Learning the Chen Style of Taijiquan
A Journal by Mike Garofalo
Questions, Comments, Notes, Research, Progress Reports, Studies, Plans
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Readers can email me with comments, answers, suggestions, encouragement, or criticism. I live in a small town in Northern California, Red Bluff, and learn and practice Chen T'ai Chi Ch'uan on my own. I use books and DVDs by Grandmaster Chen Zhenglei, and his students, as my "virtual teachers." Thanks!
I sprained my knee while hiking on rough terrain in the Cascade Mountains. Chen Taijiquan stances are a bit difficult for me to do right now. Therefore, I will shift my focus to practicing a less strenuous form of Taijiquan. I will practice the Sun Taijiquan Standard Competition Form of 73 movements. The higher and closer stances of Sun Tajiquan are easier for me to do right now. I must be patient, flexible, practical, and seek healing for my painful and wobbly knee.
Back to practicing Tai Chi, walking, weightlifting, and teaching fitness classes. Steady progress.
"When practicing Taijiquan,
the requirements for proper practice are as follows: keep the head erect
naturally (as if it were suspended by a string attached to the top of the head),
stand naturally upright, relax the shoulders and drop the elbows. Bring the
shoulders slightly forward and lower the waist. Let the internal energy (qi)
descend, and breathe naturally. With the hips relaxed and the knees bent, round
the crotch, i.e., the legs should form a rounded shape. With solid and empty
clearly separated, the upper and lower parts of the body move in harmony with
each other, blending hard and soft, fast and slow movements smoothly. External
movements of the body should describe an arc (i.e., should follow circular
paths) with the internal energy within the body following a spiral path. With
the waist as an axis, movement of the torso leads the movement of the limbs,
with a spiraling or twining type of movement. Gradually, a type of internal
energy is produced which is seemingly soft yet not soft, seeming hard but not
hard, and which can easily change between extremely heavy or incredibly light
action. Your movements appear outwardly soft but are inwardly firm, like iron
wrapped in cotton. If in the entire set of movement there are not any breaks in
the continuity of movement or any motions that don't follow a smooth circular
line, then that is the correct way."
- Grandmaster Chen Zhenglei, Chen Style Taijiquan, Sword and Broadsword, p.64
I will be on a spiritual retreat for the next six days: 4/6-4/12.
Add quotations to the subject of movement, exercise, and mind-body movement arts in Movement
"Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person's physical, emotional, and mental states."
- Carol Welch
"Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do."
- Bruce Lee
"It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power."
- Alan Cohen
April 5, 2012 #5
I also practice the Chen Broadsword, Movements 1-6 a number of times each day.
List of Movements in the Chen Taijiquan Saber (Dao) 23 Movement Form
April 4, 2012 #4
Daily practice, daily practice, daily practice ....!!!
Practicing movements #1 through #15 of Chen Taijiquan Lao Jia Yi Lu.
List of Movements
April 3, 2012 #3
We don’t "really learn” Tai Chi by listening to, imitating, and following a live Tai chi instructor, or reading Tai Chi books, or watching Tai Chi instructional DVDs. The “learning” comes from practicing Tai Chi, playing Tai Chi, moving by Tai chi, and feeling Tai Chi. We move from being awkward and uncomfortable to moving gracefully, fluidly, easily, confidently, and beautifully. Live and virtual Tai Chi instructors provide us with information and ideas about what Tai Chi has been for others and could be for us, its rich history, and provide us with a model of how a "form" might look and be realized as expressed by their body-mind. Our instructor's "mind" set or intention is important - depending, for example, on whether they emphasize martial applications or they are a New Age energy arts dancer. Likewise, our own progress in "learning" will depend upon our own "mind set" of intentions, dedication, toughness, the courage to go beyond our limitations and failures, and our willpower. Learning Tai Chi is always a complex matrix of interactions, lived experiences, daily training, and accumulated muscle memories. Less thinking and more practice, training, and doing will result in the greatest learning. Repeated movements are the foundation for Tai Chi learning.
