Review of Chen Xin’s Book (Part 2)

Preface: INBI has not gone down. Although there may have been a problem with their website I am unaware of, inbiworld.com is up and running, at least right now. I sent them an email a month ago and was informed there was a problem with the publisher in china and the book may be delayed by two months or more. I’m sure everyone’s book will arrive. Now, on with the review)

[ Part 1 | Part 2 ]

The Illustrated Canon of Chen Family Taijiquan

Aaaah. Let that name sink in. This is it, this is THE BOOK.

I think the best way to do this, since it is such a large book, is to try and pin down some solid statements I feel I can stand behind about this book. I’ll start with a little history behind the book and go from there. Let’s start by placing this book in perspective for those of us who aren’t familiar with it and it’s position in the starmap of tai chi books.

First. This is not a straight up boxing manual or a book on how to do tai chi.
According to Jarek Szymanski, there are four or five known chen family boxing manuals, and this isn’t one of them. Do keep in mind however that Chen Ziming is the author of one of them, and Chen Ziming was a student of Chen Xin. Also keep in mind that there are explanations of some key points about tai chi and the postures, but you wouldn’t be able to learn tai chi at all just from the explanations or diagrams (then again, an abridged version of this book has in fact been published by Chen Xin as a “tai chi for beginners” book).

Chen Xin felt this book would be important to people who were already skilled in Taijiquan.
Again quoting Jarek’s page,

Chen Xin had no children and when he was lying in the bed old and sick he called his nephew Chen Chunyuan and gave him “Illustrated Explanations of Chen Family Taijiquan” saying: “this is the fruit of my whole life, publish it and give to those who deserve it, otherwise burn it, be sure not to give it to ignorant and presumptuous people!”.

The Chen Family respects the work on some level.
From Jarek’s page, again, (thanks jarek!)

In 1935 Chen Zhaopei, 18th generation descendant of Chen clan, in his “Collection of Chen Family Taijiquan” (Chen Shi Taijiquan Huizong) used many parts of Chen Xin’s book.

Yin Cheng Gong Fa’s website has an article about Chen Xin. Zhang Yun is quoted saying, “Although it is said that Taiji Quan spread out from Chenjiagao Village, there were no real quality classics written down there until Chen Xin. So today Chen Xin’s Taiji Quan classic is greatly respected in Chen family.”

Chen Xin was a scholar and wrote the book in a scholarly style native to Henan.
There’s two points here. One from Ingo Augsten, who states

A Henan local told me, that Chen Xins book is really hard to translate, since it conains regional and “old” language – even hard to read to people from Henan today. Maybe that’s why nobody dares to be authorative.

And the second point, quoted from Andy S. on EmptyFlower:

My understanding is that Chen was a scholar who wrote in purposely scholarly style, using lots of ambigious and metaphorical terms (today, he would probably be called “pretentious” or “elitist”) and so his book is very difficult to understand. This irritates me, as martial arts are, on the whole, pretty common-sensical. To put it another way: Very, very few great fighters are great scholars, so do you need to be a scholar to read a book about fighting? To my understanding, with Chen Xin’s book, the answer is: “Yes.”

The point is, that this book is pretty hard to translate into something meaningful. For the average reader, pages 1 to 108 are basically unusable; it’s an exhausive description of trigrams and the book of changes. And when I say exhausive, I mean that. Over 100 pages. I tried to read through it, ended up skimming most of it, but it just doesn’t seem applicable in any way to the physical practice of tai chi. For example take the “Square Diagram of Taijiquan’s External Form” on page 107. I just don’t see the point. Even in the square and round explanation given on the next page, it is not really clear what Chen Xin is referring to. If this was Kuo/Guttman’s book then we would see examples. There are no examples here. That’s a real pity.

To give you a better context to what I mean by the word exhaustive, let me quote from the “explaination” to the very (very) odd looking diagram (keep looking and it starts to make sense – scary) on page 46. This is just a random example, likely not the worst one:

The preceeding diagram charts the reversibly inversed sixty four hexagrams, while the diagram which follows represents the reversibly compatible sixty four hexagrams. The latter diagram also explains the relationship between the six stratums of big and small circles of the silk reeling method of taijiquan. This consists, on the one hand, of the six levels of the human body, including skin, flesh, tendons, membranes, joints and brains; and on the other hand, the circulation and compatibility of the blood (xue) and energy (qi) flows. It also includes the agglomeration of the internal essence (jing) and spirit (shen), through which the practitioner can lift up and sink down, enter inside and go outside of a circular frame, the size of which depends on the time of utmost effectiveness. Through the wisdom of everyday living one can also enter into the all-embracing spheres of self-regulation cultivated through the wisdom of everyday living.

