What is Chen Style Tai Chi?
Chen style tai chi chuan or taijiquan (more commonly referred to as tai chi) is a martial art based on the theory of traditional Chinese medicine, classical philosophy, and the concept of balance of the complementary forces found in the universe, known as yin and yang.
Tai chi chuan translates as “Grand Ultimate Fist”. It was created by General Chen Wangting (1580 – 1660) from Chenjiagou, or Chen Family Village, a small farming community in Henan province, northern central China.
General Chen combined his family’s martial art with his knowledge of traditional medicine and philosophy to create tai chi, a self defense system and health exercise based on the balance of yin and yang.
Chen style tai chi’s three unique principles
- Use intention to guide your movement, not superficial muscle strength – when practicing tai chi, the mind directs the qi (vital energy) and the qi moves your body. You should never resort to brute strength.
- Let go – in the practice of tai chi, one strives to have the least amount of tension in their body. This allows the qi (chi, or vital energy), to flow naturally. Structural alignment is critical to this relaxation.
- Silk reeling force – tai chi’s continually spiraling movements of the whole body
These 3 principles are what makes Chen style tai chi effective for self defense and so good for health. Please refer to the article, The 3 Principles of Chen Style Tai Chi for a more complete explanation of these principles.
Three requirements to learn Chen style tai chi:
- Determination to learn
- A qualified teacher
- Practice daily
Of these requirements, practice is the most important, because when one practices regularly, they will eventually develop Tai Chi skills and understanding.
Three stages of development in Chen style tai chi:
- Use the external movement to get the “internal” connection
- Use the internal connection to guide physical movement
- Combine numbers 1 and 2
Tai chi offers many wonderful benefits for health and healing. It is also extremely effective as a self defense system. Tai chi’s soft flowing movements, combined with deep relaxed breathing and one’s full intention, cultivate a deep sense of relaxation while at the same time developing the ability to focus and concentrate the full power of the body.
Chen tai chi history
From its inception in the 1600’s, tai chi was kept within the Chen family. If your name wasn’t Chen, you were not allowed to learn it. Several hundred years later, one of the Chen family lineage masters broke this tradition and taught one outsider, named Yang Luchan, who later developed the Yang style of tai chi. From Yang Luchan, tai chi went to the Wu family, and in modern times there are now many different styles of tai chi in the world.
Chen style tai chi training methods:
- Foundation Training – stances and footwork, loosening up exercises, silk reeling solo exercises, breathing methods…
- Solo Form Training – solo routines passed down through the generations that preserve the art of tai chi. These routines contain all of the techniques in the tai chi curriculum.
- Weapons Forms – Hand weapons such as the straight double edge sword, broadsword, spear, long pole, and long handled broad sword historically were utilized in battle before guns were invented. Today, weapons training helps to further develop one’s tai chi skills.
- Push Hands – tai chi partner training to develop skills for actual self defense – sensitivity, rooting, striking, joint locks and how to escape them, etc. Push Hands is a method to practice actual combat techniques without getting seriously injured
- Tai Chi Qigong (Chi Gung) – exercises that combine movement with special breathing techniques and mental visualization / imagination to cultivate balanced strong qi circulation for health and martial power
- Meditation – standing and sitting meditation to cultivate a calm body free of tension and stillness of the mind
Martial art and health benefits
Because tai chi is a martial art, it offers many benefits to the practitioner for character development. Such qualities as self confidence, self control, self discipline, self respect, etc. can be used in one’s daily life to cultivate balance and inner peace.
The actual training methods in tai chi offer many wonderful benefits for one’s health and fitness, healing chronic illnesses and pain, managing stress, and longevity.
Chen style tai chi is a treasure to humankind. Through regular practice you can transform every aspect of your being – physically, mentally, and spiritually. This happens through your daily practice and is not something that can be described in words!
Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi
Click here to read the Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi: Twelve Weeks to a Healthy Body, Strong Heart, and Sharp Mind