E. S. A.

Chen’s style Tai Chi vs Yang’s style Tai Chi

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Posted (edited)

Dear fellow Dao Bums,

 

I have recently begun studying Chen’s style Tai chi after much research on different styles. It would seem to my personal views (which are limited to mostly Western/Hindu systems) that Chen’s style is the oldest and closely related to the original principles of TaiJiQuan. It encompasses movements of hard and soft. Tension and relaxation. Fast and slow. Unifying the polarities into a whole system. Chen’s style also has a great depth to the movement of chi and its movements. From what I have seen of Yang style it seems to only be soft slow movements. Now that being said, I have seen a few people express concern on any tension at all. I was hoping some practitioners of different styles could weigh in with their personal experience and start a conversation on the differences between the styles and the beliefs surrounding them. 
 

Cheers,

E. S. A.

The Wanderer

Edited by E. S. A.
Misspelled Yang
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Posted (edited)

Hi E.S.A.,

 

I've been practicing and then teaching (and still practicing of course) Chen style taiji since 2004, under the same teacher plus some occasional studies with masters of the same lineage.  I had a wide variety of exposures to other taiji styles and stayed with Chen as a personal preference.  You are in a minefield with this conversation, I can tell you that much. :D  But in terms of practical suggestions -- here's my two yuan:  

 

There's many factors that may influence one's choice, from sheer availability of a good teacher of a particular style in a particular location to one's idiosyncratic body type to temperament to even a particular stage in the same person's life.  Many people experiment (given a chance) with various styles, some choose their "once and forever" allegiance, some clearly prefer a style but master another one (or several) -- e.g. when planning to teach and going with what the general public is more familiar with and more likely to get interested in.  Some of my Chen classmates who used to swear off Yang, e.g., ultimately chose to study Yang too in order to be able to have more students.  Yang is considerably easier to learn for beginners -- though high level Yang is on the same footing with Chen, by different means but not inferior.  As for the rest of the five major ones (Chen, Yang, Wu, Wu-hao, Sun), your chances to find a very good teacher of the last two are low; you may have better luck with Wu; you will find overwhelmingly more Yang (this is changing but the Yang family started teaching the public decades earlier than the Chen family, so their style is still better known in the world).  About all other styles out there I don't really have an experiential opinion.  Good luck choosing wisely! :)   

Edited by Taomeow
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Thank you for the response.


Hopefully it doesn’t turn into a wushu flame war 🔥 I very much appreciate the conveyed experience and anyone else with some experience willing to chip in. As I have no personal experience actually practicing Yang style, only reading of it. It would be nice to read various experiences. 

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I think the specific style is less important than finding a good teacher who 1. Has skill, 2. Has virtue and 3. Is willing to teach you the real skill. That's of primary concern - the style, imo is very much secondary.

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The style is important depending on one's level.   If a person reaches the higher levels e.g. simulated combats, all styles are similar.  If it is only the elementary i.e. all the lengthy movements and associated trainings, then the difference is a lot, Chen and Yang are as if 2 different martial arts.

 

The advice to find a reasonable teacher who is accessible from one's location is very prudent consideration.  And in some situation, this is the only consideration, other than cost.

 

 

 

 

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I’ve trained in Yang and Chen styles, as well as a lesser known style developed in the 20th century by Master Chen Pan Ling based on Yang Ban Hou’s teaching (Yang style prior to Yang Chen Fu), Wu, and Chen styles.

 

I received far more instruction in martial application from my Yang teacher as that was his area of expertise (he also taught kuoshu, xingyi, and bagua). My Chen instruction was excellent but my Chen teacher did not offer the same degree of martial focus.

 

Master Logray’s point about taiji styles/methods converging at higher levels was also my experience. It really comes down to 3 ingredients for me  (some say 5) - quality of teacher, commitment of student, and transmission of lineage.

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Posted (edited)
On 7/6/2020 at 9:43 AM, E. S. A. said:

Dear fellow Dao Bums,

 

I have recently begun studying Chen’s style Tai chi after much research on different styles. It would seem to my personal views (which are limited to mostly Western/Hindu systems) that Chen’s style is the oldest and closely related to the original principles of TaiJiQuan. It encompasses movements of hard and soft. Tension and relaxation. Fast and slow. Unifying the polarities into a whole system. Chen’s style also has a great depth to the movement of chi and its movements. From what I have seen of Yang style it seems to only be soft slow movements. Now that being said, I have seen a few people express concern on any tension at all. I was hoping some practitioners of different styles could weigh in with their personal experience and start a conversation on the differences between the styles and the beliefs surrounding them. 
 

Cheers,

E. S. A.

The Wanderer

Find teachers in you area that feel good to you and then research them more.  If you supply names and places to TDB, we may be able to tell you more.

 

                                                Good hunting!

