I recently had the opportunity to attend a 3 day workshop with Master Chen Zhonghua. Friday evening consisted of an introduction to the Practical Method Chen Style Taijiquan Broadsword routine. Saturday and Sunday covered taiji foundations, taiji fundamental exercises and push hands. Note, the summary will be presented in multiple parts as I have over 60 voice memos to transcribe and 14 notepad pages of information from the workshop!
Chen Taiji Tile Hand
I had arrived in Milwaukee, WI early Friday afternoon. After some private lessons, Master Chen and some students were heading out to dinner and invited me along. While waiting for others to arrive, I had asked Master Chen about the significance of the tile hand shape. He said think of a Chinese broom, the fibers are wound together so tight causing the bristles to spread. The handle is like the forearm, the handle base is like the wrist, and the bristles are like the fingers. The wrist must be locked firmly, causing the energy to expand out into the fingers. The fingers are tiled, the middle finger has a strong intention and is pulled slightly back while the pinkie and thumb have a slight pulling towards one another. Additionally, the base of the thumb is held firmly against the knuckle joint of the index finger with the thumb pointing slightly towards the back of the hand.
I have heard about the Chen taiji tile hand before, but not in this much detail. Master Chen demonstrated the hand position to me and then asked me to try it myself. Immediately, he corrected me to lock my wrist and extended my fingers while putting them in a tile shape. This position is not easy to hold and will take quite a bit of practice to get the hand used to the shape. Master Chen asked me to grab his wrist and showed me how the intention in the fingers could be used to redirect incoming energy. Later in the workshop, I would learn how the pointing of the fingers assisted in directing the energy.
One thing I noticed right away about Master Chen is that he is always practicing. While standing, his hand would be tile shaped and extending out from his dantian (twisting the towel foundation exercise). During the walk to a nearby restaurant, he stopped and proceeded to do some push hands with a student on the sidewalk of a busy street. At the dinner table, Master Chen was often seen doing the double negative circle sequence of fist drapes over the body. There were very few moments during the whole weekend workshop where Master Chen was not doing some type of taiji training movement. I have to admit that I now often practice these same movements during idle time. One of my favorite exercises is to practice sinking the elbow into the dantian, a component of the fist draping over body sequence.
See the following video for an example of Twisting the Towel, a foundation exercise within the Practical Method. Note the tile shape of the hands and the matching of power between the right and left hands. This movement can be practiced anywhere as it requires very little room and movement.
Stay tuned for part 2 🙂