April 2, 2012 #2
What does "listening in the back mean?"
I can see how the movement of the hands in silk reeling can help with moving the hands when doing the form. I don't understand or feel the "internal" aspects of silk reeling movements yet but we shall see after 90 days. Right now, it is just getting the correct movements from the "external or outside" aspects in my body-mind memory.
Why do I dislike just standing still for 10 minutes?
Is breathing a natural diaphragmatic pattern (inhale through nose and relax abdomen, exhale through the mouth and slightly tighten abdomen) or is it reverse diaphragmatic pattern?
Every morning and night, I view the instructional DVD by Master Jesse Tsao, Chen Style Tai Chi Old Frame Routine One, Part 1, for the lessons I am learning.
Because of the three surgeries on my upper left leg because of a tumor, and the amputation of part of my right middle toe because of a diabetic ulcer, during the period of June 2011 until February 2012, I was unable to make much progress on learning and practicing the Old Frame, First Form. My health has improved and I am now dealing with the aftermath of problems in my left leg. Fortunately, I am now walking four miles on four days of each week, practicing Tai Chi and Qigong daily, lifting weights, and teaching yoga and taijiquan again.
I am quite comfortable now with practicing the short 18 movement Chen Taijiquan form developed by Grandmaster Chen Zhenglei which I learned a few years ago.
Last week I updated a number of my webpages on the Chen Style of Taijiquan by adding new links, book citations, and made some changes in the formatting of those webpages.
My primary "virtual" Chen Style of Taijiquan teacher is Grandmaster Chen Zhenglei. I carefully study his five English language books, his DVD lectures, and his instructional DVDs. I use two specific books and two specific instructional DVDs for learning the Old Frame First Form (Lao Jia Yi Lu). I have never met Chen Zhenglei in person, but I hope to someday attend one of his workshops in the Northwest, USA. I also read many other books by other authors and view other relevant instructional DVDs on the Chen style of Taijiquan.
Lately, I have been carefully studying:
Chen's Tai Chi Old Frame One and Two. By Grandmaster Chen Zhenglei. Translated by Jack Yan. White Bench Publications, Toronto, Canada, 2011. 396 pages. ISBN: 978-0-9866756-2-1. This book is entirely in English. It is well illustrated with black and white photographs of Chen Zhenglei.
Traditional Chen Village, Chen Style Tai Chi, Lao Jia Yi Lou, Part I. Excellent instructional DVD by Shifu Jiang Jian-ye. Part I is 114 minutes long. Capitol District Tai Chi and Kung Fu Association (CDTKA), Albany, New York, 1998.
Chen Style Tai Chi Old Frame Routine One. Demonstration and instruction by Master Jesse Tsao. 2 instructional DVDs or VHS videotapes, 60 minutes each DVD.
I am now reviewing and practicing Sections I-V, Movements 1-15, of the Old Frame, First Form.
Silk Reeling exercises and standing meditation are considered an essential foundation practices of the Chen style of Taijiquan. I will speak about silk reeling in a later notebook entry. All of Grandmaster Chen Zhenglei's books and DVDs include presentations on silk reeling exercises.
I plan to keep a Notebook to record my progress in my studies of the Chen Style Taijiquan.
Cloud Hands Website
Biography of Michael P. Garofalo
Red Bluff, Tehama County, North Sacramento Valley, Northern Central California,
Cities in the area: Oroville, Paradise, Durham, Chico, Hamilton City, Orland, Willows, Corning,
Rancho Tehama, Los Molinos, Tehama, Proberta, Gerber, Manton, Cottonwood,
Anderson, Shasta Lake, Palo Cedro, and Redding, CA, California.
© Michael P. Garofalo, 2012, All Rights Reserved
This webpage was first published on the Internet in April of 2012.
This webpage was last modified or updated on April 2, 2012.
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