Tai Chi is a martial art that has been practiced for centuries, and it has become increasingly popular for its health benefits, as well as its self-defense aspects. Tai Chi has a rich history that is steeped in legend and mystery, and one of the most interesting styles is Chen Tai Chi, also known as Taijiquan.
The Power and Grace of Chen-Style Tai Chi
The Chen family originated from Hong Dong, Shanxi, and in 1374, they moved to Wen County, Henan. The new village they settled in became known as the Chen Village, which was renowned for its martial arts. There are many different accounts of how Tai Chi was developed in the Chen Village, but most historians credit Chen Wangting, a Royal Guard in the 17th century, with developing the Chen Style Tai Chi.
Chen Wangting was influenced by the schools of boxing, particularly the “Boxing Classic” written by General Qi Jiguang, which contained many of the movements that are still used in the Chen family martial arts system. Chen also incorporated the ancient philosophical techniques of Daoyin and Tuna, which eventually evolved into Qigong, as well as the core principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which resulted in Tai Chi becoming a unified system of mental concentration, breathing, and action.
Chen Wangting's martial arts routine was unique in that it was designed to be a combat art that incorporated both hard and soft movements. The hard movements were fast and powerful, designed to overwhelm an opponent with force, while the soft movements were slow and graceful, designed to conserve energy and maintain balance. The soft movements were also intended to deceive an opponent and make it difficult for them to anticipate the practitioner's next move.
Chen Wangting's martial arts system was passed down through the Chen family and remained a closely guarded secret for generations. It was only taught to select individuals who were deemed worthy and capable of learning the art. In Chen Village, Tai Chi was only taught to daughters-in-law, not daughters, as daughters were expected to leave the village and take their knowledge of the Chen family form with them.
Chen Tai Chi: The Ancestor of All Tai Chi Styles
Chen style Tai Chi was kept a secret in the Chen Village for many years, and it was only taught to daughters-in-law, not daughters. The rationale behind this was that daughters would eventually leave the village and take their knowledge of the Chen family form with them. However, in later years, Chen Xin wrote and illustrated a detailed book about Chen Tai Chi, which was not published until 1932 when Chen Changxing’s great grandson, Chen Fake, taught Chen-style outside the village. Chen Fake is widely regarded as the foremost leader of Chen style, and he taught thousands of students until his death in 1957.
Despite its secretive nature, Chen Tai Chi eventually began to gain popularity outside of Chen Village. In the early 20th century, Chen Fake, a renowned martial artist and descendant of the Chen family, began teaching Chen Tai Chi to the general public. Chen Fake's teaching helped to popularize Chen Tai Chi and made it more accessible to people around the world.
Chen style Tai Chi is characterized by slow and soft movements that are intermixed with fast and hard movements. Stances are low, and there is an emphasis on explosive power and spiral force or supple whole body twining/coiling movements. Silk reeling and stomping movements are also included. There are many variations and lineages of Chen Tai Chi, and it may not be suitable for some physical conditions.
Chen Tai Chi: The Ancestor of All Tai Chi Styles
One of the most distinctive characteristics of Chen-style Tai Chi is silk-reeling power or spiraling power. Silk-reeling exercise (chan si gong) is an important stand-alone training method for developing body awareness, coordination, unity in movement, strength, and internal energy. Chen-style Tai Chi also includes power emission, known as fajin, which involves body alignment, momentum, timing, and increased qi (energy) circulation.
For beginners, one popular Chen-style form is the Standard 56 form, which takes about six minutes to complete and has four sections. It is widely used for international competitions and demonstrations, and is also called the Chen-style International Compulsory Routine. While Chen-style Tai Chi may not be simple for beginners, learning the form one section at a time and gradually adding more movements is the key to mastering it.
Tai Chi is not just an exercise, but a way of life that embodies the wisdom of ancient Chinese culture. From its thousands of years of history, we are able to see the wisdom of our ancestors, and discover universal truths through the practice of this art. Tai Chi and Chinese martial arts belong to the whole world, and the practice of these arts can bring balance and harmony to our minds, bodies, and spirits.
Unlock the Secrets of Chen-Style Tai Chi for Improved Health and Well-Being
Today, Chen Tai Chi is practiced by millions of people worldwide and has become known for its many health benefits. The slow, meditative movements of Chen Tai Chi are particularly beneficial for improving balance, flexibility, and reducing the risk of falls. The practice of Chen Tai Chi is also known to reduce anxiety, depression, and stress, and promote overall health and well-being.