Reflections On Chen Style Taijiquan
I remember my first taste of taijiquan. It was like eating a watermelon for the first time. You think to yourself, “Why am I experiencing this only now?” Enamoured, you take a bite that’s just a little too large for those ol’ cheeks. You know the story. Maybe you get it, maybe you don’t.
The Point Is…
I found something that, like watermelon spoke to my taste buds (those many years ago), speaks to my body up to this very day. [Why some people don’t experience the same degree of “Speak,” I’ll post in another article]
But what could be better than watermelon (if I may continue with my juicy simile)? How about the seedless watermelon of Chen Style Taijiquan?
I won’t discriminate. All fruit, all styles of martial arts had, in my past, their own distinct flavor and infused my body with a different kind of energy. What impressed me most in my discovery of taijiquan was the enormous depth and richness that the art possessed. How (I thought) could an 85+ year old reduce a youthful and strong man to a stumbling and bumbling child? What mechanisms were at work?
It all fascinated me to no end.
I was fortunate to meet some extraordinary teachers along the way that helped me to shape my idea of what Taiji is (versus what “Taijiquan” is),.. to help me to see for myself what “Is.” Now I know this can all seem very esoteric and abstruse, but this is one of the main reasons that people who practice taijiquan have an atmosphere of peacefulness and serenity. Just by speaking with someone; sometimes just by meeting or shaking hands with someone, I can tell if they are a practitioner of taijiquan. I wonder if others get the same vibe? This is most likely attributed to the concept of teaching xiulian. Now if you’re hearing this word for the first time –
Xiulian isn’t mind and it isn’t behavior. It’s mind-behavior. The late, great Hong Junsheng said (in his poem, Circular & Harmonious)
“If you want to learn Taiji, you must first learn the principle.”
It may seem a strange concept, especially to those who want to “kick ass and take names,” but virtue (not athletic skill) is the foundation of martial skill. And as Grandmaster Feng Zhiqiang says,
“Taiji is the gongfu (time-skill) of xujing (emptiness & tranquility).”
Surprisingly, this is sometimes forgotten or even just momentarily overlooked in the martial artist (even those from the “internal” schools). It has always appealed to me and made a tremendous amount of good sense to develop the self, and not just in one dimension (i.e. strength, flexibility, focus, or reaction speed), but in all dimensions.
Good luck in your training.