John Upshaw

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Last Summer at the North American Practical Method Training camp, we had Nathan and Andrew from Texas attend.  They didn’t have any training in Chen Style Taiji Practical Method, though were experienced martial artists. After the camp, they asked if Levi and I would come to Texas to put on a workshop and they would host us. Last week Levi and I, along with Nathan Lothimer from Iowa, drove from Iowa to Fort Worth Texas.  Our disciple brother Jeff Clevenger from Houston TX attended as well.  We left a day early as a snowstorm was rolling in.
We used the foundations and the first 13 postures as the template to introduce more complex elements to be integrated into the form. Levi first taught the foundations of twisting the towel, fetching water, six ceiling four closing, positive circle, and negative circle. Following that, I taught the first 13 postures. We did the forms several times. We worked on suspended head, creating a central vertical line, filling the kua, aim, and push hands concepts.
The second day, we reviewed material from the first day. We taught two more sections of the yilu. Levi corrected participant’s form. We then transitioned into teaching push hands concepts. This included using lines, creating a wall, getting in and using ji, and matching.
This was a very eager group to teach, and much material was covered. We plan to see them at the North American Practical Method Training camp, as well as in November, when we return to Texas to teach.

Date: July 12th 9 am to July 18th 11 am

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Immediately after returning home from the workshop with Master Chen Zhonghua, I started reviewing the material I learned. I started
recognizing gains that returned to me, which I spoke about in my last article “Found In New York City”.

When life started happening again after the pandemic, assuming it is after, I felt that my push hands had lost a certain quality.  Before, my ability to get in and squeeze out all the space was good.  Since 2020, it wasn’t the same. I had lost something. I didn’t know what “it” was, and it greatly bothered me for the last year and a half.  So, I went searching for it in New York City…and yes…this was my actual intention when I decided to see Master Chen Zhonghua at the NYC workshop.
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Timeframe: Until 2023 North American Practical Method Training Camp

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We are elated to have Master Chen Zhonghua back for the annual  North American Practical Method Training Camp. It has been 2 years since he has taught in person!  Though, we all have greatly  benefited from the Zoom lessons.  At this point he is planning on physically being at the camp!  However, the world is unpredictable and we would adapt accordingly (though let’s think positively).
This will be an intensive workshop welcoming students of all levels.  This workshop historically has been attended  by a high number of Master Chen’s disciples.  This benefits the disciples in many ways and provides newer students to additional opportunities for learning.  It’s definitely an atmosphere for becoming immersed in Practical Method!
Once again, the taijiquan training, lodging and dining will be at one location with one cost at the same location where we have  been since 2017.  This will be an intensive workshop focused on Theory, Foundations, Yilu, Push Hands and Broadsword.  Disciples will take part in the instructions.
There are 32 accommodations on-site and 2 single occupancy cottages.  Those slots will fill up.  We will list hotels near the retreat center and allow those individuals to participate just the same as the other participants.  There will also be a limited number of tents allowed to camp on the premise.
This year’s sign up and on-going camp information will occur on this post.  Please don’t assume you have a bed unless it is confirmed by us.
4 nights 3 days is $630
5 nights 4 days $780
6 nights 5 days $880
9am check in and check out is following your last day breakfast.
July 14th through July 20th 2022
Prairiewoods Retreat And Conference Hiawatha, Iowa
North American Practical Method Training Camp is happening July 14th through 20th.

This will be occurring at our usual location:
Prariewoods Retreat Center
120 E Boyson Rd
Hiawatha, IA 52233

Stay tuned for sign information


The last move we worked on in today’s lesson was the second move in Jin Gang Dao Zhui (Buddha’s Warrior Attendant Pounds Mortar), when the dantien turns right, left elbow comes in on a positive circle and the right hand goes out in a negative circle.   The arm (hand) is out of control and the dantien is in control.  This means the hand is expressed yet is passively powered by the dantien.

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Rubber Cord Training for Kua


Lock head, shoulder and elbow into one piece. Make sure the elbow is being pushed into the palm.

Have rubber cord under lead foot and in lead hand.

Get into position (see picture). The upper body (waist up) and lower body (below waist) are solid like 2 separate pieces of wood.

Shove front kua forward into the elbow that goes into the hand holding the rubber cord. This action from the kua makes the back straighten.

The strength of the rubber cord has to be more than you can handle. Make the tension “real” and size of cord needs to be just right that the power is coming from the kua and not other body parts.


