You do Yang better than Chen

Over the weekend, I showed my wife a video I captured of myself doing taiji.  In this video, I do the first 5 moves of yang and then the first 5 moves of chen. Her first reaction when seeing my yang was, “If this isn’t ‘old man’ taiji, I don’t know what is..”, but then she noted that I was very smooth and appeared quite calm and relaxed in my execution. She also noted I appeared quite ‘connected’ in regards to the upper/lower parts of my body.

She then watched my portion of chen.  At first, she noted how chen looked kinda weird (this was in the transition to buddha warrior). Then she made some comments about my feet shifting around a bit and how the height fluctuated slightly during transition movements. She noted I need to work on more leg strength to even out the chen.  In addition, my upper and lower halves appeared disconnected compared to the yang.

In the end she said, “You do Yang better than Chen”. One of the peculiar things about my wife is that she has been consistently able to spot things in my taiji at a very early stage. She told me, very early on, that when I started chen, my intentions were off. My mind was not in a correct state as I appeared very ‘vain’ and that it looked like I wanted to kick someone’s butt in my execution of chen. This correction later exposed itself to me, as outlined in my Removing Chen Creep post.

Almost by fate, Formosa Neijia wrote a post titled, Beginning Shen training and Chen Style. In it, he notes:

This topic is interesting because it shows a weakness in the focus of most Chen styles. The majority of the time, Chen people focus on body movement at the jing level. (In the qi paradigm there are three levels: shen, qi, jing.) This emphasis can go on for too long, with the qi and shen levels being practically ignored in some schools.

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a very long time. At this point, I’ve actually been teetering on 3 different paths.

  1. Focus on Yang
  2. Focus on Chen Village Method
  3. Focus on Hong Junsheng Practical Method

By focusing on Yang, I don’t have to worry too much about the body method and I can start focusing on the qi/shen phases of the qi paradigm. This is almost like heading down the mind/mental path as opposed to the body path.

By focusing on the Chen Village method, I’d have quite a ways to go in regards to the body method. But I’ve at least headed down this path a bit so I’m a little ways along, but I could definitely see plenty of more time being spent on the body requirements of chen. One of my main hesitations on this path is that I no longer do chen in low stances and fear much of my future corrections will emphasize on going lower (not my goal). I would much rather focus on things like silk reeling and qi pathways, etc.

The final thought was to switch all-together and focus on the Hong Junsheng Practical Method. However, doing this would basically entail throwing out everything I’ve basically learned and start over from the beginning. While this is not so bad, there would be an inordinate amount of focus put upon the body method.

One question I’ve been asking myself is, why the desire to learn the Hong Practical Method? The main reason is because it’s practical. It ties together the martial elements with the physical movements for each and every movement of the form. The martial artist in me needs this association. I need to know what I am doing has martial value and not just waving my arms about.

But then it dawned on me, in my review of the Yang Family Long Form DVD by Yang Jun, he also outlines applications for each and every posture of the form, including the transition applications! I actually already had access to what I wanted, application examples for the postures of the form. So if I really wanted to, I could focus not only on the practical aspects of yang but also delve deeper into the mind/intent work of the yang set. How could I have overlooked this??


About wujimon

taiji, meditation and health
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14 Responses to You do Yang better than Chen

  1. How can we truly know that our forms have martial value? Is it enough that someone identifies an application for each movement?

  2. wujimon says:

    Hi MD. To me, we won’t truly know until we ‘put it to the test’ but the likelihood of most taiji folks entering bullshido throwdowns is quite low πŸ™‚

    As most schools will show maybe 1-2 applications for a whole form, I think having an idea for each movement is valuable. As Yang Jun asks in the DVD, “What is the meaning of this movement?”

    How do we know we are having the correct ‘intent’ without at least 1 application? In this case, I define intent as a martial application for a given movement.

    So, back to your original question, does the identification of an application for each movement result in martial value? I get value out of it and I believe this value to be martial in nature, so for me, yes. However, if we ask does providing this equal martial efficacy or equate to ‘martial training’, I think not.

  3. That was quick; I’ll try to ask more difficult questions in the future. πŸ™‚

    If we know an application for a movement, does that knowledge enable us to perform the movement correctly?

    A few years ago, I probably would have responded with a wishy-washy “it depends…”. Right now, my answer is a simple No. Left, right, forward, backward: they all have no meaning.

  4. wujimon says:

    Hi MD πŸ™‚
    Actually, I’d like to also hear possible solutions instead of just difficult questions πŸ™‚

    IMO, if there is a strong disconnect between performing the movement correctly and the martial application then…. let’s just say I think there could be something fundamentally wrong if this is the case. How’s that saying go… “It’s all in the form” πŸ™‚

  5. chessman71 says:

    Interesting. Does your wife have any training? Sounds as if she does.