Edited by moment
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On 7/7/2020 at 7:30 AM, freeform said:

I think the specific style is less important than finding a good teacher who 1. Has skill, 2. Has virtue and 3. Is willing to teach you the real skill. That's of primary concern - the style, imo is very much secondary.

 

While I fully agree with this, I think it can be very difficult to assess these characteristics especially in a short period of time.

Skill is probably the easiest to judge but even that is tricky and potentially misleading for a beginner to understand.

Virtue can be difficult to know about a teacher until you've been with them for a while.

Whether or not they will teach you deeper "secrets" is another thing one cannot predict or guarantee.

I don't think the teacher even knows until you've been their student for a while and show that you're worthy of their trust. 

 

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8 hours ago, steve said:

I think it can be very difficult to assess these characteristics especially in a short period of time.


Yes - you’re right it does normally take a little while. But it’s possible to get quite skilled at this. 
 

What’s the atmosphere in the class like? Are there smiles and laughter or sizing each other up...

 

What are the seniors like? Are they skilled? Are they constantly learning or wanting to show how much they know? Watching the seniors is usually more informative than trying to deduce skill/virtue/willingness to teach from the teacher directly.

 

Is there a lot of deferential behaviour?

 

How are newbies treated? 
 

What’s it like after class?

 

I think within 3 or 4 classes you can tell all three of the characteristics. At least well enough to make an initial decision.

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Posted (edited)

I appreciate the responses you have all taken the time to give. Due to the current situation, going and checking out different schools is not an option. I was lucky enough to stumble upon a teacher a year or two ago. But only recently have I reached out to seriously attempt to study TaiJiQuan. It would seem to leave me feeling significantly more “fulfilled” than I have had with “western magick”.

 

Here is the information on my teacher. Maybe you can relay to me whether I have made a good choice. From my personal experience he is a very humble man, has a certain aura about him you can feel, almost relaxing, but opening at the same time. Seems to be very focused on long-term slow individual development but while still entertaining people to keep their interest. 


https://tntkungfu.com/instructors/team/

http://taichiology.com/?page_id=278

 

Above are the links to his Martial Arts school and Publishing business.

 

I would love to hear your opinions.

 

Cheers,

E. S. A. 

Edited by E. S. A.
Spelling mistake

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Posted (edited)

IMHO, Chen style is great If you’re young — teenage - 20s. Yang is great if you’re older — 30s-40s. Wu is good if you’re older (Wu has smallest frame).

 

Taijiquan has combinations of 3. 
 

3 frames (medium, large, small)

3 speeds (medium, slow, fast) 

 

i like Chen style and have learnt & practiced yang style, but my main system of practice is Temple style, which is similar to yang, but with focus on single form practice, standing and seated meditations, etc.


Temple style has the full ‘kit-and-kaboodle’ from a Daoist perspective. It takes a long time to learn it to a good level of proficiency. 
 

But it is a fulfilling style and will cover your needs — spiritual, martial and health. :) 
 

 

Edited by dwai
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17 minutes ago, dwai said:

IMHO, Chen style is great If you’re young — teenage - 20s. Yang is great if you’re older — 30s-40s. Wu is good if you’re older (Wu has smallest frame).

 

This is an urban legend methinks.  

Chen does require a lot more physical conditioning, but it also provides it as you go.  I know quite a few people who started Chen past your time frame (in their 40s-50s) and ten years down the road are in a much better physical shape than they were in their 20s.

 

26 minutes ago, dwai said:

 

Taijiquan has combinations of 3. 
 

3 frames (medium, large, small)

3 speeds (medium, slow, fast) 

 

Actually, in combinations of 2 (yin and yang) x 8 (bagua) x 5 (wuxing)

 

As for Chen, it also comes in combinations of 2

 

2 frames (laojia and xinjia --old frame and new frame)

2 routines per each (laojia yilu -- old frame first routine, laojia erlu --  old frame second routine, xinjia yilu -- new frame first routine, xinjia erlu -- new frame second routine)

2 push-hands patterns (fixed step and active step)

 

All the "short," "competition," "compact," "simplified" etc. versions are not part of the traditional curriculum and have to do with either "for sports" (wushu performance arts) or "for health" (non-martial adaptations that are essentially stepping qigongs) purposes. 

 

Speed is dictated by purpose and can be excruciatingly slow (with the extreme of the "square" form, coming to a screeching halt at every move and holding each pose for a minute or even several minutes -- the Four Tigers like to torture their students like that; "normal slow" for regular practice of the first routine, "normal fast" for regular practice of the second routine, "medium" for both when teaching/learning/demonstrating, "lightning fast" for both in application, etc.)

