krav Maga. I just recently started studying Chen Taiji three years ago from a senior student and disciple of Master Cheng Jin Cai in Houston Texas.
Day 1(20 Jan)
- Key teachings and learnings:
- Alignment of body in performing technique. (Shoulder, Elbow and Kua) . This is a big and key difference in the traditional Chen Taiji style I have been studying for the past three years. I found this very profound in watching Master Chen coordinating all parts of the body during his strikes and movement. Very powerful. Example: Master Chen compared the differences of traditional Chen Taiji to Practical Method (Solid rubber ball vs. ball of Cotton) . This is key point in that wavy movements do not work in this style due to lack of power.
- Master Chen discussed many concepts of the Practical Method . These were just a few that I thought were key to this style of Chen Taiji
- Lead thru and with energy
- Important: Timing, Position, Maneuvering
- Taiji fighting: Seal up opponent, keep close, and be like water constantly surrounding.
- Dantien is the engine, and Kua is the master transmission. In my limited exposure to Chen Taiji, the Kua was always emphasized but I never understood the reasoning behind it. With Master Chen’s description, it made sense and as I found out through most of the workshop, his description and demonstration filled in a lot of missing data that I had in my own mind. This was very beneficial.
- , shoulders , and body are erect and used a diagram of a line as the body with movement around the line.
This was a good representation to me of how the elbow drove around the erect body as everything else was aligned during the movement.
- This was my first exposure to the Practical Method . I have practice a similar old frame form in Chen Taiji . However, I had difficulty with the old frame in memorizing the steps. With the Practical method , the forms were easier to memorize and to prepare to move into the next form. A key to memorizing the form.
- Key teaching and learnings:
- The 13 movements should be practiced each day for at least 20-30 minutes to memorize fully.
- Keep center line always.
- No shifting of weight ( Difference in traditional Chen Taiji and Practical Method).
- Transition of body through foot work , no raising body or shifting. Push on foot to initiate movement.
- Do not perform next form until completely centered with Kua expanding out.
- Kua is rotated in a horizontal and vertical method. Initially buttocks have to come in and up and out to drive arms and turn Kua. This is part of the doing fundamental practice everyday.
- Kua and Dantien are connected together.
- Push Hands
- Maintain contact or the concept of sticky hands. Hand maintains pressure and contact but not a lot of strength. Note: In traditional Chen Taiji , this concept was taught to me as poang.
- Hands remain in position but body moves, elbow moves, feet move, Kua moves but front centerline remains the same.
- There is a 3 point connection (Elbow – Kua- Ankle)
- Concepts on combat
- Feet movement is important. Note: In traditional Chen Taiji , this concept is the 5 footworks.
- Master Chen demonstrated footwork in pressing forward toward the opponent and moving out of the opponents range. This was done thru footwork . He then had the class practicing the same movement by having people pair off and work on punching vs. footwork exercises.
- Master Chen mentioned in other Internal arts such as Baqua, Hsingi shoulders remain centered and straight. The lower body does the movement.
- Evening Dinner
- In the evening , we met at a local Chinese Restaurant in Phoenix and enjoyed an evening of camaraderie and friendship. I enjoyed meeting the other students from across the US with similar backgrounds as myself. I was impressed that everyone was willing to share their thoughts on Practical Method. I was also impressed that everyone seemed accomplished in other careers and other martial arts.