    I think you’ve laid out the problem quite well. Perhaps the solution is to allow each style’s to come out when you’re practicing them. But don’t worry too much about having the opposite focus in the opposite form. At least for a while. What do you think?

  6. wujimon says:

    Hi Chessman.
    My wife and I started taiji at the exact same time! In fact, we enrolled in class together, but I stuck with it. πŸ™‚

    Your thought is good and it’s what I try to do, but it’s very hard not to compare. The hardest part is I often wonder where I’d be at if I focused on one instead of both. But then again, instead of an all or nothing approach, I’d like to try and get the best of both worlds.

    At this time, I haven’t made any concrete decision either way on ANY of the points, but they do linger out there. I just do what I feel like doing and go with the flow. Thanks πŸ˜‰

  7. chessman71 says:

    Your wife does taij too? No way! That’s great. You’re really lucky.

    I don’t really compare the Chen and CPL taiji that I do. I realize that they are working on slightly different things. So I value having both of them. I feel more balanced with both. I don’t feel like I’m splitting my time because, for me, skills gained in one often appear in the other. It’s me doing both styles, after all. But they Chen was part of CPL’s training and there’s lots of silk reeling in the form, so there is some crossover for me.

    Haha. It just occured to me how much mental effort you’d save if you cut yourself some slack and enjoyed training both styles. Taiji obviously contains a big mental component. Perhaps you’re being too hard on youself? You sound like you’re doing fine. πŸ™‚

  8. puredoxyk says:

    Nice post (not that that’s unusual).

    It seems that I got lucky; my sifu is also very involved in teaching kung fu (shorin ryu and something else I can’t spell yet), and we hear all the martial applications of our taiji moves. (We can even get him to demonstrate if we pester enough.) We’re always thoroughly cautioned to focus more on qi than jing, and the training there is good too, but it is very helpful (I find) to know what the general purpose of the movement is, so that you don’t distort it beyond usefulness while trying to make your movements graceful and efficient.

  9. wujimon says:

    I do consider myself lucky in that sometimes my wife will even watch taiji with me! Not many people can sit through watching taiji hearing me say, “see.. see! see how he shifts from the kua there! :)).

    But you’re absolutely right. At times I fall victim to the “Hamlet Curse” of thinking too much and as a result, doing nothing! I need to do more and think less πŸ™‚

    Thanks for the comment πŸ˜‰ Do consider yourself lucky if your instructor will show you an example application for the movements.

    For me, one of the hard things about taiji is trying to focus on certain aspects instead of everything at once. If I try to think about jing, qi, alignment, dantien rotations, etc etc while doing the form, I’d go nuts! Actually, I do go nuts at time so instead I try to focus on certain aspects in each session.

    Perhaps soon, my mind will be able to grasp it all at once, but I think that will take time.. πŸ™‚

  10. Rick Matz says:

    Philosophy practiced is the goal of learning. – Thoreau

  11. silkreeling says:

    Haven’t read neijia’s post on shen training in chen.

    Shen is initially trained in chen style taiji by mastering the body methods. If you don’t have good grasps of the shen qi (in chen lingo), then it is no wonder why you can’t master the body methods in chen taiji, and vice versa.

    In chen style, mastery of body methods can be used as an indication of how well you’re in tune with your shen, yi etc.

    Of course there are other methods of training but do you separate the mind and the body according to TCM theory?

    It only means you require more practice in chen style if you huff and puff or use a lot of effort that is not smooth or connected.

    Good luck with your yang practice.

  12. wujimon says:

    Great quote and definitely something to think about! Thanks.

    Neijia’s post basically outlines how much time is spent on the ji methods and not progressing to the qi and shen levels in chen taiji. Anyhoo.. I thought shen fa refers to body method?

    However, I definitely agree I could use a lot more practice in both chen and yang styles! πŸ™‚

  13. Pepe says:

    My story is just the opposite to Wuji, 100% martial application and 0% of qi in the Yang style… My instructor teaches each application of the long form (usually a 2-3 move like a partner form) but nothing about qigong other than standing posts and basic ba duan jing, so I had to do my own research on that subject. As the meridian approach didn’t work for me before I chose a global approach, and had amazing results with Feng Zhiqiang qigong. It really boosted my Yang practice! Now that I can feel the Yi/Qi relation on the form I realized I had to do basic leg-waist work, never done before (my mistake), using the Chen Xiaowang method. I’m happy with that combo: Chen body-work, Hunyuan qigong and Yang martial applications.

    My route was: martial -> qigong -> body work… not a clever one, though never is too late…

  14. wujimon says:

    Hey pepe.
    Thanks for the comment and providing some insight into your own training path. Interesting thought of bringing in 2 different chen methods into your yang training. In my case, I’ve tried hard to keep them separate.

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