Notes for North American Chen Style Practical Method Training Camp 2018 by Paddy Hanratty

by Paddy Hanratty on 2018/08/06

爱荷华 Iowa180727 - Patty Harantty

爱荷华 Iowa180727 – Patty Harantty

*** Square brackets [ ] are used to show my own attempt to add clarity, and not necessarily the words of Master Chen


Beyond the contact point you have to stretch forward
Behind the contact point you have to stretch back
Threading…like coaxial cable…pulling dough to stretch it thin
Produce a dot
Everything behind has to line up with front finger (which is pointing at the target) and makes it’s way to the rear foot…you need every body part to complete the job

When an action begins you must engage and hold on to it…if you release it the connection is lost [like the chain on a bike slipping] …whatever happens can’t be undone

If the top goes back, the bottom must go forward (if you lose something, you must gain something)…this feels uncomfortable…unbalanced…we don’t like this feeling, but getting used to that “feeling/condition” [both in the forms and in push hands] is essential to our training

Six sealing four closing…don’t lift the shoulder…line up the elbow with the finger tip…know the difference between [actively] turning the joints, and [allowing] the [sequential] opening of the joints as the stretch is allowed to reach the point were the shoulder begins to turn over and the elbow begins to pull back in toward the centre. *Going out connect the finger tip with the [front of] the back foot/coming in connect the elbow with the [heel of the] front foot


All movements must be proportional/mechanical…this requires that movement must come out of no movement…*see picture of Jeff demonstrating this at end of John’s notes…and this no movement is directly connected to [comes from] the floor

We are working to change rocks to concrete by getting rid of impurities [for example physical blockages that lead to random movements?]…we work to become a concrete block that we constantly chisel away at..for example the shoulder
Song means to maintain (what it is…not to change it). Another way to put it is to use whatever is appropriate…if it’s skin, use it as skin etc., and don’t allow it to become loose.
Stiffness is not a quality, it’s a reaction. Another way to put it is reaction creates stiffness…[so don’t react…adjust]

Positioning is EVERYTHING distance, angle, movement [for example angle of the feet]

The body is to be considered a tersiary system *can anyone offer some clarity on this?
The job of Taiji is to open
We have to train to get rid of the middle (between the heart/c-17 (sternum) and the kidneys (mingmen)
Has to be made looser…but can’t move.
When you find the middle, two points will stretch.


Anchor points must be solid in order for a third point to come out…the two ends are real…the middle one is an adjustment.

Copying is the only way to learn [in the same way that young children, who have not yet become self conscious, learn].

Twisting Towel exercise:
Conducted in two parts…
1. Stretching out to create distance, while allowing a sequential adjustment of the elbow then shoulder, which rotates in toward centre. [The over all feeling is on of squeezing everything into the Dan Tien while opening tho kua, and pressing the feet into the ground]. We used a wall as a target, adjusting our distance as the stretch got longer.
2. Stretching to create accuracy, using something on the wall as a target [I used a small mark on the wall to stretch my finger toward].

Exercise: Pushing out arms, leading with palms together in an arrow head shape, while pushing back into the wall in a rebound that connects directly with the stretched finger tips.

Avoid using your imagination, because if you do so too much you’ll start to believe it’s real. Instead, strip everything down to reality.

One way of understanding Peng is as a one way valve…Ji is a release.

Rotation is a true, continuous separation process.

When a push and a restriction are equal, an angular movement will be created…Master Chen demonstrated this by pushing his out stretched arm against a wall until his fist flipped onto an angular trajectory.

We need to be incredibly tight [in order to create an efficient rotation]…John Upshaw suggested the catch phrase “Tight is Right” which I think is a good reminder to use…somebody suggested it would make a good t shirt.

If there is no restriction there is no power…this applies to all Taiji movements…movement with restriction feels like power.


[For Yin yang separation to happen] the separation has to be proportional [good example being Single Whip]

Yilu is choreography for turning your body into a machine

All moves are rooted in each other in an holistic way

Length counters weight…as an example imagine a ramp being used to transport a heavy load in a wheel barrow…the heavier the load gets dictates the required length of the ramp…[in push hands, the bigger the opponent is or makes him/herself, the longer you need to stretch in order to reach the pivot point]

Power comes from separation not strength…the greater the separation the greater the power…allows you to touch and go through [the punch through of an anti-tank missile analogy]
Master Chen told a story [which, unfortunately I can’t remember very well…maybe someone can recall it] to help describe yin yang separation within the body. I felt this is important enough to try to describe in my own way, and perhaps another student can correct or add more clarification…
[Using the space between layers of clothing as an example, imagine a similar space between the different layers inside your body…skin, muscles, sinuses bones etc. and then imagine them moving independently of each other].

Every move comes from the inside…analogy’s of a balloon/water/tornado…opponent can’t see where the move is originating from

[We have a tendency toward self delusion, because] we connect things that aren’t real (unrelated)

Exercise: (Using Master Chen’s example that a smaller projectile will go further in space)
1. With palms together, create a line between the belly and finger tips.
2. Push belly back into spine
3. Allow an imaginary projectile to extend out between the fingers which are pointing at a target, while allowing the elbows to come in and the arms to follow the fingers. Maintain an immovable centre by pushing head up and simultaneously pushing down into the ground.

