Chen Zhonghua Workshop Summary Part 1

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.

Always Training

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 🙂

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About wujimon

taiji, meditation and health
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5 Responses to Chen Zhonghua Workshop Summary Part 1

  1. taijiquestion says:

    Thanks for these words about taiji practice anywhere/anytime. I know you and I have talked about this topic before. Maybe it’s the most important of all — who knows?

    Just a quick mention when I was on an international jet flight recently I found myself in one of the airplanes restrooms which is small closet size as you know. I suddenly smiled and realized I could do “standing taiji practice” even in this tiny imprisoning space. So I did… but only for less than a minute, didn’t want to hog the facilities. 🙂

  2. Rick Matz says:

    What you described with that hand shape was what I learned in Yoshinkan Aikido.

  3. Pingback: Tile Hand in Chen Tai Chi « Chinese Boxing etc.

  4. Akira Hojo says:

    Is the tile hand only held during certain action/movement, like fa jin, or it’s like that all the way through the form? I have done only the 42 Competition Form, from a Yang family perspective, and it seems the only time we shape our hands similar to the chinese tile is during Yee Ma Fen Zhong (parting the wild horse’s mane). After that move, I was told by my teacher to relax the wrist and hand again. Also in the video above, can you explain a bit more about the wrist being locked? And during the Twisting the Towel exercise, what actually moves the body, the dantien alone or including the kua? What is the intention when doing this exercise?

  5. wujimon says:

    @Akira: In the Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method, the tile hand is held throughout the whole form. I’m not sure if you’ve ever done aikido, but the “ki hands” in aikido have a lot of power. It’s all about the intention put on the hands/wrist. The same is true in the Chen Practical Method.

    If the hand held tightly in tile hand, but the wrist is limp, then there can be a break in structure. Yang style taiji has a similar thing in the Fu Zhongwen line of Yang about the wrist being like a kink in the water hose to exert more power.

    In the Chen Practical Method, movements are driven by the kua. The intention is to think of twisting a towel between your two hands. Practically, this could be used during a punch, counter to a wrist grab, basically anything where a horizontal split energy is required.

    For more on the kua, check out the great Function and Usage of the Kua article on the Internal Arts IA blog. Additionally, check out the Energy Alignment DVD Review article I wrote as it highlights some of Master Chen Zhonghua’s DVDs. Not only do they cover movement instruction, but also practical application and energy alignment for EACH AND EVERY MOVE in the form.

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