(all material Copyright of Chen Tai Chi Centre 2010)

The Ancillary Exercises The Open Hand Routines Push Hands Weapons Routines

(explanations further below)

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Chen Old Frame One (13 Step): Oliver 2006
Auckland, New Zealand
Chen Old Frame One (full): Students 2004
Auckland, New Zealand
Chen Old Frame Two (Cannon Fist): Malisa Ng 2012
Auckland, New Zealand
New Frame One (abbrev): Malisa Ng 2010
Auckland, New Zealand
Chen Small Frame: Malisa Ng & Students 2013
Auckland, New Zealand
Chen Hu Lei Jia ("Thunder") Style: Chen Mun 2002
Chen Small Frame: Zhu Tian Cai 2004
Auckland, New Zealand


Chen Thirteen Step
This abbreviated version of the traditional Old Frame One was adapted by one of the leading Grandmasters of Chen Village (Zhu Tian Cai) about 1995. This "Standard Bearer" of the Chen Tradition noticed in his extensive international travelling circuits that many modern-day workers just didn't have the time to easily practice the 74 Old Frame movements everyday as country villagers used to do.

He also noticed that it takes beginners significant time to learn and remember all 74 movements - which makes for a lot of effort with little sense of progress at the very time when beginners need encouragement to achieve "critical mass."

To overcome these obstacles Master Zhu set out to condense the Old Frame into something shorter that was still authentic and true to its internal principles. The Thirteen Step (sometimes known as Five Element Chen Form) covers over 40 of the 74 movements of traditional Old Frame One.

The oldest known TaiChi teaching is heavily based on the Thirteen Principles or Powers as recorded in varied fashion by ancient TaiChi writers. On the basis of these thirteen principles, and his own experience, Grandmaster Zhu picked from Old Frame One those 13 movements that best demonstrated these principles and which also applied the Silk-Reeling exercises into the martial art applications of the moving form.

This form can be practised in a very limited area such as a hotel room, a small garden, the lounge, a hospital ward or an office.

Oliver demonstrates the steps involved in the attatched Video Clip. One would be hard pressed to guess that he started Chen style only 24 months previous.

Old Frame One (Lao Jia Yilu): - 74 individual movements
This is the primal TaiChi routine and in Chen style it is important for conditioning the body before advancing to the other routines. Its influence can also be seen in Wu and Yang styles of TaiChi. Though the movements are spacious and "extended" they are at the same time markedly more "soft". This subtlety does not completely hide the "silk-reeling" nor the fast/slow qualities associated with Chen style.

Even masters never give up daily exercise of this form but, like layers of an onion, find ever deeper use and meaning in its practice. Slow exercise of OF1 maintains wide, open channels for flow of internal energy and advances the hard won skill of control of internal forces by mind intention.

The above video is an abbreviated public Demonstration given in 2003 before representatives of the HongKong ChinWoo Association. The training of these seven students in this Old Frame One Routine varies from 9 to 24 months.

Old Frame Two (Lao Jia Erlu):- 43 individual movements
The Second of the traditional Chen style routines is a more difficult form of the First (Lao Jia Yilu). It contains the soft, slow and gentle movements commonly expected of all the TaiChi styles. But in Chen style this also serves to hide some very hard, "explosive" and powerful ellbow strikes, shoulder charges, kicks and single/double punches.

The routine emphasises swift, firm movements not only in the above mentioned but also in its low sweeping trips and high jumps. It is not surprising that this routine is also nicknamed Cannon fist (Pao Chui). This clip was taken in 2001 and Malisa is here pictured demonstrating "Pie Shen Quan" (Oblique Twisting Strike).

New Frame One (Xin Jia Yilu):- 83 individual movements
This form is an extended modification of the traditional "Lao Jia" (Old Frame) created by Chen Fa-ke in his later years, probably from the 1950s. It seems that Chen Village only became cogniscant of Chen Fake's new routine from the 1970s as Chen Fake taught in Bejing.

This evolution of the Old Form is considerably more lively. Springs and jumps are introduced, intricate, flexible wrist movement is emphasised in preparation for Qinna (joint-locking and anti-joint-locking techniques) and very relaxed shoulders are a necessity.

The wide extended circles of the Old Form (to help beginners) are replaced with small ones and an element of "straightness" introduced into these circular movements. Finally there is an emphasis on the gathering and discharge of force from internal to external. Therefore the Fajing ("shaking" energy), the Gansigong (silk-reeling energy) and the stamping so characteristic of Chen style are more clearly manifest and visible. Also evident are Chen style's harmonising of its contradictory fast/slow hard/soft movements.

