Having done a bit of both Yang and Chen taijiquan, I enjoy doing comparisons of the styles. After learning the Yang Long Form, I had the opportunity to learn the Chen Laojia Yilu. I couldn’t help but notice starking similarities between the sequence of the two sets. If Yang style was derived from Chen, the proof was quite obvious comparing the sequence of the two long form sets.
However, in doing the Chen set, I couldn’t help but wonder, why the change? Why were some of the elements changed from Chen to Yang? Why did the Buddha Warrior Pounds Mortar Sequence of Chen turn into Ward Left for Yang?
Why do quite a bit of Yang have postures making contact on the back of the hand whereas Chen is mostly “grabbing”? I ran across an interpretation that’s pretty interesting:
… Master Yang sought to ‘soften’ some of the commonly employed arm and hand postures in order to allow Chi to flow more easily and openly through the upper body into the arms and hands.
The Chen Style Form Sets include many defensive neutralization postures in which both of the defender’s hands are positioned facing outward and/or upward to simulate application preferences for using the palms of both hands to contact and control an enemy’s attack. Here are examples of this demonstrated by Sifu Chen Zheng-Lei, Sifu Chen Shi-tong, and Sifu Feng Zhi-Qiang:
Master Yang felt that the benefit of being able to place the palms of both hands on the opponent’s body simultaneously in defense was often negated by the tension created in the hands, arms, and shoulders when taking this position. He also felt that this posture used the body externally in a way which was less efficient energetically than it could be internally. So, given the freedom to compose his own Sets, he modified such postures to have what he felt was a better structural alignment of the bones and joints, an arm and hand shape which allowed more muscular relaxation in the posture, and thus a greater speed of execution with a greater volume of Chi flow for power issuance (fa-jing) in the techniques.
A typical example is the Form Posture called ‘Grasp Bird’s Tail’ (Lan3 Chua4 Wei3), in which the leading right arm was rotated clockwise a full half-turn, or 180′ from its Chen Style position, to place the palm of the right hand facing inward instead of outward, and to allow the bones of the right forearm to be positioned parallel to one another rather than twisted and crossed as in the Chen Style position. This change makes the defender’s bodily point of contact on his right wrist or forearm rather than the palm of his right hand. Additionally, the accompanying left hand palm in Yang’s ‘Grasp Bird’s Tail’ is facing palm outward, but not so much upward as the Chen Style shape. The modified shape relaxes the left arm and shoulder considerably, and thus enhancing the entire left side Chi dynamics. Here is Sifu Yang Cheng-Fu and Sifu Deng Er-Qian demonstrating this modified posture:
Master Yang’s modifications allow the Chi that is ‘received’ by the defender’s right wrist and forearm to be brought into his body via the Yang (+) Chi Meridian Channels on the outside of the arm and hand, and then be immediately issued back out via the Yin (-) Chi Meridian Channels located on the inside of the arms that travel to the palms and fingertips on the left arm and hand.
Whoa! This is quite interesting, especially the part about the modification allowing for the qi to flow more freely! I have often experienced being more “connected” and “smooth” when I do the Yang set. I feel more relaxed and more expansive. In fact, the only times I get the “expansive effect” is when I either do yiquan standing meditation or Yang. Hmm…
Another thing I questioned about the Yang was the reasoning behind the “bent wrist” in Yang. Having almost a 90 degree angle between the back of one’s hand and forearm is common amongst more “external” arts. When I did wushu-taiji (24, 48, etc) this point was also emphasized. However, after doing some TT Liang Yang, they followed the notion of “Fair Maiden’s Wrist” where the hand was aligned with the wrist, resulting in no bend. The idea was to allow the qi to flow to the fingertips. Ok.. I bought this..
Then I started seeing videos and pics of the Dong family taiji and all they exhibited bent wrists. It wasn’t until I read The Last Interview with Fu Zhongwen [via] until I got the reason.
… the wrist has to be slightly cocked rather than kept straight.
… It is like a garden hose when you are watering a garden. If you don’t press the hose in any way, the water flows normally. If you press the hose or bend it slightly, the water will go farther. And if you press the hose too hard, the water wills stop.
There seems to be a common connection between the modifications Yang made to the Chen set. The connection has to do with energetics. The opening of the meridians, the closing of meridians, the focus on internal energy flow.. Maybe this is why I feel more connected and energized after doing the Yang …