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Special Characteristics of Chen Style Taijiquan

Zhu Tian Cai on Energy and Jingluo
by Grandmaster Zhu Tian Cai

Appearing outwardly soft like a maiden, yet inwardly strong like a Buddha's warrior attendant (Jin gang).
There are numerous schools and sects of Chinese martial arts. There are several hundred barehand boxing styles alone. Each school has its own unique characteristics, but, summing everything up, they can all be separated into either internal or external schools. External martial arts puts more emphasis on striking with the fists and kicking with the feet, with vigorous jumping and leaping, rapid shifting to the side, with its attacking and defending maneuvers easy to distinguish. With one look, you can tell that it is a martial art.

Chen style taijiquan has different special characteristics: it uses thought to guide energy, and uses energy to move the body. If the internal energy is still, then the body doesn't move and is still. The internal energy just has to move, and the body follows the internal energy in moving. It uses internal energy to drive the movement of the external form, with the upper and lower parts of the body leading and following each other, continuously without stopping. It uses the waist as an axis, with movements strung together in succession, from start to finish and within each form, with no breaking off or resisting. Your body turns lightly and stops silently.

Zhu Tian Cai

The attack and defense meaning of the forms is mostly hidden and not displayed on the surface. This frequently brings about the misconception that this style of boxing more resembles fishing than it does martial arts. Especially the first routine of the "old frame" (lao jia) style which is mainly soft and requires that the body relax and not use stiff force. It mainly trains the gongfu of the legs, causing the feet to put down "roots," the hips to turn freely, and the circulation to flow unimpeded. Practice brings internal energy to a state of overflowing. When your thought arrives on its mark your internal energy arrives together with it on target. The posture is upright, the stances sturdy and stable (literally supported against eight directions of attack), causing both the internal and external parts of your body to put up strong lines of defense.

There are "five bows" formed within your body that can store and release energy. In this way, you hold back before you make contact with the opponent. If the opponent is strong, then you can abruptly issue your internal energy (thus catching him unawares), like a clap of thunder or a sudden, violent gust of wind. Therefore, outwardly you seem soft like a maiden, yet inwardly you are strong like a Buddha's warrior attendant. This is one of the main characteristics of Chen style taijiquan.

A Spiraling, Circular Way of Moving Internal Energy
Everyone has seen performers breaking bricks with their heads and wrapping iron rebars around their necks. This is how practitioners of "hard" style qigong move their internal energy. They move their internal energy to the tops of their heads, and their heads can just smash the bricks to pieces; moving internal energy to their necks, they can just wrap iron bars around their necks.

Chen style taijiquan combines the study of dynamics (force, energy, motion, and the relationship between them) with the theories of the traditional Chinese medical theory of "jingluo" (which holds that there are internal energy channels and collateral channels within the body.) It makes use of a spiraling method for moving internal energy, using a small amount of force to overcome a large amount of force, and using a weak force to overcome a strong force. It's just like a very small screw jack, which can raise a truck carrying several tons of cargo. The so-described "Taijiquan changes back and forth between storing up and releasing energy" (xu fa xiang bian), "leading the opponent's energy harmlessly into a pitfall" (yin jing luo kong), "using the opponent's own strength to strike back at him" (jie li da ren), and "using four ounces to deflect a thousand pounds" (yi si liang bo qian jin), are all uses to which spiraling energy can be applied. Therefore, the Boxing Theory states: "Springing a surprise or leading the opponent, it is only the turning of a circle."

In regard to the jingluo theory, jingluo indicates the circulatory system for blood and internal energy that fills the human body and which originates in the visceral cavity and circulates into the limbs. When the system loses its stasis or balance then the whole system functions abnormally and illness arises. When the system is in harmony, then the blood and internal energy circulate freely and the body is thereby strengthened and longevity is enhanced.

Taijiquan, which is combined with the theories of jingluo, includes using its barehanded boxing art with daoyin and tuna together as external and internal components. The boxing postures and movements make use of a spiraling, silk-twining (chansi) style of expanding and contracting, rotating movements. It has the requirement of: "using your thought to guide your internal energy, using your internal energy to move your body." (yi yi dao qi, yi qi yun shen); and "internal energy should be mobilized (qi yi gu dang), spreading throughout your body."

Internal energy (nei qi) starts out from the acupuncture point below your navel (dantien), uses the waist as its hub, and penetrates successively throughout your body, part by part. It rotates lightly, and causes your two kidneys to expand and contract, alternately. Through rotating your waist and turning your spine, with circular and twining movements, it is spread throughout your body."

Chen Taiji push hands

Passing through the ren and du channels [the ren and du channels form a circuit that starts from the dantien, goes up the center of the back (du channel), over the top of the head, and down the front (ren channel), along the centerline of the body, returning to the dantien - or "small circuit of heaven"] it moves upward with the rotating of your wrists and turning of your arms and moves downward with the rotating of your ankles and turning of your knees. The internal energy thus reaches to your four extremities and then returns again to your dantien (i.e. "large circuit of heaven"). It moves in arcs, turning freely and linking up together, move by move, connecting what comes before with what follows, all at one go, resulting in the circulation of internal energy and blood. This is moving energy (moving internal energy) which is different from the application of energy. This systematic method for moving internal energy is in accord with the principles of Chinese medical theory (jingluo) and is seldom seen in other styles of boxing or other athletic activities.


About Grandmaster Zhu Tian Cai:
Zhu Tian Cai, born July 25, 1944 in Xian, Shanxi, descends from the illustrious Chen Chang Xing who's grandfather is the famed 17th generation standard bearer, Chen Fa-Ke (1887-1957)