Below is the final installment of my Chen Zhonghua workshop notes unfiltered series of posts. I hope you have enjoyed reading them. In time, I plan on looping back around and expanding more on the notes as I am learning more each day through training and testing.
Regarding testing, this is one of the things that is the most appealing to me about the Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method (CSTPM). I have commented before how there is such a small “feedback loop” in the Chen Practical Method. This means that you can feel/test right away what works and what does not and learn why. Hence, the “practical” nature of the method.
Again, these unfiltered notes are based upon my own understanding of the material presented at the workshop. These notes are not fully inclusive of all the material presented at the workshop. These notes are not meant to substitute hands-on instruction. My advice would be to attend a workshop by Master Chen Zhonghua or seek out one of his instructors in an area near you.
Previous posts in the series:
1. Double Heavy Exercise: Tie a band to an object and then around the waist. Run the opposite direction until the band is very tight and try to stop. Feel what it’s like to fall backward from the pulling band. This is the feeling of double heavy, or being unable to move. The idea is to put yourself into awkward position and train so you can move and be calm in awkward positioning. Later, hold the position and begin alternating up/down motions of the knee, note how this can be used to counteract double heavy.
2. Elbow In with Band: Using the band, stretch it out until there is some tension. Then do the positive/negative circles using the band. Focus on elbow in, and only using your elbow to pull in. The resistance helps to identify if hand/shoulder or other parts of the body are being used to compensate for the movement of the elbow. Doing so will progress 3-5 yrs in 1 yrs time.
3. Static Power Training: The goal of this next exercise is to basically train static power. Facing a wall, get into a bow stance with your front toe touching the wall. The knee should be directly above the heel of the foot and remain in that position. You can use some type of pillow or styrofoam block to keep the knee in place. Next, place the forearm of the forward arm (if left leg forward, then use left arm) against the wall with your fingertips roughly at forehead height. The palm of the forward arm is facing the wall. The palm of the rear arm is placed on the wall about solar plexus height. Bend the rear leg. The idea of the exercise is to basically lock the shape of your arms, torso, the space between you and the wall, and push against the wall using the rear leg. While pushing, try to lengthen/expand the back and spine. This exercise also helps in developing vertical force.
Whenever you move in taiji, the body should feel bigger, not smaller. Stretch the body to make it bigger.
Let someone push you until you can frame their energy. In essence, you are stretching your opponent out on an imaginary frame (think picture frame). In doing so, you can feel the source of the opponent’s energy, then you can define your attack. Requires some sensitivity, frame them to spread them out, then you send energy back, like rebounding the energy.
In the fist drape over body form, imagine the hands are locked from the elbow, like fighting against yourself.
When there is action, no movement. When there is movement, no action. Things must be clearly defined, no action and movement at the same time, otherwise muddy. Movement can be defined as stepping movement and action can be thought of arm/body movement. Think of the idea of attacking with the legs and connecting with the hands.
Flat surfaces do not move, only rotate by a joint. Image of a train’s crank shaft. While the wheels appear to be moving, they are being rotated by the crank shaft.
Think of a clock-face. Energy approaches from either 3 or 9, then must decide whether to go to 12 or 6. If being pushed down, use the negative circle. If being pushed up, use the positive circle. Seems backward, but it’s just following with your opponent. The positive circle starts with elbow in, this can be used to take the downward push, etc.
Demarcation is the act of creating a boundary around a place or thing. How to establish the demarcation line? If you feel stuck at 9 or 3, how do you get to the other side? Find the momentum like a train crank shaft. Imagine 2 pool balls hitting each other, the point of contact is very small, from the point try to determine the intention of incoming force and redirect either up or down, positive or negative circle.
Instead of big force, use small. Train self to be small. Dropping the elbow and sinking the shoulder makes the body small. Then stretch things out, become smaller and more powerful.
Sequentially connect the joints of the body. In the outward path of the negative circle, only move the hand. Then when hand connect to elbow can move. Connect elbow to shoulder then move arm. Elbow in, turn body left. Turn waist right, shoulder connects to elbow, then the hand extends. Only move the hand on the last step, NOTHING else.
Must isolate parts, don’t try to move everything together. If move all together then can lose that part of the body. Example in 6 sealings 4 closings, if shift weight back can lose shoulder and be uprooted.
Stepping method: Foot-Knee-Foot. When step to the right, curve left kua to the right foot. This makes the energy structure strong, creating a concave energy that goes from right foot to the left kua. Energy maintains the structure so you can lift the left foot and slap it against the back of the right knee, WITHOUT shifting weight right. Similar to a sumo walk.
When move (step) don’t let the air out of the ball (kua). Keep structure and do not fold the kua.
90% intention, 10% action.
The secret to taiji is like a sickle cutting grass. The farther it is away from the action, the better. If you want to move the hand, rotate the elbow. If want to move the elbow, use the rear foot.
Duck walk: Split step from rear leg, use the rear leg to drive the body forward. When pulling rear foot up, flex the inner thighs and pull up.
Everything is a container that stores energy in different ways. The outside has to be strong, the inside can be soft. The outside is strong so the inside can move. Can do peng, and allow to move the body inside.
Our legs get tired b/c we don’t know how to use them. Notion of pre-tense cement, where you stretch out the rod then put cement, when they return to original shape it’s compact and more stronger. The idea is to keep both legs tensed/tension and kick the energy from heel to dantien and back, never crossing the centerline of the body.
If someone tries to push you in the chest, don’t push back, just drop the elbows.
positive/negative circle, positive/neg with stepping, twisting towel, fetch pail, double negative
Positive circle with stepping, the movement of the front hand is proportional to the rear leg.
In hand out, only the hand goes out, not the waist, not the shoulder.
In yilu, there is 81 movements (9×9). Refers to the 81 possible techniques the body can do. During push hands, Hong would ask them to pause and tell him what technique they were executing.
CZH was showing us the circles and we noticed a lot of movement on the outer edges of the foot as well as stretching. He said while it appears to look different, it’s no different, just the intention is different.
Zhan zhuang is like doing 3 stretches, the first is spine (up/down), the second stretch is the arms (horizontal). The 2 stretches then overlap at a point and this point has a lot of power/energy.
Broke us into groups and has us push on each other to try and identify the opponent’s line. CZH would then come by and tell us not to move A and not to move B but to just turn the hand. Our opponent then went falling down with little to no effort other than straightening out the hand.
When asked how to get out of buddha warriors pound mortal qinna, he said to just spiral up. Similar to the twisting the towel exercise, just spiral out of the qinnas. Same for armbar, just spiral out.
CZH Demonstrated and showed us how to use the energy of the rear foot, the idea was to eliminate all the space between ourselves and the opponent and to get your body underneath your hands and with a light tap of the rear foot, the opponent would bounce up.
All stepping in push hands is like duck walking. The rear foot initiates the movement and projects the body forward.
In stepping, land on the heel, but once both toes touch the ground, the knees never move.
vertical power exercise: stand in zhan zhuang position, but then roll up on the heel to feel like losing balance, but then stretch the spine from top of head to heel of foot to regain balance.