Similar exercise using sequential weight transference to…
1. Your back foot
2. Your opponents back foot, and…
3. …then allowing the “projectile” to extend at a tangent which [uproots] the opponent off his/her back foot.

P’s 5 & 6

Master Chen used a pole to demonstrate that a pivot is a switch

When using power (yin yang separation) you must get out of the way.

There are degrees of separation…using gears as an example, when one set of teeth are meshed the others are separate.

Only one dot goes forward, the rest go back.

Master Chen stated that:
1. Habits impede our progress, and that we spend our entire lives justifying our habits
2. That while justify our own habits, we denigrate those of others…the kind of double standards [and hypocrisy] that we see regularly, particularly between different cultures.
3. Habits lead to a form of laziness…a lack of straight forwardness…avoiding the issue, through the distance we create by going around the truth [such as the excuses we make for avoiding things that make us feel uncomfortable]. An example of this kind of habitual avoidance is the discomfort we experience when off balance during push hands. We want to alleviate that imbalance and prevent ourselves from falling, instead of using it to match the opponents stretch, and reach the pivot point…something else Master Chen instructed us to do.

To maintain Peng energy we must never lose distance.

Everything has a turnover threshold…the kua, the shoulder and the elbow (which can also be thought of as kua’s
).. we must have the ability to rotate until it locks [another example of “tightness” as mentioned in p4], then break through. To demonstrate this Master Chen used the twist step leading into the last move in Yilu, “Turn left and Buddha’s warrior attendant pounds mortar”, explaining the need to create an extremely tight torque in order to reach the break through point.

Going down is never considered moving.

We should all try to sink into a lower/wider stance…although this is hard to do and uncomfortable [another example of “laziness”],it’s easier on our bodies.
[a further example of laziness might be a reluctance to take and share notes…that certainly has been the case for me].

The last instruction Master Chen gave at the workshop was to demonstrate the correct way to bring the leg in, by switching power to the supporting kua…converting (rotating) the t-bar (horizontal line) to a vertical line on the supporting leg. By way of a simpler explanation, Master Chen said that the front kua should always poke up and the rear one go down…that the shoulders follow, and that we must have a line that can’t be broken.
What was exceptionally interesting about this demonstration for me was that I could clearly see the conversion from horizontal to vertical on Master Chen’s body.
Master Chen explained that creating the vertical line on the supporting leg [in alignment with an erect, decompressed spine] allows the body to drop on to the leg so that the other leg can be brought in without any tossing.
Master Chen went on to demonstrate the muscular activity of the thighs (front and back) involved in maintaining stability during this kind of weight transference, and warned us that this kind of muscular development is essential to avoid problems…[the nature of which I’m unclear on].
Master Chen further explained that the muscular development in the dang eventually extends to the abs and then the lats, but that the goal is to eventually not use any muscle at all only ligament.

*As someone who’s always found it difficult to absorb a lot of information over a short period of time, I do my best to take notes, and to review those notes no later than the following morning and then again within the next couple of days. Not only does this allow me to make any revisions that will add clarity, but I find that in the process often I remember things I couldn’t jot down because there wasn’t enough time.

Another aid that I find useful is to try to take a mental picture of Master Chen’s demonstrations, and then attach some kind of reference to connect that image to the relevant notes.

I try to keep a clear distinction between exactly what Master Chen says and anything I may add to make it sink in better…such as analogies…either my own or ones used by Master Chen in other workshops…the chain on a bike as an analogy for the kind of tension we attempt to create, etc.

I make this distinction because I’ve learnt that often there is a difference between what is being said to me and what I’m hearing…that when I hear through the filter of my memory, what is being heard gets distorted. I try to hear without analyzing what I’m hearing…that can come later, and I no longer concern myself with trying to recall everything I hear…things I think I’ve missed or forgotten often pop up during Yilu practice…sometimes months, or even years later. Having said that, I find it particularly helpful to, as soon as possible…preferably at the end of each day or even during breaks…incorporate what I’ve learnt, by going through the form very slowly while paying careful attention to any new physical awareness that arises in the process.

What is crucial is to try to stay in the moment…the place that Master Chen describes as the reality between the delusions of the past and the illusions of the future…to be a clean slate, or to quote John Upshaw “Tabula Rasa”. In my experience this is not only good from the point of learning and making progress in our practice, but it’s also a healthy skill to develop…mentally, emotionally and ultimately physically, through the improvement it brings to our everyday practice and therefore our physical health.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, regardless of personal beliefs…religion, politics etc., if more people developed this ability…to stay in the moment, we would not be seeing the kind of cult like blindness that seems to pass for uprightness these days. Maybe all the laughing we do during workshops isn’t just because Master Chen is a bit of a comedian, but it’s also because we’re all seeing things a bit clearer than before, and it feels good…I would say that is my own experience.

Most importantly, it is starting to sink in for me that not only is sharing notes helpful for other students, but that also it obliges us to ensure that their content is clear to anyone reading them and, at least in my case, an incentive to avoid sloppy or lazy note taking.

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