The North American Practical Method Training Camp was back on!  Most people had limitedly physical contact practicing Taiji with another person for over a year due to the pandemic.  In organizing this we made some adaptations and innovations as a means of overcoming the current challenges that were presented to us by the global crisis.  It was phenomenal learning experience! Read more

I went to the park to train. It’s the end of the school year so schools have picnics. 5 girls approached me and wanted to learn…so I taught them the first posture. Two school officials approached me and inquired…I gave them my background. It’s a private school and the asked me to teach Taiji next school year. I continued to practice…between yilus a group of 15 kids approached me and wanted to learn….public training is good recruitment of students…

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The purpose of having a training is to make practice intentional.  It is important to note that I train one thing at a time.  These goals are not exclusive; however, it is my main focus. Read more


Yesterday I was pushing hands with a student of mine, Randi.  I was focused on maintaining my core and having everything rotate around that.  I am training a recent breakthrough.  Read more

Location: Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center
Date: July 22-25, 2021
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For my yilu correction, after my front foot goes out during Lan Zha Yi (Block Touching Coat), as my foot settles on the ground, my front foot and knee needs to significantly close more.  After this, or during later on in my training, the knees and below doesn’t move and my waist moves forward into position through the action of the kuas making an adjustment, which moves the waist forward without disturbing what is underneath.  This then becomes a scale, lower body as the rod and elbow as the counterbalance.

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• Whenever you do a move with the arm, it doesn’t effect the torso.
• Then enhance the size of the arm movement.
• Then when you do arm movements, the torso can move up and down. They are still functioning separately.
Movements are separated when:
• If then they’re considered touched.
• If body specifications match, it is called real.
• movements need to be totally independent.

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I started learning Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method in 2005. I learned a rough version of the yilu within nine months. I am a persistent person that continuously seeks progress. As the years have gone by I have missed essential details that are in the form, even though many people would not recognize those missing pieces. Let face it, a form with 81 postures in which each posture has several movements/stretches/rotations in it is a huge undertaking!

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On line Yilu class November 12th 2020 by Johnny Upshaw

• When going down on the left side and brush the knee, the shape/ structure does not change.
• Going down while retaining our structure creates vertical Peng, which we try to train.
• Keep the structure is not to lose the Peng. Don’t retreat and don’t drop.

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Master Chen had Kelvin Ho restate the content from yesterday’s instructions. The hand and shoulder are on the same line or track. The shoulder is fixed. The elbow goes up into that line, which pushes the hand out. The elbow is the lead.

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Master Chen is showing us something that we cannot do. So, if we fake it, we are not learning. It is something we cannot do. The learning is to show us our deficiencies not our efficiencies.

It is very important that we never become comfortable. We must be in that position that we are uncomfortable, and stay in that position. We need to stay in that state of uncomfortable without changing our structure. This will allow our us to re calibrate.
In yilu, we must do it one move at a time until we reach our fullest extent and then reset. Master Chen is trying to bring back the original idea, not continuous. Train each move separately.

The stretch from knee to kua the thigh lengthens. We need to go into the uncomfortable position that we are about to fall down or we do fall down.
We need a clear net gain without changing shape. This net gain can only be created with the stretch and no rotation. This needs to be applied in push hands and in practice. To train this you cannot have wobbly moves. If the opponent creates a net gain during push hands and you don’t that goes into you and you lose. Net gain equals net distance.


Today we worked on isolating a movement and twisting the towel. During previous training sessions we did it to feel the trajectory and range. Now we do it with a restriction. The restriction that we did it with was not to move the knee. The main action we were training was twisting the towel with a stretch, not a rotation. Read more


On October 20th, 2020, during an online class Master Chen Zhonghua shared and demonstrated an important action of the knee that has not been disclosed before. Prior to discussing the important action, I shall discuss some important functional and structural aspects of the knee as a means of providing a context to help the reader conceptualize how this recently disclosed information is applied in practice and applications.

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Foundations on line notes ~ October 13th 2020 by John Upshaw


Kelvin Ho lead us through a positive circle stepping back drill.  With our front hand out, we would step back with a rear foot causing us to go lower, we rotated/shifted from our front kua to our rear kua, rotating the elbow in on the same line with hand staying fixed on that same line…like a spear, tip pointed at the opponent.  By using my kuas in this manner, my range increased.

