In my comment on Spiral Force in Dong Taiji Long Form, I wrote:
When I first started chen, my yang began looking like my chen. Everything began looking like chen to the point that I called it “chen creep”. But now, my chen almost looks like yang, and my yang is just yang.
This comment reminded me of this whole notion of “Chen Creep”. What’s a bit amazing is the first time I used this phrase was in 2004 in a post titled, 24 Revisited. It’s been over 3 years and I’m still working on removing ‘chen creep’ from my execution of CHEN! For me, I define “Chen Creep” to be the physically exaggerated and overt display of spiral energy within the form. It can also be defined as an exaggerated personally stylized execution of the set.
One of the main attractors to chen style is it’s emphasis on silk reeling and spiral energy. Because I already had a preconceived notion of this, when I learned the form, I put a lot of “stylistic” flare into the form. I waved may hands around a bit more, I did more spirals in my knees, ultimately, I tried to make it “look good”. In retrospect, this proved to be a huge stumbling block and hurdle I had to overcome.
It didn’t really hit home until I repeatedly got blasted for it in private lessons. “You’re moving too much. Relax your torso. Don’t wave the spine.” Huh… This was all quite shocking b/c I went into private lessons thinking I was pretty good, but boy was I wrong. “You need to work on your basics. Practice Zhan zhuang and silk reeling”. What??? I wanted to do all the cool stuff, but now I’m being told I need to practice zhan zhuang and silk reeling more. Why???
Well, instead of questioning, I just did it. I practiced zhan zhuang more, focused on it more, tried to see what my instructor was telling me about the spine and relaxing the torso. The more I did zhan zhuang, the more I realized in my form execution, I was ‘waving the spine’. What is ‘waving the spine’? Sit down in a chair and do that dance move where the head goes side to side and you wave through your body. This is waving the spine. Why is this bad? When doing this, are one’s shoulders connected to one’s hip? Does the upper-body move as one piece or in segments? Is the area between the shoulders and hips relaxed?
What about the idea of moving too much? Can one really move too much? I didn’t really understand this until I was put through excruciating detailed corrections in silk reeling. “You need to clearly define the movements. Shift, then turn”. This is really hard to explain without hands-on corrections, but basically I was blending the shifting and turning within my silk reeling. My shifting wasn’t really shifting and my turning wasn’t really turning. Perhaps this is what is meant my ZenMindSword’s local quote of: “Not 3, Not 4”. By doing both, I was doing neither one correctly..
After time, and trying to follow the corrections I was given, I began to notice I had toned down my ‘flare’. I realized my hands cannot possibly move that much, based upon the movement of my dantien and center. By doing such, was just my hands moving. The movement was not driven by my center.