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Grandmaster Chen Fake

Chen Fake (1887-1957) was of the 17th generation of the Chen family. His father was Chen Yanxi, a famous master and practictioner of Chinese Medicine. Chen Yanxi was the "standard bearer", or most skilled practitioner, of his generation, a title passed down from father to son in Chenjiagou from the time of Chen Wang Ting.

Chen Fakewas born late in his father's life. As a result of his brothers all dying in an epidemic, he was a treasured child, and became spoiled and lazy. He ate too many sweets, and did not exercise, becoming unfit, with a stomach ailment. He was not expected to train as a result, and lagged behind his contemporaries in the village in Taijiquan.

Before he entered puberty, his father (as a result of his success and fame as a cargo transport guard) had been hired by the provincial governor of Shandong, Yuan Shikai, to live at his home and train his sons in Taijiquan. Thus he was uninvolved in his son's daily training.

In the absence of his father, a cousin of Chen Fake's, Chen Boqu, was invited to live with the family in order to help with farm work and aid the household. He was strong, and one of the best practitioners of the younger generation in Chenjiagou. He was nicknamed "The Bull" for his strength. He was known to be unrelenting in his practice, often injuring his opponents in push hands practice.

It was the opinion in the village that Chen Fake, at age 14, was too weak to ever hope to assume his father's heriditary mantle of "standard bearer". Upon hearing this, Fake became determined to uphold the family tradition. He realized that he must catch up with Bull in his level of skill.

He could not see how he could do this, as they spent all their time together, eating, working, sleeping, and training. How could he match him? As long as bull continued training, he would always be ahead of him, like a faster runner in a race.

One morning in 1901, as they walked to the fields to work, Bull realized that he had forgotten a tool. He ordered Fake to go back to the house to get it. He told him to hurry, and he would walk slowly until Fake had caught up with him.

This gave Fake an idea. He realized that if he trained more intensively than Bull, he could reach his level. But he couldn't let Bull know of his efforts, lest he intensify his own efforts, and maintain his edge in skill.

So Fake began to take every opportunity to train. After lunch, when everone napped, Fake trained: he woke in the middle of the night to practice quietly in his room while everyone slept. His cousin never discovered his regimen.

In 1904, after three years of this schedule, his health had greatly improved. His gongfu was also much improved.

He decided to test his ability against Bull, and "crossed hands" with him in a pushing hands practice. He tried three times to throw Fake, and each time Fake countered his attempts and repulsed him.

Bull realized that somehow, Fake had surpassed him in skill. He accused Fake of using secret "standard bearer" techniques passed down from his father, which wewre unavailable to practitioners outside his lineage.

Chen Fake informed him that he did indeed have a secret technique, but it was not from his father. He had been away from the village for three years: how could he have taught Fake any techniques? Fake's "secret technique" was contained in one word: practice.

Chen Fake practiced with a single minded intensity, performing at least 30 sets of boxing a day, as well as 300 repetitions of "pole shaking" exercises.

In 1907, at the age of 20, he participated in a tournament in Wenxian, winning top honors. Word of his skill reached the warlord Han Fuju, who wished to employ him as a boxing teacher. Chen refused, and as a result, the angered warlord ordered a subordinate to attack Chen with a spear. Chen easily countered his attack, grasping the tip of the spear as it jabbed toward him, and reversing the force against the attacker. He was also attacked by a man with a broadsword, and forbidden to use his hands. He disarmed the man with his feet.

In 1926, during the period of civil disunity known as the "warlord era" in China, unrest and banditry was rife. A religious sect known as the "Red Spears" were rampant, capturing several districts near Wenxian, the district containing Chenjiagou. Wenxian, under threat of occupation, and unable to attain assitance from the regional warlord, appealed to Chen Fake and his students (among them Chen Zhaopei, who worked with him as an instructor at the Wenxian County Martial Arts School) to assist in the defense of the district.

Soon, the Red Spears arrived, and surrounded the walled city. Chen Fake waited at the drawbridge leading to the city gate, holding a long waxwood pole. One of the Red Spear fighters rushed at him with a spear, thrusting it at him. Fake deflected it with a single motion, causing the spear to fly into the air out of the bandit's hands. Fake then thrust the pole forward with great force, penetrating the bandit's chest with it. The Red Spears dispersed in fear at the sight. Chen Fake had saved the city.

In 1930, at age 43, Chen Fake travelled from Chenjiagou to Beijing at the invitation of his nephew Chen Zhaopei, who had already established a school for Chen Taiji there. to teach Taiji.

At that time, Yang style Taiji was widely popular in Beijing. It was known there that Yang Luchan, the style's founder, had learned his art in Chenjiagou (from Chen Chang Xing, Chen Fake's great grandfather).

Chen Fake made the art of Chen style Taijiquan famous in Beijing. He met many challengers, defeating all comers. He was noted for his high morality (wu de): he defeated his challengers without causing undue harm, often converting them to students.

Over time, he developed a new method of Taiji, the "xin jia" school, which became famous as an advanced method of training.

He had several children, among them Chen Zhaoxu, and Chen Zhaokui, both noted masters.

Perhaps his greatest contribution to martial arts was his creation of the "xin jia" branch of Chen family Taiji, which he taught from 1940 to his death in 1957.

He cofounded the Capital Wushu Association of Shanxi with Hu Yaozhen (Xingyi instructor of Feng Zhiqiang).

Chen Fake taught a number of students, among them his second son, Chen Zhaoxu, his third son Chen Zhaokui, Chen Zhaopei, Feng Zhiqiang, Gu Liuxin, Liu Ruizhan, Tang Hao, Li Jingwu, Lei Mumi, Hong Junsheng, and Tian Xiuchen.