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.
- Focus on Yang
- Focus on Chen Village Method
- 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??