You can see why this style is known for its martial vigour and paradoxical harmonising of contrary soft/hard and slow/fast movements. It contains numerous kicks, single/double punches, strikes and blocks yet is punctuated by instances of strikingly graceful movements. This routine has a beauty all its own and maintains the wonderful liquid flow that we are accustomed to.

New Frame Two (Xin Jia Erlu): - 71 individual movements
This routine most clearly demonstrates the "silk-reeling" that Chen style is best known for. These are the water-like, spiral twinings of the central body which manifest "internal energy." The extraordinary beauty and deceptive strength of TaiChi comes from this skill -and it takes some years of disciplined training to acquire. This lively routine also makes much use of the "shaking" and "stamping" forms of energy.

Malisa's demo took place at Auckland Chin Woo's Sixth Anniversary. This routine, in its blocks strikes and punches, reveals Chen style's unique ability to harmonise hardness with gentleness and speed with grace.

Small Frame One (Xiao Jia): - click here to learn more about Small Frame
Small Frame is the least well known of the Chen routines - yet it may well be the oldest of the known Chen forms today. This is probably because Chen Fake, who opened up Chen style to the public in the 1940s (Bejing), did not publicly teach it.

Small Frame Routines represent the second of the two main surviving Chen traditions of Chen Village. (The Routines discussed above are collectively referred to as the Large Frame tradition). The "small" in Small Frame does not really refer to the size of external movements - which can in fact be as big or small as you like.

There seems to be some confusion (at least in English) on historical discussions of these two Traditions. Some writers seem to also call this "Small Frame" by the title "New Frame." This is really confusing because Chen Fake's adapted versions of the Old Frame Routines (which belong to Large Frame Tradition) are also known as "New Frame" to most Western Chen practitioners.

Large Frame appears to have fundamentally derived from Small Frame as a quicker/better method for teaching beginners the difficult art of the "internal form." Large Frame did this by exaggerating the circular movements of arms and torso inherent in Small Frame. This gives beginners a better "feel" and exercise of those patterns of body movement that are employed by true inward form when understanding, sensitivity and body readiness finally start coming together and "perculate" up through the body to the first stuttering, awkward expressions of internal form. At this point comes "unlearning." Now that the beginner has a "toe-hold" in the world of internal form the exaggerated outer form must slowly be reduced to the much smaller and practical movements which are the stuff of effective martial arts applications.

Small Frame's intent is also on reducing the size of its own circular movements. Nowadays it is seen as ideally suited for experienced, older practicioners who have strong experience of the internal form. They do not need exaggerated outer movements to "pull out" the internal form because mastery of it by Mind Intention is now progressing well. Indeed the goal of this form is said to be to reduce circular outward form to the point of invisibility and still retain inner movement!

In Chen village TaiChi practicioners tended to stop rigorous training at about age 60. However they would maintain their health with Small Frame One which has no power discharge movements; rather it emphasises waist movement, internal form and Mind Intention. The chi is internalised for its noursihing health benefits rather than externalised for martial defence. Small Frame was also taught to youngsters but more for health reasons.

Close to Chen village one can find a number of sub-Chen style variations that have evolved from Small Frame such as "Zhao Bao" and "Thunder style." Yang Luchan (founder of Yang style) is said to have based his style on Chen Large Form. Some subsequent Yang masters were heavily influenced by this Small Frame as well and developed styles different from both Yang and Chen.

In this video Zhu Tian Cai (one of the Four Tigers of Chen Village) gives a casual demo of this very old form.

Chen "Thunder" Style (Hu-Lei Jia):
This unusual variant of normal Chen style derives from Wang Ge Dang Village (not too distant from Chen Village) and it proves just how fertile an area Chen valley was for the evolution and development of TaiChi in times past.

This sub-style can be traced back to the Chen Village Xiao Jia (Small Frame) and was invented in the 16th Chen Generation by Li Jing Yan. This form also has parentage from Zhaobao Style (another Chen variant) and a martial art called "Yun Qi Chui." The form died out and was nearly lost completely until discovered and promoted almost single handedly by Adam Hsu.

The form is starting to revive again as witnessed by the unique and accidental video presented here. The 12 year-old girl (Chen Mun) is apparantly the daughter of the very same last surviving family of this style as discovered by Adam Hsu. Malisa stumbled across her at a Chen Convention in China 2002. Chen Mun was there with her father simply as a passive spectators. They got to talking and the young girl (along with her father) was kind enough to give an impromptu demonstratation of her style in a carpark outside the stadium to a small but amazed audience. She obviously learnt the family style from a very young age.

Thunder Style is recognised by its highly evolved emphasis (and staccato-like use) of fajing energy. The fajing movements are so lightning fast that the video almost looks like it has been speeded up. Admittedly the 15 frames per second clip doesn't help but the original 25fps recording is no better.