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Chen Tai Chi : How To Learn

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I am very inspired by the performance below (which I believe is the 56 Competition form) and interested to learn Chen TaiChi .... can anyone recommend any DVD series that is solid and includes the kind of basic and intermediary exercises and trainings that are done at the village ?   And does anyone know how much it is to get trained in China at the village or elsewhere like on a 3 month retreat.   Any info would be good thanks.
 

 

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1 hour ago, oak said:

I'll leave you the link to a great interview. Plenty for you to explore on this site concerning Chen Tai Chi. Hope it offers you some answers

 

Fantastic interview, thanks !
Done 80 mins Wuji today ... so far.

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I’m no Chen expert, but that video looks like an extremely well done external representation of an internal art. I can’t see any true internal mechanics in her performance.

 

To study something as intricate as taiji, you certainly need a teacher. Unfortunately China is not a good source of teachers of internal arts anymore. But there are many scattered in south east Asia - Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand etc.

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I trained in Chen style for a number of years and can offer some guidance. 

 

First of all ... and this is true of any taiji ... you need hands on instruction. The simple matter is that at the beginning there is alot of correcting of posture and movement. So look around for a Chen style teacher.

 

Chen style has become more popular largely due to the efforts of the 19th generation Chen family masters Chen Zhenglei, Chen Xiaowang, Zhu Tiancai and Wang Xian. If you can findd someone that trained under them and/or closely follow their instruction, you would be getting core Chen style training. Some of the younger masters of the next generation are increasingly becoming more active in teaching and spreading Chen style. Chen Bing in a notable example.

 

Expect to learn Laojia Yilu (Old form First routine) as the the basic training. This 74 movment form is foundational but it will not look as dramatic as some demonstrations (including above) since the emphasis is on slow correct posture and movement. You may find that some will teach a 38 movement form created by Chen Xiaowang, and it is a very good form, but Laojia Yilu is the more traditional line of practice.

 

The 56 form above is not a traditional form in the truest sense. Within the Chen style there are several variations. The 56 form is a form that was developed for competition purposes that takes elements of the several variations and levels in Chen style in an attempt to provide a standard by which to judge Chen forms. It is a very good form but is not traditional. It is generally introduced when one is ready to compete. 

 

There are quite a few good books and DVDs out there, especially by Chen Zhenglei. He is generally considered to be the lead standard bearer of the 19th generation. As far as I know, he still lives in Chen village but travels extensively worldwide to teach. There are quite a number of videos online, many by the masters cited above, that you can view to see authenic Chen style forms. 

 

Good luck on your search.

 

 

Edited by OldDog
Bad grammar and spelling. Fat thumbs.
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14 hours ago, OldDog said:

Expect to learn Laojia Yilu (Old form First routine) as the the basic training. This 74 movment form is foundational but it will not look as dramatic as some demonstrations (including above) since the emphasis is on slow correct posture and movement. You may find that some will teach a 38 movement form created by Chen Xiaowang, and it is a very good form, but Laojia Yilu is the more traditional line of practice.

 

The 56 form above is not a traditional form in the truest sense. Within the Chen style there are several variations. The 56 form is a form that was developed for competition purposes that takes elements of the several variations and levels in Chen style in an attempt to provide a standard by which to judge Chen forms. It is a very good form but is not traditional.

 

 

 Is there a meaning on why 74, 38 in their understanding or just random numbers?

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22 hours ago, OldDog said:

 

The 56 form above is not a traditional form in the truest sense. Within the Chen style there are several variations. The 56 form is a form that was developed for competition purposes that takes elements of the several variations and levels in Chen style in an attempt to provide a standard by which to judge Chen forms. It is a very good form but is not traditional. It is generally introduced when one is ready to compete. 

 

I remember watching this video a couple if years ago and was wowed. Incredible stuff, for its purpose :)

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8 hours ago, Mig said:

 Is there a meaning on why 74, 38 in their understanding or just random numbers?

 

I have never heard them spoken of as having special meaning  ... they are not magic numbers. 

 

They are just a way of distinguishing forms that places some emphasis on the forms complexity in a general way. The forms can be looked upon as sets of movements and postures. When the forms are taught they are often taught progressively starting with the initial posture and opening movements and incrementally adding movements and postures over the course of training until the entire set is covered. But that does not mean one has mastered the form, quite the contrary. It simply means that you now have the ability to recall the set for further practice. You never really are done with the form. Teacher used to say a good form always has room for a little improvement.

 

As I look back on the training I did with the 74 and 56 form, I think the 56 form had less repetition in it. The 74 form has some postures that occur multiple times, for instance Pounding the Mortar and Single Whip occur multiple times in the form.