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I named this the Yilu Project because I have taken some steps to “clean up my yilu”, and this is my baseline for measuring progress or the lack thereof.  I have been attending weekly online classes with Master Chen Zhonghua.  Having access to consistent corrections on my yilu and foundations is a “once in a lifetime opportunity”!  Additionally, I have been getting feedback from my Taiji brother Kelvin, who has a very good eye for details.  Feel free to point out mistakes.





The actions need to be precise/ accurate. There is only one way to do it right. The adaptation you can get away with it. Read more

October 6th 2020 foundations On-line Class

Today we worked on staying on the line, which exists between the front shoulder and the front hand, and beyond with the same trajectory . The elbow pushes into that line, Which is activating the elbow, thus forcing the handout. The elbow withdraws in a way that integrity of the line between the shoulder and the hand remains intact.

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“The movements of the body are in the Dantian and nothing leaves the dantian. Only power gets out of the Dantian.”

The quote above from Master Chen Zhonghua and his assigning me to write on the dantian sent me on a journey of understanding…and to be forthright, I got stuck. I over thought things and I had difficulties “getting the ball rolling” or rather the dantian article. So being an educated person, I did what students do, and gathered up my information from the online lecture and from past videos from Master Chen Zhonghua.

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Beauty in Taiji 5

by John Upshaw on 2020/09/24

Beauty is a chrysanthemum bud opening up until it reaches it’s maximum, then withers away.  If it gets disrupted, it withers away prematurely.  Beauty in taiji is being fully expressed.  We can’t be deficient, not reaching our maximum; nor can we be over extended…



The Central Vertical Line

The central vertical line (CVL) is an internal stretch that exists between the bau hui to the hui yin. I have heard Master Chen refer to this as a “rod” in the body. It should be present whether we’re doing foundations, form or push hands.
When I’m starting with students that need to strengthen the CVL, I have them do a guided imagery drill. The guided imagery was taught to me by Richard Johnson when I attended a week long workshop with Master Chen in 2011.  I adopted the guided imagery and added a partner component as a means of enhancing the physical understanding and strengthening the central vertical line.

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I entered into class late and saw everyone doing double positive circles. He instructed us to do it in a higher stance with our elbows attached to our waist.  Read more

In the previous section I covered The  4 Essential Taijiquan Techniques, which included Peng, Lu, Ji & An.  I left that lesson on here for review and quick reference.  In this finial section, part 3, I will cover The 4 Corner/Auxiliary Techniques, which include Cai, Lie, Zhou & Kao.  It is located after section 2.   Subsequent information from Master Chen’s writing will also be included in the descriptions. For those that are interested, I will moderate a Zoom discussion about all 3 sections this coming Sunday July 5th at 8 am CST. If you want to attend and can’t, please message me and we can set up a private Zoom session.

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For this Online Video Class, I will be examining the contents in a segmented manner.  In this classic video, Master Chen descriptively teaches the 8 Techniques in Taijiquan.  In this 1st segment of the online video class, I will cover the Basic Energies in Taiji Applications.  In the 2nd segment I will cover The 4 Essential Taijiquan Techniques, which include Peng, Lu, Ji & An.  In the last segment I will cover The 4 Corner/Auxiliary Taijiquan Techniques, which include Cai, Lie, Zhou & Kao.

This video is definitely worth taking the time to thoroughly investigate and gain an understanding of the techniques of Taijiquan.  I will moderate a Zoom group session during the last segment for those that purchased the video as a means of solidifying the material taught by Master Chen.

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In this short online instructional video, Master Chen teaches many essential elements that are necessary when applying Ji to an opponent and several principles inherit to Practical Method.  Ji, squeezing, is a passive action that has “water like qualities”.  Ji, like water “takes up all the space in all directions”.

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In Adjust the Middle Online video, Master Zhonghua Chen teaches how to strengthen one’s own structure and how to break your opponent’s structure and take their power away.

Early on in the video Master Chen utilizes a rubber cord to demonstrate how the 2 ends are connected by pulling in the middle.  He emphasizes that the outside of the 2 ends are the outside and what is between the 2 outside points is considered inside.  In the video he demonstrated this on the rubber cord and then on a student.
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Click on the picture above to go to the video.  Please leave comments in the reply video section.

The important components: 1.  Having 2 lines, 2. Having separation 3.  Resolve through rotation (one line is the catch or lock and the rotation provides the other action for the other line).  Click on the gif


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