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THE GENUINE DIAMOND OF CHEN TAIJIQUAN

From Master Tang Tung Wing

Diamonds...

Everybody knows them, they all admire them, they all love them, they all want to acquire them. Most people love them because of their beauty, for their astonishing shine, for their enchanting appearance, and because they constitute symbols of social status, wealth, and prestige...
I also love diamonds, but not for the same reasons as most people do. I don't love them for their appearance, for their beauty or for their shine, neither because they are symbols of wealth and social status. I love them for their durability, their hardness, their usefulness and for their real value.
On my last travel to China I discovered some genuine diamonds. In a small village, unknown to most people, far from the big cities and their noise, in the heart of the Chinese inland, I discovered a treasure...
The diamonds that I discovered are not the usual diamonds. They are not the beautiful but inanimate stones that someone finds in the windows of jewelry shops. The diamonds that I discovered have got heart and soul. They are human diamonds, living treasures with human form, but with abilities, achievements and knowledge that dazzle and charm more than any stone diamond ever could.
The small remote village of China is the village named Chen, for the human diamonds that I refer to are the Teachers of a unique kind of Chinese traditional Martial Art, of Chen Taijiquan. And the greatest diamond of all that I met in the Chen village, is the Grand Master Wan Xian.

INTERVIEW OF THE GRAND MASTER WAN XIAN

Question:
Grand Master Wang Xi An, we thank you for giving us this interview.
Answer:
It's my pleasure. Speaking on Chen Taijiquan is something that always makes me particularly happy.

Question:
Can you give us some information about the progress in your training in the Martial Arts?
Answer:
I started studying in Chen Taijiquan in 1963. There are two subdivisions in Chen Taijiquan: The Old Frame or Style (Lao Jia) and the New Frame or Style (Xin Jia). I followed my Teacher, Master Chen Jiao Pi, so I studied first in the Old Frame or Style of Chen Taijiquan, in Lao Jia. My Teacher died in 1973, and then I invited another Teacher, Master Chen Jiao Kiue, who lived in Peking to come back to the Chen village, to teach the New Frame or New Style, the Xin Jia, which I was taught by him.

Question:
Everybody knows that Taijiquan is very effective in the improvement of health. Is it effective as an art of self-defence?
Answer:
The Chinese Kung Fu has a long history. It has been transmitted from generation to generation because it is very useful in the improvement of health and as an art of self-defence. Kung Fu is a very developed and very effective Fighting Art. Taijiquan is an art of Kung Fu and it has precisely the same traits. Before the discovery of firearms, we used this art in real battle. After the discovery of firearms, we still maintain the fighting use of the art, but we give more emphasis on the culture and on the improvement of health to those who practise.

Question:
Today there are the so called "competitions forms or routines" of Chen Taijiquan, that we often watch in tournaments and championships - there are also the traditional routines of the art. Which is the difference between the results of training in "competitions" and in traditional routines?
Answer:
The "competition routines" of Chen Taijiquan, come from the traditional routines of the Old Frame or Style and from the New Frame or Style. As for their results in the sector of improvement of health and in the sector of fighting ability and self-defence, the competition routines are not so effective as the traditional routines. Because the "competition routines" have been exclusively designed for tournaments, all the movements have strictly limited standards in their execution, in order to facilitate the grading of competitors in the various tournaments. But also they still provide certain results in the improvement of health and in the learning of self-defence. The traditional routines in each movement include many elements for the improvement of health, increase in of fighting ability and self-defence.

Question:
Many people say, it's easy for someone to start studying Taijiquan, but it's difficult to become good at it. Can you tell us which are the difficult points, and what someone should pay attention to in order to become good in Taijiquan?
Answer:
You cannot become good in Taijiquan if you don't have a good Teacher, who knows and understands Taijiquan deeply and correctly. If you don't have a good Teacher in Taijiquan, this is the major difficulty. Except for this, the trainee should pay special attention to the relaxation of the body and the calming of his mind, and the Energy of Ward off (Peng Jing). The Energy of Ward off (Peng Jing) is the first of the Eight Energies of Taijiquan. If you do not have the Energy of Ward off in your movements, all the other Energies cannot be produced. Many people confuse the Energy of Ward off with rigidity, but the Energy of Ward off is based on relaxation and on flexibility. All the body should be relaxed, particularly the joints and the tendons. An ancient proverb of Taiji says: "Through major relaxation, major force is produced". The more we can relax the body and the muscles, the better the Qi can flow in the body. If you can do this, you will have inexhaustible energy, energy that will never finish, and your body will become very alive and agile. It's a difficult point, because in order to achieve this point it's not enough to practise only the movements of Taijiquan. You must combine the movements with a calm mind, and concentrate on harmonising all the parts of your body. If you simply observe the movements you become inflexible. This is what we call "Jian Jing" Inflexible Force. Thus you might not move comfortably and you will become tired easily, you will lose your balance easily and your Qi will not circulate. Also, the Jian Jing is produced by the use of muscles and bones during the movement.
Speaking generally, the difficult points for Taijiquan practitioners to understand are the difference between softness and sluggishness, between power and tension. This is difficult. If you can observe and understand these things you will not take the wrong way, you will not wander around and around and you will not waste your time. Also you must be careful to do the movements of Taijiquan correctly and combine the "Eight Harmonies" (eyes, hands, step, body, technique, breathing, force and concentration) in every movement. Also you must use the curved and the circular movements and avoid straight movements.

