(all material is Copyright of Chen style Taichi Centre 2004)


The Ancillary Exercises The Open Hand Routines Push Hands Weapons Routines

(Descriptions below)
Zhan Zhuang: Coming
Auckland, New Zealand
Chen Silk Reeling Exercises: Malisa Ng 2004
Auckland, New Zealand
Extinguishing Candle: Coming
Auckland, New Zealand
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The Zhan Zhuang (QiGong Standing Exercises)
The Tai Chi Standing Exercises are in fact a variety of the very ancient Chinese Breathing/Postural Exercises known as QiGong.

For centuries QiGong practise has been used for a variety of purposes but is best known for its health benefits. It is especially associated with cleansing/healing/rejuvenating of the internal organs, increased strength and stamina, higher energy levels and bodily longevity. It has many undocumented systemic health benefits as well for blood pressure regulation, respitory expansion and more.

Tai Chi itself is a breakthrough in the use of QiGong. QiGong is invariably practised as a stationary, standing exercise - any substantial movement of the legs was considered a "no no" because it would break up and dissipate the flow of "Chi" ("Qi") which these exercises attempt to cultivate, strengthen and focus.

The "breakthrough" that we now call "Tai Chi" was the discovery of a way of moving that would not block the Chi flow. This allowed the practise of a special type of Martial Art that could also benefit from the strengthening effects of QiGong at the same time. Tai Chi is therefore the unusual discovery of a "Moving QiGong".

So why does the Tai Chi enthusiast practice the old QiGong at all? The reason is much the same as that for the Silk-Reeling exercises. The purpose is to get an "isolated" or "concentrated" feel/experience of what has to be encorporated into the much more complicated Tai Chi "moves" as a whole. There is so much going on in the outwardly "simple" (but inwardly very subtle) Tai Chi form that it is very helpful to separate out the component parts and practise them individually so that they can be learnt without "thinking".

The Zhan Zhuang, because they are stationary, also provide very good experience in "grounding" which stability is a fundamental foundation for good Tai Chi.

There are a variety of QiGong type exercises that make for good Tai Chi. The Video clip here demonstrates a few of these Zhan Zhuang exercises commonly used in Chen Village. Click the picture to download (3.6Mb, 330secs).

Chen "Silk Reeling" (ChanSiGong/ChanSiJing):
The Silk Reeling technique is an internal art of high degree. It is one of the fighting, power discharge skills and does not appear to have been communicated to Yang Luchan (if it was he does not seem to have taught it) and is therefore unique to the parent Chen style TaiChi.

These exercises exaggerate in the outer form the subtle internal movements that must be aquired within to make it work. Students who practice these exercises diligently and regularly everyday can expect to see initial weak and uncoordinated results within 6-9 months under correct guidance. The rest takes years.

This technique makes use of a combination of weight shifting in the legs and a corkscrew motion in the body that originates from the lower torso (dantian) ultimately radiating out to the arms in a number of different manners at will (in the experienced practicioner). Actually it is too subtle to learn from a video alone and even with a highly experienced teacher it requires significant instruction and inspection.

It takes years of continuous practice to develop, strengthen, control and explore the myriad martial applications of this skill and in fact even masters never stop learning and developing this technique. Chen Fake was very devoted to exploring this skill and created his "New Frame" while teaching in Bejing to deepen its use beyond that contained in the "Old Frame".

Its use is implicit in all movements of the Chen Routines and the beauty of this subtle, spiral twining of the central body is but a "side-effect" of what is primarily a powerful martial skill. This delicate twining only adds to the wonderful, liquid flowing grace of the outer form that we admire in TaiChi.

A seasoned practicioner can actually exercise this martial skill fully without visible expression in outer movements. Indeed this is the goal in continuous practice of both the Large and Small Frame Traditions mentioned above.

Once a Chen practicioner gains mature experience in use of the Silk-Reeling art one then attempts, over time, to make smaller and smaller outward use of the arms and their circular movements (which are in fact used as a "prop" to help the learner first feel then control its internal use). Hence the advice often heard in connection with learning of the Small Frame Routines - "turn your small circles into invisible circles."

In combat the Silk Reeling contains both Yin and Yang aspects. In Yin ("female") mode it can be used to dissipate and neutralise the force of an incoming opponent by "turning it into an empty place."

When Silk Reeling Skill is used in Yang ("male") mode the spiral movement "collects" muscle force from around the whole body by means of a sort of rising "shock wave" that rides on top of normal body movement. It is first dropped down from the dantian (diaphragm area) to the legs then "bounced" back up the body with additional energy added by untwining the torso as the "wave" rises. Finally this force is "discharged" in the extremities of the body (fist, elbow, shoulder) on contact with an opponent in a frightening pulse of concentrated momentum.

Often both Yin/Yang aspects are combined so that the force of an incoming opponent is "re-vectored." In other words the Silk-Reeling can be used to "rebound" the force of an incoming opponent back upon himself. The faster the attack the faster the rebound - much like objects thrown at a fast spinning top.

This Chan Si Gong (silk-reeling) successfully yokes stationary QiGong to the hard external martial arts - which seem almost opposite exercises. This powerful harmonising of opposites (which is what the words "TaiChi" originally meant) gives birth to something new - a powerful, "soft" internal martial art, a "moving QiGong", a TaiChi Chuan. Thus is Chan Si Gong a bridge between the stationary Zhan Zhuang exercises (a form of QiGong practised by TaiChi stylists) and the Old Frame One.

The Silk Reeling technique cannot be safely practised without the correct technique, profound relaxation of the body (in its execution), highly mobile joints and a long habit of correct body alignment. This is the purpose of the Silk-Reeling exercises in conjunction with Zhuan Zhang (Qigong Standing exercises) and Old Frame One. The Silk Reeling exercises also help turn the Old Frame One into a true "moving Qigong."

The accompanying video demonstrates single arm exercises and one of the two arm exercises.
Click the picture to download (1.5
Mb, 181secs).

Chen Style Punch - blow out the candle.
This unusual training technique is practiced by novice Shaolin monks to perfect their Kung Fu style punching. It is surprisingly difficult even for an experienced martial artist to launch his fist with the velocity required to blow out a household candle.

A younger Kung Fu practicioner is likely to develop the necessary speed from a force that is more external than internal. Conversely, an older TaiChi exponent can achieve the same result with less external strength by skillful use of internal force.Click the picture to download (1.0Mb, 24secs).