Now go back and read that again. Wow, huh? The entire first hundred pages are like this. Granted, there are a few moments of clarity, but good luck digging them out. Me, I’ve caught glimpses, and he will suddenly stop and say something about tai chi fighting techniques (like on page 63), but still.. so much seems confusing.. Hey, let me be clear, I’m not saying that it’s incoherrent babbling or anything. There does seem to be a point, but it is (to prove a point) like how Kun turns into Gen or like how Quan might turn into Dui. Oh god, now I’m doing it. I mean to say, like two musicians communicating to each other by flute. If you’re wondering why I didn’t just say that in the first place.. I don’t have an answer for you. I could speculate, but I do not know.

In short. If you’re not a master musician, forget about trying to comprehend what Chen Xin is saying in these first 100 pages.

Illustrated Explanation of Silk Reeling
I’ve also decided to find fault with the Silk Reeling discussion on 109 through 118. Yes, there are some things that Chen Xin says which are destined to become classic quotes, such as the Zhong Qi comment, also about the primary source of taijiquan’s skill – maybe even how he talks about replenishing the energy. Also, to be honest, this is the first time that I’ve heard about Haoran zhi Qi and how it may relate to Zhong Qi. So there are definately some interesting things here. But there is no diagram or description of how to train silk reeling. There are no examples. I keep forgetting, I’m not reading Guttman. Still, if someone was really dedicated and thought about this stuff for a long time, kept an open mind and had a really good teacher, he would likely be able to use this section (pg. 109-118) to increase his taiji nei gong.

This book contains an encyclopaedia of Meridians and Accupoints
Without batting an eyelash, on page 109 Chen Xin suddenly launches into an illustrated list of hundreds of accupoints and meridians. He lists poems and songs for each one. This goes on for dozens of pages. The burning question “why” is certainly in your mind by this point. Why is never explained.

On pages 166 to 169, there is a treatise on the Ren-mai and Du-mai channels. I want to comment on this and say it seems invaluable. This is an example of one of those moment of clarity hidden within hundreds of pages of philosophical coding. Ahh but that’s not entirely true I suppose. When I say a moment of clarity, I am implying that there is enough literature available in english such that a native english speaker, sufficiently learned of the meaning of the important chinese words and philosphical concepts, would likely be able to get something out of this short essay on ren-mai and du-mai. This is an important observation because I suspect that someone who was really interested in figuring out everythgn else Chen Xin was trying to say, could use this as a key to try and unlock the symbols and metaphors Chen Xin used in other parts of his book. IOW, it’s still written in some kind of tai chi code, but it’s somewhat understandable if you’re willing to stretch your mind around it. And I do mean stretch. But don’t worry, I have faith in you 😉 I know you can do it if you try. There is a point in what Chen Xin is saying, and I feel it’s very interesting and important to a dedicated, open-minded practitioner.

Treaties and Essays
Notably missing are the two articles “Push Hands Sixteen Points” and “36 Push Hands sicknesses”, as explained in the above-mentioned article by Zhang Yun.

“Taijiquan Classics” is the first essay. No, this isn’t the tai chi classics you may have read before. This is some kind of philosphically coded description of Tai Chi. I’m not sure what it means exactly. More than anything it seems like advice you would give to a beginner. So take it for what it sounds like, I guess. There’s a “Revised Treatise on Taijiquan” which starts with a discussion of zhong qi and yuan qi, is interesting, next is “Some Statements on the Taijiquan Classics” which does not appear to be a commentary but a paraphrase (and I use that word quite loosely. See the quote above from page 47 😉 ) with no apparent references made to the “other” classics. It again mentions yuan-qi, etc – an interesting read I suppose.

“Item 65”, on page 182, “Revised Statement on the Taijiquan Classics”. seems to be a rewrite of the previous essay. Interesting in how certain points remain the same and certain others are emphasised more, or less.

Next, “regarding the name of taijiquan”. “Regarding the Origin of Taijiquan”. “Explanation of Taijiquan’s mechanism of development”. “Concepts of the human body” (quite long and covers lots of topics like feelings, beauty, neigong, different kinds of qi (zhong qi, yuan qi, haoran zhi qi etc etc).

So many mini essays. “Explanation of Taijiquan Application”. “Restricting.” “The Secret of Success in Combat”. They’re all really interesting, actually. This mini-essay section is quite worth the price of the book. It’s of varying clarity to be sure, but an intelligent and dedicated practitioner should be able to make sense of it after a few readings.

Then suddenly on page 216, in small words printed in the middle of the page…

End of Introduction.

Wow.

