If you were able to have a conversation with a member of the Chen family, what would you ask?
On the 50th edition of my Internal Fighting Arts podcast, I have a nearly two-hour conversation with Chen Huixian.
Among the topics we discuss:
What was it like growing up in the Chen Village?
What is it like being a woman teaching in a martial art long dominated by men?
Does the Chen family hold back information from outsiders?
What was it like moving to the United States when you had never been here before?
As the milestone approached for the 50th edition, I have hoped for months that she would do an interview. I'm very happy that she did.
Chen Huixian is the only Chen family member living and teaching Taijiquan in the United States.
She lives with her husband, Michael Chritton, in Overland Park, Kansas, part of the Kansas City area. Michael was the guest on my very first podcast. It is really cool, in my humble opinion, that Huixian would be the guest on the 50th. These are good people, as you can hear if you go back and listen to the first podcast and also this one.
Chen Huixian was born in 1981 in the Chen Village and her uncles include Grandmasters Chen Xiaowang, Chen Xiaoxing, and Chen Zhenglei. Her father was Grandmaster Chen Chunlei. Her grandfather was Chen Zhaopi.
You can listen to the podcast or download it on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Podbean and other distributors. Here is a link to the Stitcher page:
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The latest Internal Fighting Arts podcast features an interview with Frank Allen, a veteran internal arts instructor whose school, Wutang Physical Culture Association, located on the Lower East Side of New York City, is celebrating its 41st year in business in 2020.
Frank Allen began studying the same year I did -- 1973.
Frank is a Master lineage holder in Classical Northern Wu Style Taijiquan through his teacher, Grandmaster Li Bing Ci, and a Master lineage holder in Classical Cheng Style Baguazhang through his teacher, Grandmaster Liu Jing Ru.
His other instructors have included B.P. Chan and Bruce Frantzis.
Together with Tina Chunna Zhang, Frank Allen has written books including "The Whirling Circles of Ba Gua Zhang," and "Classical Northern Style Wu Taijiquan."
Frank, Tina and the Wutang Physical Culture Association were featured in their documentary, which you can see on Amazon Prime Video, called "Tai Chi Club." It is an outstanding and moving documentary.
I have always wanted to interview someone who has studied personally with Liu Jing Ru. Frank tells colorful stories of his training.
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Has a Taiji teacher ever explained to you what "double-weighted" means? It's bad to be double-weighted, but if you are looking for a definition of the term, you will find a lot of them out there. Most of them are wrong.
Some will tell you that you are double-weighted when your weight is distributed 50-50 between the legs.
Others will say something else.
The video below demonstrates what I learned about being double-weighted from Chen Xiaowang, Chen Xiaoxing and their students (my teachers).
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The newest edition of the Internal Fighting Arts podcast features an interview with Mark Chen about his new book, "Chen Style Taijiquan Collected Masterworks: The History of a Martial Art."
In this valuable book, Mark, who was a formal rumen disciple of the late Grandmaster Chen Qingzhou, translates key sections of Chen Zhaopi's book, published in 1935.
We talk about many issues during an hour and 37 minutes, including the challenges of translating Chinese to English, the origin of Taijiquan, the life of Chen Zhaopi, and how he helped boost the reputation of Chen Taiji during 17 days in Beijing, when he stood on a platform and took on all challengers.
That would be a great kung-fu film -- "17 Days in Beijing" -- the story of the rise of Chen Taijiquan, based on Chen Zhaopi on the platform.
Zhaopi was born three years before my own grandfather, and in China, Taiji fighters like Zhaopi were still battling revolutionaries with swords. That is part of my interview with Mark.
We also explore the idea that in an age when we no longer fight revolutionaries with swords, martial arts take on a more academic, theoretical nature.
I will be in Madison, Wisconsin starting this Friday, Nov. 1 through Sunday, Nov. 3 to study with Chen Huixian. If you live within driving distance, I hope you'll join me and train with one of the best.
Chen Huixian is an in-door disciple of her uncle, Grandmaster Chen Zhenglei. Other uncles include Chen Xiaowang and Chen Xiaoxing.
She grew up in the Chen Village and is highly skilled. Each time I train with her, I come away with deeper insights because of the personal corrections and coaching that she gives me.
She is teaching a workshop that will include the following:
Friday Night 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.
** Zhan Zhuang (Standing Stake)
Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (with a 2-hour lunch break)
** Chen Straight Sword Form (1st half)
Sunday 9:00 a.m. to Noon
** Chen Straight Sword Form (1st half)
Sunday 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Laojia Erlu ("Cannon Fist") Review and Corrections
Chen Huixian's workshops are punctuated with laughter. It is very refreshing to have an instructor of her caliber -- a Chen family member -- who brings a healthy sense of humor to classes, and an interest in the people who attend. She gives a lot of personal feedback to each person. She speaks English, so you get the information directly from her, not through an interpreter.
