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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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:
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"
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
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.
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
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
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
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.