Q23: What are the recommended learning procedures for Chen Style Taijiquan?
A: According to our teaching experiences, we would like to suggest the following procedures for beginners to take up in order: To learn the Hands Forms--Foundation course;
11 Short Forms;
18 Short Forms;
Old Frame (Laojia);
83 Forms -- New Frame and Laojia Cannon Fist;
New Frame Cannon Fist.
To learn the Weapons --
To learn Push Hands and Applications --
Lower Position (Dalu);
Application (Full contact combat).
Q24: Why does Taiji put so much emphasis on relaxation? What is the meaning of proper relaxation? And how can you achieve it when you practice Taiji forms?
A: Relaxation benefits both health and the ability to perform martial arts. According to ancient traditional Chinese medicine theory, there are many energy channels running throughout the body. When the channels are free, the energy flows smoothly, the body is in good health and it is hard for sickness or diseases to enter the body. However, many people have problems relaxing due to mental stress, poor posture (raised shoulders, over bending knees and tense muscles) and incorrect body movements. If the body is not relaxed, the blockages of the energy channels occur, slowing down the energy flow inside the body. This stops the blood circulating freely as well as limiting internal energy.
In order to solve these problems, Chen Style Taiji exercises require people to relax their whole body. This can be done by putting every single joint and every part of the body in a specific relaxed position or posture allowing the internal energy to flow freely. The simple example is when you bend your elbows too much the blood circulating through your arm will become weak and less blood will be delivered to the tips of your fingers. Less energy will be flowing through your arm. That is the reason that Taiji requires people to bend the arm slightly, only in a rounded circle shape, all the time. The positions and postures in the forms were created and tested by the highly skilled Chen family masters in the past based on their own experience from generation to generation. That is why Chen Style Taiji puts so much emphasis on relaxation. Particularly, it is important to get the postures and positions altered and fixed with hands-on manipulation by skilled masters in person (in Chinese called "Tiao Jia Zhi").
For martial arts, when the body is not relaxed, the ability of sensitivity and stamina decrease. A tense body leaves you vulnerable to your opponent's arm lock or energy release. If you are tense, their Fajin (energy releasing) can harm you and, if you are relaxed, you can absorb it more easily. Be relaxed, but not floppy in Taiji along with a stress-flee mental state during application movements. These conditions are necessary to perform high level skills not only in Taiji, but any physical sport.
Q25: Why should you ask for the Taiji positions or postures to be adjusted with personal manipulation by the masters? Can you learn it from watching a video or reading a book?
A: The tiny adjustments on your Taiji positions or postures by an experienced master make a great difference on the inner effect of your practice. The slightest adjustment can make a huge difference that has to be experienced to be believed.
The internal energy increases rapidly followed by a huge amount of heat spreading and flowing all over your body. Your legs will shake and your body will sweat. Those effects are not easy to get from a book or video. You'd better attend a class and let the master adjust you in person by hand. These adjustments have to be patiently and consistently repeated until the student can replicate these adjustments for themselves. This takes a lot of time and effort, but will reap great rewards in the long term. It will also unravel the so-called mysterious abilities Taiji people possess. I will go further to say that this type of training is the key to unlock Chen Style Taiji from just being a beautiful form to being used in real combat. An old Chinese saying goes, "One adjustment by a high level master is worth three years hard training by yourself!" This is why in my class I always encourage students to stay in a fixed position after adjustments to experience it for themselves. Internal energy and feeling are so difficult to describe and there are many books which attempt to do so. It is much quicker to make the student feel it for themselves; I do not have to explain it to them. They understand completely by experience, not by reading hundreds of books. I open the door, the student must walk through by themselves.
Q26: What are the most important issues for people practicing Chen Style Taiji?
A: In general, the following tips are highly recommended for Taiji practitioners:
2) Softness balanced with hardness;
3) Circling movements;
5) Quiet and calm;
6) Smooth and continuous movements;
8) Sensitivity of foot work -- "Walk as a cat to catch the mouse";
9) Light body movements;
10) Flick movements with elastic and shaking energy release.
Q27: Does it matter when the arm and shoulder muscles feel sore?
A: That is fine and it is a good sign. It means you have exercised well. You feel pain because the muscles you use in Taiji are different from those you use normally. For example, nobody will normally hang their arms in mid air for as long as you do when practicing Taiji exercises. Also, nobody will squat down that deep, shifting their weight between two legs. Therefore, different types of muscles are involved during the exercise. It is similar to when you are climbing a mountain and you feel sore muscles afterwards. All I can say is,