 

Generally, the traditional forms are longer. Newer shorter forms were developed, I think, largely as introductory forms or forms suitable for shorter practice intervals or demonstration purposes.

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My understanding is that Chen teaches Wuji and Silk Reeling for the first 2 years or so, along with other intermediary exercises which I don't know but have seen reference to.
I learnt the Liuhebafa form this year, but how can I connect Wuji to it ... or will I end up being an idiot in the park ?
Well I am connect it, my own way.
I did learn the beginning of laojia from Ken Gullettes DVD but it didn't mean that much to me so I stopped then I started silk reeling and internal integration which did mean a lot to me and did some good work, then added Wuji.   Probably if I continue the Dantien to finger stuff will just start happening.

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1 hour ago, Rara said:

... watching this video a couple if years ago and was wowed.

 

Yes,. It is quite dramatic. But one thing to remember, it is not necessary for the form to be performed in such a low deep posture. Often times new practitioners want to be able to perform the form that way because it is so dramatic. It takes a long time to get to the point where the posture is that low. Trying to use low posture as a training goal often results in the introduction of alignment issues into the form, which only need to be corrected later on. It often leads to back and knee issues. Look at the videos of the older masters. You don't often see them in such extreme postures. And yet, their forms are very powerful.

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9 minutes ago, rideforever said:

... Wuji and Silk Reeling ...

 

Silk reeling exists in most all taiji forms. Chen places special emphasis on it but it is not something that is separate from the form. If you look at silk reeling exercises you will notice thst they are mostly pieces of postures and movements from the form that are performed separately so they can be worked on (isolated and  repeated) cyclically. So, in that sense they are no different than the form itself. In all of my training settings silk reeling and form were worked on together. There was no overt attempt to have a student do a long period of silk reeling before being intoduced to the form.

 

As far as wuji is concerned, I think there are a couple of implications. In my experience it could be a preparatory posture and/or a form of qigong. 

 

When preparing to do form there is what is called in Chen parlance Beginning Posture (TaijiQiShi). It is where you clear your mind, calm your breath and relax your body so that as you enter the form you are prepared to do the form correctly. This is a very wuji like state.

 

From a qigong perspective, Zhan Zhaung is a very effective practice for learning the subtle alignments and energies of the body. Wuji like posture is one form of Zhan Zhuang. There are others. At one point in my training I sort of plateaued out. I was not progressing much. Teacher advised ZZ practice. It worked. My form took on new meaning and I was able to make progress once more. So much so, that it became a permanent part of my practice. But again, in my experience, there was never any requirement to work on wuji for a long period of time before being introduced to the form. It was done along with form training.

 

 

 

 

 

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Chen is stance training, sweating and leg shaking!

 

Yang is more relaxing and enjoyable 😊

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I consider it critical to have intermediary movements, like silk reeling.  In the Yang style I have been taught some stepping methods which are excellent ... so much so I wonder if I should learn the Yang style, perhaps they have a large number of these intermediary exercises.   

I have not seen such things in the Chen, save for the Silk Reeling.   ????
I think it's useless to try and learn from the main forms,  because there is not enough repetition.   Same thing in kickboxing, learning combinations of greater and greater complexity.

The intermediary exercises are really where the money is at, the final forms is more like an end of term performance imo.

 

Also w.r.t Silk Reeling, I learnt a huge amount from Mike Sigman .... which does not seem to be normally taught, which I find really worrying actually.   Most Silk Reeling teaching (on youtube) and there is a lot, does not really teach what it is about internally; that does not give me confidence in most teaching traditional or modern.

 

 

 

And I personally vomit every time I hear teachers doing the over-correcting alignment business.   You cannot learn through "alignment" - that is like programming yourself to being a bloody robot.   What's the point.

You need to feel it ... feel the energy ... feel the flow ... feel the meaning ... feel the dantien ... feel the spirit ... behind that move.
And you might as well start doing that at the beginning ... or you are just training robotness and it will not work.

If you know the feeling and meaning behind the movement then you can do it with very little "alignment" training, because you know what you are trying to do.

 

Anyway, I think I've gotta get real, I am not going to become expert in Chen tai chi.   I like to learn but my horizon is limited, I like to keep really fit and like to find a nice way to do it, and maybe learn something.   Also often I am indoors so don't have much space in the winter.  Normal exercise is quite boring.   Qigong does not keep you fit and I don't want to deteriorate in condition.   Kickboxing is a bit violent and not so much into it these days.   Wafty taichi is meaningless.   Not sure if there is something else I could try.

 

 

 

Edited by rideforever
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Where are you located, what country or area? Any teachers close by?

 

Structure and alignment are quite important, once you cross hands with someone who has any skill this becomes obvious. You cannot build a house without a strong foundation. 

 

That being said, structure is a formula which remains relatively the same no matter what internal art you study. There may be slight variations among traditions, but the skeletal structure is universal, despite style. After this basic structure, there is the shenfa or body method for each style. For instance, Xingyi generates power differently than Bagua. 

 

Are you able to learn an art from DVD? My answer is: Kind of. There’s detailed resources out there, even the distance training. Maybe check out Richard Clear. He does an online school, and he has skill. 

 

As long as it gets you moving, twisting, going within and relaxing into your movements, it’s beneficial. 

 

Also reach out to someone close by who does martial arts (any art) and try to practice with them. We grow much more with people then by ourselves. Peace brother! Have fun with it 😊

 

 

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13 hours ago, rideforever said:

And I personally vomit every time I hear teachers doing the over-correcting alignment business.   You cannot learn through "alignment" - that is like programming yourself to being a bloody robot.   What's the point.

 

In terms of the Daoist internal arts (whether Qi gong or taiji) the above is faulty understanding.

 

Alignment is not for the purposes of ‘feeling’ or ‘learning’. Alignments are all about building the correct body. You’re not training your muscles, you’re training relaxing and releasing (song) whilst fully absorbed (ting) and holding a particular posture. The the tiny details of the posture are important as they set up the correct shape that under force of gravity will create the right type of stress and tension through the interior of your body that will then build and develop over time. This is what develops the ‘inner power’.

 

If being this anal about alignments doesn’t interest you (completely understandable!) then you’re not suited to these arts. Much better to invest your time in something you actually enjoy. Body weight flow type exercises are fun and very popular these days - something like that might be much more rewarding for you.

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30 minutes ago, freeform said:

If being this anal about alignments doesn’t interest you (completely understandable!) then you’re not suited to these arts.

 

Maybe you are not suited to the arts and are just suited to the theatre.
There is no way in hell you will remember all the zillion corrections teachers do, that is just a joke.  You either feel it inside.
And let's not forget that for many teachers the first thing they do is slag off everyone and everything you have ever done, and due to their inability to explain anything at all ... they just prod and push your alignments.   Same happens in yoga.  Creates large income stream of students who are unable to do anything themselves.
Of very low sincerity, and high dependence.

I ... appreciate your adherence to tradition and it's good in many ways, but as you can see my perspective is now quite tangential to that, nevertheless I thank you for your attention on this thread.

 

 

Edited by rideforever

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43 minutes ago, freeform said:

 

In terms of the Daoist internal arts (whether Qi gong or taiji) the above is faulty understanding.

 

Alignment is not for the purposes of ‘feeling’ or ‘learning’. Alignments are all about building the correct body. You’re not training your muscles, you’re training relaxing and releasing (song) whilst fully absorbed (ting) and holding a particular posture. The the tiny details of the posture are important as they set up the correct shape that under force of gravity will create the right type of stress and tension through the interior of your body that will then build and develop over time. This is what develops the ‘inner power’.

Alignment IS for the purpose of feeling (and therefore learning) imho. When a good teacher adjusts the student's alignments, just a half-degree change can make a day and night difference between feeling some minute trickles and essentially opening the flood gates. But the student needs to work on becoming natural with the alignment (hence practice), such that the structure and alignment becomes so internalized that they don't have to think about it ever again. This is necessary until there is sufficient full-body integration and jin developed that the internal conditions are maintained without effort just with a regular practice (could even be a few minutes a day).

 

43 minutes ago, freeform said:

If being this anal about alignments doesn’t interest you (completely understandable!) then you’re not suited to these arts. Much better to invest your time in something you actually enjoy. Body weight flow type exercises are fun and very popular these days - something like that might be much more rewarding for you.

However, there is a fallacy, imho, when one becomes "anal" about alignment. Because just mechanical adjustment of structure is pointless if it interferes with the qi flow. What is good for peter, may not work for paul, given that they may have different body types etc. Meaning, it is not a "one size fits all" proposition. :) 

 

I've known plenty of such "anal" taiji people, who will measure with a protractor and a divider exact angles to step (back foot HAS to be 45 degrees),  exact distribution of weight, etc. Such people tend to "miss the forest for the trees", so to speak. The Internal arts are about a completely different level of perception and proprioception than can be afforded of by our senses and even rational mind. 