 

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2 hours ago, Taomeow said:

Actually, in combinations of 2 (yin and yang) x 8 (bagua) x 5 (wuxing)

 

As for Chen, it also comes in combinations of 2

 

2 frames (laojia and xinjia --old frame and new frame)

2 routines per each (laojia yilu -- old frame first routine, laojia erlu --  old frame second routine, xinjia yilu -- new frame first routine, xinjia erlu -- new frame second routine)

Actually I was referring to size of the stance in the frame. In temple style we’re taught the medium frame first, and I believe that’s the same with yang style as well. As we develop more song, the frame expands and becomes low too. And gradually as the movements refine, frame becomes smaller and smaller. 

But as is the case with all your posts, I learn much and am interested to find out more about yin/yang + bagua + wuxing.
 

In temple style I’ve learnt the 8 gates/powers and 5 stances (corresponding to five elements) and  8 directions (Up-down, front-back, left-right and in-out). Yin and yang approaches in terms of application too. Is that what you meant as well or is it something else altogether? :) 

 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, dwai said:

Actually I was referring to size of the stance in the frame. In temple style we’re taught the medium frame first, and I believe that’s the same with yang style as well. As we develop more song, the frame expands and becomes low too. And gradually as the movements refine, frame becomes smaller and smaller. 

 

 

Ah, I see what you mean. 

We don't necessarily see the exact correlation between the size of the stance and the size of the jin, it's more or less situational.  Although it's true that you have to have mastered short jin for your small stance to "work" and it is the next-difficulty-level task compared to the medium and large, but only as a "general rule."  There's other things at play too -- my teacher usually individualizes his requirements based on various factors -- e.g. the physical height of the practitioner and how opponents are matched in push-hands.  E.g. taller people are asked to be able to go very low so shorter opponents don't inconvenience them.  This way, push come to shove (which in push-hands it tends to :) ) you can always drop lower than your opponent if you have to.  (Whereas a shorter opponent doesn't stand to gain much from a very low stance in this situation -- if they go too low I'm not going to uproot them, I'm going to break their root by digging it deeper into the ground since that's the vector they're offering.)  But of course if short jin is your oyster, you can just stand there doing nothing externally.  I can't do that yet.  And it's true that at the beginner stage (some ten first years) the medium stance is preferred and progress is associated with being able to go lower and lower (the taiji way of course, with power -- something I learned when I just started out...  I was a human pretzel then and could go as low as you please...  the yoga way.  Which got beaten out of me eventually. :D )  

 

1 hour ago, dwai said:

But as is the case with all your posts, I learn much and am interested to find out more about yin/yang + bagua + wuxing.
 

In temple style I’ve learnt the 8 gates/powers and 5 stances (corresponding to five elements) and  8 directions (Up-down, front-back, left-right and in-out). Yin and yang approaches in terms of application too. Is that what you meant as well or is it something else altogether? :) 

 

 

Thank you. :) The 13 "songs" or "powers" indeed -- peng, lu, ji, an, cai, lie, zhou, kao associated with the 8 trigrams of the bagua and embodied as forces and patterns of their application, and the 5 directions of the wuxing (left, right, front, back, center) with their associated patterns of motion (up, down, expand, contract, rotate), and the yin-yang pattern in every opening-closing move.  Of course there's complex interplay of these energies involved. 

 

One distinct feature of Chen is that peng is implicitly associated with the "corkscrew" spiral force and is present pretty much throughout the rest of the forces.  Some masters of old even referred to Chen as "the art of peng."  And that's what's behind its robust external manifestations, its coiling, twisting, spiraling moves.  They are much more pronounced in xinjia than laojia, even exaggerated -- but not because they are external (when it's the real thing that is) --  they are just  external manifestations and visible continuations of the internal spirals 'breaking through" to the surface.  Laojia hides most of them -- but the difference is merely stylistic, the internal essence is the same.  Chen is for snakes, dragons, tigers.  Cats.  :)  Mighty oxen and boars make great Yang players.  Sun is for the sprightly rabbits, belligerent roosters, light-footed rats.  (The last four sentences are my opinion only albeit experiential as a taiji player and bazi reader.)      

Edited by Taomeow
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I've only started seriously looking into Tajijiquan recently, I don't know anything about "the original principles of Taijiquan", but watching a high level Chen person fajin vs. a high level Yang style person fajin, it doesn't even look like the same thing at all.  I wish I had saved the link to the video of the Chen guy I saw, it was a senior student of Feng Zhiqiang being tested at some movement lab in California, so I could post a side by side comparison to, say, Adam Mizner or one of his senior students.  The idea that the Yang family learned Chen style and then took the fast and hard parts out doesn't seem to be what really happened. 

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6 hours ago, sambista2002 said:


This is an amazing paper, thank you so much for sharing this 🙏 

 

I’d also like to thank everyone else who took the time to respond. It seems I have a lot to learn. I will stick with my current teacher for now. I am enjoying the motivation he instills. 
 

@Taomeow coffee and chat? Haha, you seem to know your stuff. I’m finding lacking the experimental factor of this internal system limiting to my understanding of its relationships. Hopefully in time. 
 

Cheers,

E. S. A. 

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