Chen Huixian coaches two students at the 2018 workshop in Madison.
Chen Huixian will teach the Chen Taiji Straight Sword form at a workshop in Madison, Wisconsin on November 1-3, 2019. She will also review and give corrections on Zhan Zhuang, Silk-Reeling, and Laojia Erlu (Cannon Fist).
I will be there and I hope you'll join me to learn from a highly-skilled member of the Chen family.
Chen Huixian is a great teacher, an "in chamber" disciple of her uncle, Chen Zhenglei. Her other uncles include Chen Xiaowang and Chen Xiaoxing.
Her workshops are an outstanding experience. She gives a lot of personal attention to students, is actually interested in the people who attend, she answers questions, and she offers corrections and coaching that will move your skills forward. She speaks English, which means there is no need for an interpreter between what she says and what you hear.
Her workshops are traditional and serious. You will eat bitter. But she has a sense of humor that adds an element of fun that is lacking in some workshops. Laughter is not uncommon when Chen Huixian is in the room. It's a refreshing experience.
I am not bashful about my enthusiasm for Chen Huixian's teaching. Each time I have trained with her, I believe I have gotten better.
The top image shows a mistake that I see a lot. In fact, there is a good chance you are making this mistake in your forms, especially Bagua and Taiji.
I spent several years making this mistake and I was never called on it.
Then, I was training with Chen Huixian and her husband, Michael, and they pointed it out. I was doing "Buddha's Warrior Attendant Pounds Mortar" and it was pointed out that my rear leg was collapsed.
In the top photo, my right leg is collapsing. I have lost my peng.
In the lower image, I am maintaining peng through the legs.
As you can see in the upper image, my stability and strength is far less with a collapsed leg. I cannot "defend from all directions."
It is a lot more difficult to maintain peng in the legs. It helps to relax and sit deeper into the kua, and it requires a lot of mental focus until you break the habit of collapsing.
That one bit of advice changed a lot of my stances. And now, I see people collapsing their legs a lot; even some people who are called masters.
Sometimes, there is no one to tell a master that he has gotten lazy, or perhaps his teacher did not teach him this particular thing.
Don't have "noodle legs."
Try to find a mirror so you can watch to see if your legs are collapsing. Watch for it in all movements. In Bagua, I see it a lot in movements such as "Sweep the Rider from the Horse" and similar movements.
It happens often when you are shifting weight -- the knee on the non-weight-bearing leg will collapse.
Remember to maintain peng throughout the entire body at all times.
I have been sending out weekly training tips to members of my website and other people on my email list. If you would like to join the list and receive weekly emails, use the form at the bottom of this post.
This week's training tip is short and sweet.
The next time you work on a form and you come to a stepping movement, put the energy in your knees when you step.
If you think about it, most of the time you probably are just moving the leg, or stepping with the foot on movements such as "Stepping Three Steps" or "Whirling Upper Arms" (performed by stepping backward).
If you put your mind and your energy into the knee, and use the lifting of the knee as the focal point of your stepping, you will find that your steps will become more light and lively (as long as you don't stomp down as you land).
So don't lift the foot when you step, and don't lift the leg -- lift the knee. Think of having your "energy in the knee."
It will keep you from shuffling your feet, which is never a good thing, and it will make your steps more lively.
Also, when doing moving push hands or otherwise engaging with a partner to practice close-up fighting techniques and methods, the livelier you step, the more you can defend against foot sweeps or other disruptions of your structure if the opponent uses his legs and feet to try to unbalance you.
Let me know if you have any questions on any of the material the site or on the DVDs.
One of my favorite reasons to do my Internal Fighting Arts Podcast is the enjoyment I get when I talk with dedicated martial artists.
I have never interviewed someone who has studied tai chi directly with the Yang family until now.
The new edition of the podcast features an interview with Holly Sweeney-Hillman.
She is a student of Yang Zhenduo and Yang Jun, and she teaches Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan in the Bedminster area of New Jersey.
Her website is www.taichistrong.com.
In this interview, we talk (among other things) about balance, her love of the science of movement, what it is like to study with Yang Zhenduo and Yang Jun, and the upcoming International Tai Chi Chuan Symposium, to be held next month in Italy.
If you like this podcast, please send the link to your friends in the arts. It is also available on Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher, Audello, and other podcast platforms.
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