 

For instance, in Taijiquan, there's a saying that "we go from beginner (no form), to form (intermediate) to no form (advanced)". The idea is to leave the form, leave the structure behind and flow with and follow the energy. Of course, I'm sure there are many who might vehemently disagree. To that I say -- the proof is in the pudding. :D

 

 

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43 minutes ago, rideforever said:

 

Maybe you are not suited to the arts and are just suited to the theatre.
There is no way in hell you will remember all the zillion corrections teachers do, that is just a joke.  You either feel it inside.
And let's not forget that for many teachers the first thing they do is slag off everyone and everything you have ever done, and due to their inability to explain anything at all ... they just prod and push your alignments.   Same happens in yoga.  Creates large income stream of students who are unable to do anything themselves.
Of very low sincerity, and high dependence.

 

No point in finding any teacher if you have this outlook... How are you going to learn if your cup is full?

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24 minutes ago, rideforever said:

due to their inability to explain anything at all ... they just prod and push your alignments.

 

Sadly, you’re probably right about the majority of teachers. I’ve met very few that actually have the skills that they teach. 

 

30 minutes ago, rideforever said:

 

Maybe you are not suited to the arts and are just suited to the theatre.

 

 

Not sure what you’re trying to say?

 

32 minutes ago, rideforever said:


There is no way in hell you will remember all the zillion corrections teachers do, that is just a joke. 

 

 

Trying to memorise the corrections is clearly ‘a joke’... if you have a good teacher, and you yourself are a good student, your awareness would be focused inside while you get the correction. The correction is always aimed at helping to manifest the right conditions inside you - so you’d be able to feel the shift inside, and then take that change into your practice.

 

The outer shape is not the important bit - the inside is important. So actually the ‘correct’ posture for you will change as your body changes and develops. And that’s why the corrections can sometimes seem endless.

 

But yes sometimes it’s just a teacher who doesn’t know what he’s doing and just pokes holes in people’s postures to demonstrate skill. Sad really.

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Look, the thing you remember is not the physical corrections it is the inner energy, that is memorable, alright.

And if you are a student then that is what you look for because that is real, the energy is you.

And any teacher worth standing next to knows all the bs games, but the fact is many teachers are just useless - not useless at taichi, just plain not getting the path.

The path is about sensitivity so that you can do it yourself, most of tai chi is about merging with the source through the dantien, hence the traditional training methods of standing and breathing which I am prioritising.

It's far more important to feel and learn to trust your inner feeling .... at least you leave this life with something concrete. 
That is why I started the thread looking for the linking movements, because that's where the money is at, that's where you link the inner feeling with moving.

Anyway it was only by having explosive confrontations with innumerable teachers of anything and everything that I did in my life find some of the finest teachers on this planet, past and present.   Forgive me, I made a lot of mess.

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18 minutes ago, dwai said:

Alignment IS for the purpose of feeling (and therefore learning) imho. When a good teacher adjusts the student's alignments, just a half-degree change can make a day and night difference between feeling some minute trickles and essentially opening the flood gates

 

Yup - completely agree.

 

18 minutes ago, dwai said:

However, there is a fallacy, imho, when one becomes "anal" about alignment. Because just mechanical adjustment of structure is pointless if it interferes with the qi flow.

 

Yeah I agree - I was sloppy with my words. I don’t mean being heavily focused on dry mechanics and alignment. Rulers certainly have no place in these arts!

 

What I mean is being deeply focused and absorbed inside.

 

Most people find it completely boring to be patiently listening for very subtle (for a long time) internal changes and processes in their body. Especially whilst standing in some uncomfortable posture for ages. 

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Without a formal teacher, I believe it's easier to get a good feeling and flow from short gi gong routines, then from the longer complex ones of Tai Chi.   Unless you break up the Tai Chi into a short looped forms.  

 

 

Edited by thelerner

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On 12/9/2018 at 7:25 AM, OldDog said:

 

I have never heard them spoken of as having special meaning  ... they are not magic numbers. 

 

They are just a way of distinguishing forms that places some emphasis on the forms complexity in a general way. The forms can be looked upon as sets of movements and postures. When the forms are taught they are often taught progressively starting with the initial posture and opening movements and incrementally adding movements and postures over the course of training until the entire set is covered. But that does not mean one has mastered the form, quite the contrary. It simply means that you now have the ability to recall the set for further practice. You never really are done with the form. Teacher used to say a good form always has room for a little improvement.

 

As I look back on the training I did with the 74 and 56 form, I think the 56 form had less repetition in it. The 74 form has some postures that occur multiple times, for instance Pounding the Mortar and Single Whip occur multiple times in the form.

 

Generally, the traditional forms are longer. Newer shorter forms were developed, I think, largely as introductory forms or forms suitable for shorter practice intervals or demonstration purposes.

Other Kung Fu styles, especially in the south, use numbers that are part of the Chinese culture or even cosmology or related to Buddhism. That's the reason of my question.

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