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Chen Taiji Straight Sword Form - Clip from recent Workshop

I held a workshop on the Chen Tai Chi Straight Sword Form in March. The video is being edited for my membership website and for a DVD.

Here is a clip from the workshop as we practiced two moves from the form -- number 13 - Separate the Grass to Search for the Snake, and number 14 -- Golden Rooster on One Leg.

There are also a couple of applications included.


Maintaining Ground and Peng While Moving

Ground-WalkChen Xiaowang says that peng jin is like revving the engine of a car. If you lift the car off the ground and rev the engine, the car goes nowhere. Put it down so that it connects to the ground and it has power.

Establishing the ground path is a skill I learned from a two or three people I respect in the internal arts -- Mike Sigman, and Jim and Angela Criscimagna. Sigman was one of the first to really drive these skills home, and as a thank-you, much of the tai chi community flamed him for it, because they hadn't been taught these skills (particularly the "softer" tai chi practitioners) so they couldn't imagine that their teachers hadn't taught them the Real Thing.

In Chen tai chi, the most important skill is to maintain peng at all times -- an outward expansiveness in your body structure and movement. Peng jin is part of every movement and each of the tai chi "energies."

But peng is dependent on the ground path, so those are two of the first things that I teach, both in-person, on DVD and online.

One of the Internal Strength exercises that I teach is to maintain the ground path and peng jin while walking. When I first began studying these skills, and someone told me I needed to maintain it while walking forward, I didn't see how it was possible.

There is an exercise on the Internal Strength DVD (and on my membership site) that helps you begin to do this. Here's how it's done:

1. A partner pushes slightly on your chest. You ground the push.

2. You begin walking forward as your partner walks backward, maintaining the pushing pressure on your chest.

If you lose the ground, your partner will feel it "break."

Here are a couple of tips. Relax. Sink your weight (also known as "energy"). Keep your hips tucked as you move. That's very important, because we have the tendency to stick our butts out when we walk.

Remain level. Don't bounce up and down as you walk. Connect with the ground before you begin walking. For example, you stand with your right leg forward and your partner pushes you slightly. You ground it through the left foot, sink and push forward with the left leg, but switch the ground path to the right leg as you go forward.

This isn't easy at first, so keep trying. Eventually you'll understand. You'll feel the pressure of the slight push be maintained throughout your stepping. You won't feel your partner's pressure lessening or disengaging.

Just like all the skills you need for the internal arts, it isn't magical -- it isn't mystical -- it's physical.


Grandmaster Feng Zhiqiang Dies at 84 -- 1928 - 2012

I'm sorry to hear that Grandmaster Feng Zhiqiang has passed away at the age of 84. He was the last living disciple of Grandmaster Chen Fake, who is considered one of the great Taiji masters in history.

Feng studied Shaolin, Tong Bei Quan, Xingyi, and Chen Taiji. He developed his own version of Chen Taiji and called it Hun Yuan Chen Taijiquan

I didn't study Grandmaster Feng's version of Chen Taiji, although two of my teachers did before becoming students of Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang (who is the grandson of Chen Fake).

I had great respect for Grandmaster Feng. Here are his "12 Principles for Taijiquan:"

  1. Heart and spirit void and quiet from start to end.
  2. Center equilibrium.
  3. Use mind to move qi. The heart is the commander.
  4. Start with sink and drop.
  5. Search for soft and smooth.
  6. Inside/outside and upper/lower should work together.
  7. The transition of yin/yang will help you find hard/soft.
  8. The silk reeling force should be present through the body.
  9. Search for open/close by folding the chest and stomach.
  10. Concentrate on dantian to improve neigong (internal force).
  11. Keep your heart calm, mind quiet, and practice slowly (stillness in movement). The form is a moving standing pole (huo zhuang).
  12. You will be successful if you know both how to practice and how to nurture yourself (yang sheng).

Here is a video of Grandmaster Feng in 1988 when he was 60 years old: