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When Is A Punch Not A Punch? Hidden Hand Punch in Chen Tai Chi

Chen-19-Hidden-Hand-Punch-AppI am fascinated by the self-defense applications of Chen Taijiquan. There are no transitions, no "wind-ups" to self-defense techniques. Every action in a Tai Chi form is a fighting technique.

I recently published an ebook with 239 photos demonstrating and explaining more than 100 self-defense applications of the Chen 19 form (click here to find the ebook on Amazon). In 2008, I did a 3-DVD set demonstrating more than 400 fighting applications in Laojia Yilu. All of my DVDs go deeply into the self-defense applications of each form I do in Taiji, Xingyi or Bagua. In my view, the true intent of these movements is contained in the self-defense applications. There are people who disagree with me, but in my opinion you simply can't do the form well if you don't understand how it feels to use the movements against an attacker. That's what they were created to do. 

The photos here show the first appearance of the movement "Hidden Hand Punch" in the Chen 19 form -- the short form created by Chen Xiaowang. This is only one application that is possible (others are shown on the ebook and my Chen 19 DVD).

In Photo 1, my opponent is punching and I am in the position at the end of "Flash the Back." I want to be clear - this is only for a visual reference if you know the form. In reality, all these movements are separate techniques -- not intended to follow each other. Forms help you practice the body mechanics for the martial art.

In Photo 2, I intercept the punch, deflect it and grab his wrist as I step in. My goal here is to get close.

Photo 3 shows me leading his punching hand forward with my right hand as I blend with his movement and get very close to him. I pin his arm to my chest as I continue to turn from left to right. I reach around and take hold of his chin with my left hand. He begins to go off-balance.

In Photo 4, I have taken control of his center, leading him off-balance as I continue to turn -- turning him along with me. I have become part of him, up against his shoulder and turning with him.

In Photo 5, I continue to spin him off-balance. Before he can recover, I pull his chin back to the left in Photo 6. We practice this gently because it is a neck break and you can injure your partner so we don't exert real force and you shouldn't, either. The important thing in practicing these is developing the correct timing, mechanics, and ability to control his center.

This movement does not have to be a neck break. As you can see in Photo 4, I could turn him over my leg and try to put him on the ground. And in Photo 7, instead of a neck break, I have grabbed the back of his collar as I spin him around. Then I pull on the back of the collar.

My left hand, the one that grabs his chin or collar, is the one that goes violently to the left side during the punch. It can also be used as an elbow strike to an opponent behind me. What I've shown you here is an application that leads my opponent, melds with his center, takes him off-balance in one direction and then quickly switches directions on him.

You can't do this from a distance. You must get up close and personal.

Photo 7 shows the punch as a visual reference again (this photo was taken from an angle behind me compared with the previous photos). If I am defending against a person who intends to kill me, and I break his neck in this way, I won't be punching into empty air. The neck break is one application, but this illustrates what point in the movement the pulling to the left happens, whether you are pulling the chin or the back of a collar.

There are other applications -- of this movement and the rest of the form -- in the ebook and the DVDs on the Chen 19, Chen 38, and Laojia Yilu. I just love this aspect of the art. Maintain your mental and physical balance as your opponent loses his. Connect with your opponent. Control his center. Be One with your opponent. All of this information can be found in the form if you study each movement carefully. 

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