Question:
Many people say that Taiji comes from the Chen village. Is this true?
Answer:
Yes, it is. Some people say that Taijiquan was created by a Taoist priest, Chan San Feng. There is no officially recorded evidence about it, so this history cannot be proved. But in the Chen village we have recorded files of the history of Taijiquan, from its beginning till today. Also from the province's files it is evident that here is where Taijiquan was created. According to the files of the Chen family, Chang Pu knew the 108 movements of Tong Bei Chang Quan. Afterwards this routine passed on to Chen Wan Ting, of the 9th generation. He used this routine in combination with breathing exercises or Qi Kung, with techniques from other systems of Kung Fu, with the meridians' principles of Chinese Medicine, the principle of Yin - Yang and the combination of Hard and Soft. He created the Chen style Taijiquan in the Chen village. We have complete files which prove this.

Question:
I would like to ask which are the differences between Old Frame or Style and the New Frame or Style in Chen Taijiquan?
Answer:
The Old Frame or Old Style (Lao Jia), of Chen's Taijiquan, includes the oldest empty hands routines of Chen's system. The Old Frame demands the use of these routines in order to develop your internal energy (Wuan Qi). Also some movements must be slow, some others must be fast, but there must be harmony between slow and fast. Also we use these frames to train our body to become soft, elastic and flexible, without stress or rigidity. The training in the Old Frame also demands that the energy flows in the body smoothly and freely, and movements be wide and open. The movements must be at the same time smooth, fluid and continual and the production of power must originate from the legs to the waist area, to the shoulders, to the hands and the fingers. During practise we must use our mind (Yi Lim) in our body. The Old Frame or Style (Lao Jia) is the foundation of Chen Taijiquan.
The New Frame or Style (Hsin Jia) of Chen Taijiquan has the same demands as the Old Frame, but stresses faster and more explosive movements with more leaps and jerks and gives more emphasis in the movements of spiral force which is called "Reeling - silk energy" (Chan Si Jing). Also the movements of New Frame include more changes of direction and speed, more manoeuvres and faster movements, which are more dynamic. Routines of New Frame are more suitable for young and active people.
We can say that the Old Frame (Lao Jia) is to increase energy, elasticity and relaxation, and the New Frame (Hsin Jia) is to use these abilities in fighting application. In the beginning of our training in Chen Taijiquan we should start first from the Old Frame, thus putting strong foundations for the future development in this style.

Question:
As far as I know, Grant Master Wang, the level of all your students is very high. For a long time your students have had a very big rate of success in tournaments and championships. Can you tell me the reason for this success?
Answer:
The reason is that I teach them personally, and I demand that they repeat the same movement over and over. Also I try to make them understand not only the movements but also the principles and the theory of Taijiquan. The basic demands in every movement are the relaxation of shoulders, the sinking of elbows, the relaxation of chest and hips, the bending of knees and keeping the head straight. These principles must always be maintained, whether someone performs routines or does Pushing Hands with another trainee.
Also from the beginning of training in Chen Style, we must give emphasis to teaching the right posture and the understanding of which leg in every posture is Yang (Substantial) or Yin (Insubstantial). The understanding of Substantial and Insubstantial in every posture develops the right body mechanics, right development of spiral force or "Reeling - silk energy" (Chan Si Jing) and the sudden release of explosive Energy (Fa Jing), which are integral characteristics of Chen Taijiquan.

Question:
Grand Master Wang, when you teach foreign students do you use the same method of teaching as for the Chinese students?
Answer:
Of course. I have to teach them with the same method of teaching because they are all my students. I advise all my students, Chinese and foreigners, to practise many times each routine in order to build strong foudations in the art. If the student is serious and wants to learn the Chen style well, he must daily practise the first routine for a long time before he starts learning the second routine. The first routine includes a lot of movements that are repeated over and over, but the practice is necessary in order for the trainee to incorporate the principles and the skills of Chen Taijiquan through training. The same goes for the weapon techniques, for Pushing Hands or for any other kind of training of Taijiquan.
Of course, many things depend on the intention of each student, on the seriousness and the ability of each person. But the basic method of teaching is the same for everyone.

Question:
I know that a lot of foreign students, from Europe and America come to the Chen village to study Chen Taijiquan. Are they serious students or not?
Answer:
Yes, they are very serious. Of course, many of them are interested in learning all the aspects of Chen Taijiquan, and others are interested only in the improvement of their health through the practise of the Art. In the beginning, a lot of the new Taijiquan's trainees, like other trainees of martial arts, they believe it's enough to learn only one routine, and that's it! Actually the art of Taiji is so deep, including so many things, that there is always something more to learn. This is the marvellous essence of practise in an Internal Art. We keep on experiencing and discovering new things, new energy come from inside, new levels of ability and knowledge become accessible.
A serious student can learn a lot of things in Chen Taijiquan. Fortunately, an overwhelming number of foreign students who come to the Chen village to study, are very serious students.

Question:
As they say, the Chen Taijiquan of the authentic Chen village is different from the Chen Taijiquan which is taught elsewhere. Are there any such differences?
Answer:
Yes, there are some differences, because the Chen Taijiquan has a long history of many generations. A Teacher teaches one hundred people, the hundred teach a thousand, the thousand teach ten thousand, and so on. This is the reason why a lot of people haven't understood some things of the art, or they have misunderstood or they haven't learnt them right. So, there are instructors who teach in the wrong ways, they don't really know the Art well and deeply, or their knowledge is limited, vague, insufficient or superficial in one or more aspects of the Art of Taijiquan. Some instructors don't know sufficiently the practical applications of the techniques for improvement of health or for learning self-defence. Some others don't know sufficiently the Chi Kung techniques, or the techniques of Pushing Hands, or the throwing and grabbing techniques (Chin-Na), or some other aspects of the Art. And these people teach others. Precisely, for these reasons in many places of China but also in the rest of the world there are a lot of people who teach Chen Taijiquan which is very different from the Taijiquan of Chen village. In the Chen village, each movement and each posture of Taijiquan must have practical application, as an energy exercise (Chi Kung) and as fighting technique. In many other places where Taijiquan is taught, they teach only "empty" forms - movements without content, without meaning, without practical applications, without understanding the deep sense of the principles and their meaning, without knowledge of their theory and their philosophy - movements and routines without any utility beyond their superficial beauty. Of course it's sad but this is inevitable because of the wide popularity of Chen Taijiquan in China as well as internationally. So, if someone is interested in studying real Taijiquan one must search carefully for a good and knowledgeable Teacher of the Art.

Question:
Many people say that you are the first of the "Four Diamonds" of Chen Taijiquan. Why did they give you this title?
Answer:

Because, another three Teachers of Taijiquan from the Chen village and myself, we had the most successes in national tournaments and championships of Martial Arts than any other in China. We were the four champions of Martial arts in China and we all represented the Chen village. So all the people noticed us. We became the centre of publicity. A lot of magazines and television channels interviewed us, and we became known as "The Four Diamonds of Chen Taijiquan". In actual fact, I am the first Chinese Teacher who was invited to Japan and France as a representative of Chen Taijiquan in order to teach there, so I helped to make Chen Taijiquan known not only in China but also abroad.

Question:
I want to ask, what you consider a good student?
Answer:
He must have a very good character, practise very seriously, to develop the Art, be a good citizen and good person. He must use Taijiquan to improve his health, internal force, and right spirit. He must have patience, persistence and strong will. He must progress step-by-step and try to incorporate the fundamental principles and teachings of Taijiquan in his practise, and also study and understand them mentally.
A good student of Chen Taijiquan must have self-discipline and devotion, self-confidence and self-esteem. He must always seek further progress, improvement and knowledge, independent of how good or successful he can be.

Question:
What advice would you give to the new students of Taijiquan?
Answer:
First of all, not to be in a hurry to learn a lot of things. Progress step-by-step and have patience. Secondly, learn everything correctly and deeply. Learn every movement very well before going on to the next. Also they have to continue their practise systematically and seriously, or not haphazardly and without interruptions. They have to improve the morality and integrity of their character, to become more balanced as people, with more balanced feelings and with more balanced mind, so as to understand better and deeper the principles of Taijiquan. When your heart and mind are balanced and in harmony, your body will also be balanced and harmonious. So you will progress easily and deeply to the most advanced levels of Taijiquan.

Question:
Could you to tell us about your plans for the future?
Answer:
First, I have to write another eight books. When my eighth book is completed, I will promote Chen Taijiquan throughout China, teaching free of charge wherever they invite me.

Question:
I also want to ask, if you plan to visit Greece in the future?
Answer:
Of course, if I have the opportunity I would like to visit your country.

Question:
Thank you very much.