What is Chen style Taijiquan?
According to available records and extensive research, Chen Taiji is the original form of Taijiquan. It was once quite rare, but is increasing in popularity. Other versions of Taiji, such as Yang and one of the Wu versions, were derived from the Chen family boxing, which later came to be known as Taijiquan. Created in the late Ming dynasty (1600s) by the respected general, Chen Wangting, (based on Chinese medicinal theories and on boxing methods identifi ed by the famous general, Qi Jiguang), Chen boxing features a balance of fast and slow and hard and soft movements that are extremely healthbuilding and excellent for self-defense. Chen Taiji is known for its use of “coiling” or “twining” energy – the Chen Wangting innovation known as “silk reeling energy” or chan szu jin – which is based on moving with an internal torsion quality that breeds enormous power through relaxed, precisely aligned technique.
There are so many styles of Taijiquan. Are there different Chen Taiji styles?
According to most, yes. While there are at least five versions of Chen Taiji, three are the most widely established. The most enduring version was compiled by Chen Chanxing (Yang Lu Chan’s Taiji teacher) and is known today as the Lao Jia or “Old Frame”. The Lao Jia exhibits the long, flowing technique characteristic of Northern Chinese boxing. Chen Fake, the genius Chen family grandmaster from the middle of the last century created the Xin Jia or “New Frame” version of the Lao Jia forms. While very popular today, Xin Jia is considered more detailed and difficult to execute because of its increased use of twining movement and the addition of more obvious chin na. The third, Xiao Jia or “Small Frame” style, is an early version that features more compact movements and is gaining in popularity. Regardless of style, each version of Chen style strictly adheres to the original concepts of chan szu jin. As such, all three versions of Chen Taiji exhibit the style’s unique twining/coiling movement and execution of relaxed power-issuing known as fa jing.
I’m not familiar with how Chen Taiji differs from other styles. Is it more “martial” than “meditative”?
While it can be argued that Chen style is more “martial” than “meditative” – due to its unique type of power-issuing, inclusion of explosive, fast movements, and a progressive approach to realistic combat training – some of the concepts pioneered by Chen Wangting, are exhibited in all established Taiji styles.
Due to a pinched nerve in my neck and back, I have stayed away from martial arts training for 15 years. Can Chen Taiji aid in my flexibility, weight loss, cardiovascular, and strength training?
Chen Taiji will aid you in all four attributes. In the beginning, practicing Chen style will dramatically improve your strength, coordination, posture, balance, and flexibility. As you progress to longer forms training, the cardiovascular and weight control benefits will emerge. One of the most valuable fitness benefi ts will be the increased lower body strength that you will experience in just a few weeks of practice. That alone will promote weight loss. Chen Taiji is enormously beneficial for anybody with back or neck problems. For example, one past student (age 60) suffered from a broken back. Chen Taiji has been the only thing that has brought feeling back to his toes.
Although I’ve been studying Jiu Jitsu, with some success, for three years, I have cerebral palsy. Will Chen Taiji be suitable for me?
Absolutely. Chen and the other styles of Taiji would be especially suitable for you. You’ll gain much greater control of your limbs, dramatically improve your balance, and learn to control your nervous system. Those benefits will be invaluable to you. In fact, one past student who was over 65 and suffered from a rare version of Parkinson’s for decades, now experiences very few, if any, tremors after just a few months of traditional Chen Taiji training.
(Photo credit Inbal More)