I guess I’ll have to write a part 3 soon 😉

Addendum:

Apparently INBIworld has gone down and email sent to the company is bouncing. I just went to inbiworld.com and everything seems fine. I want to report that I definately have my book, it is very real. However if you are panicking because you’re worried there might not be a second printing, or if you’re panicking because you fear you might not get your book, or you just really really want a copy of this book right now, I’ll sell you mine for $5,000 US. Yes, that’s me bragging. Sorry 🙂 I’m sure everyone will get their books soon. Just be patient. Maybe try sending the emails again? Mine went through last month and thats how I got my book. It was explained to me there was a problem with the publisher in china and only a few books got printed, and that the rest were delayed for a few months. Just be patient and I am sure everything will work out. Good luck and check back soon, I’ll post Part 3 of this review when I can! Feel free to ask any questions about the book I’ll answer as soon as I can.

[ Part 1 | Part 2 ]

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Review of Chen Xin’s book (Part 1)

[ Part 1 | Part 2 ]

Happy to report my book has arrived. Hardcover, 750 pages.

I pre-ordered my copy from INBI. Don’t bother, they’re already sold out… 😦 You will have to wait until the second printing.

Sender was “chen xiao-wen” – the same person who is listed in the book as editorial manager. Translator was alex golstein. I am unsure if chen xiaowen refers to chen xiaowang, since it does seem somewhat plausible chen xiaowang might be involved, and additionally his picture is on the very last page of the book.
Editor: Juliana Ngiam
Project design: Roman Mukhortikov

I don’t have time to do a full review right now and I haven’t read the book at all yet but I will make some observations.

-Editor’s note starts off saying “(this book) is universally acknowledged by the Taoist community and Taiji practitioners as the seminal sourcebook…”

-The very first page of the book contains a song of taijiquan by chen pan ling, in commemoration of this book.

-There seems to be a large amount of information pertaining to the location of accupoints and meridians in the book, and a large amount of illustrations, nearly all of which appear useless at first glance. I doubt the value of the illustrations and explanations of postures because they do not appear specific enough; but again I have not read the book yet so I don’t know what Chen Xin was trying to accomplish with those descriptions.

-The translation on pages 110 and 111 is functionally similar to the one on Jarek Szymanski’s page (http://www.chinafrominside.com/ma/taiji/chenxin.html). There are some omissions and the translation seems to gloss over some things which might deserve a few words. Notably it omits ” (I do) not know (if this is) correct or not, for the time being (I gave) illustrated explanation to make it more funny.”. As a result of this omission I realise that this book is intent at presenting information and not a faithful translation of what chen xin may have said or meant. This makes me frown but on the whole it seems like a worthwhile “first translation”.

-Most of the useful portion of the book appears to be in songs and poems and explanations of the postures.

-one song which starts off sounding like wang zongyue’s tai chi classic has a different idea of yin and yang/movement and stillness. (I didn’t read the whole song)

I will write a more detailed review after work if anyone is interested. This book would appear to be quite authoritave on the subject of what chen taiji was like in chen xin’s day (1849-1929).

Anyone else get their books? Thoughts? Impressions?

[ Part 1 | Part 2 ]

The Death of Tabbycat Yiquan

Part two in a series.

“This server could not verify that you are authorized to access the document requested. Either you supplied the wrong credentials (e.g., bad password), or your browser doesn’t understand how to supply the credentials required.”

Well, he SAID he was going to do it. I briefly considered backing up his entire website for my own benefit. But I didn’t.

This is another in a long line of casualties – small, independant blogs or mailing lists that end up dead. It’s a pity. I know why it died. He said why he was going to do it. I know why they all die. There’s a few related reasons. First, the author is someone who sticks his neck out and explains stuff that isn’t usually talked about. Second, the idiot factor. That is, that there is a small percentage (or a large percentage, play the crowd) of people who a. are there to denounce neijia for whatever reason b. are not dedicated enough and try to talk as if they “know” but they don’t. Some of the people in b. have been doing various martial arts for years. Yet there are subtle problems with what they do and they can’t see it. What they have works for them, so they think they are on the right path. Then someone like Tabby comes along and they use what he says to back their own positions up as if they were really saying the same thing all along. When they didn’t even get what he was saying was just a personal expression and nothing more.

So. TabbyCat Yiquan’s last post threatened to take it down or password it if he got pissed off at what other people were saying about him, or what he said. I knew it was only a matter of time.

This reminds me of something I read somewhere years ago. Professional and amateur wine tasters tend to use the same vocabulary (fruity, cheeky, all those pretentious words alcoholics, er I mean wine aficianados like to bandy about). The significant difference is that whereas there is a very high correlation between the experts in their choice of adjectives for a given wine, the amateurs will generally use different descriptive words, with very wide variations between individuals for the same wine.

Professionals have internalized the vocabulary and matched it to their perceptions in a standardized way, whereas most amateurs have simply learned the words and apply them as they see fit. A very significant difference, not least because it renders the amateurs’ descriptions, however poetic they might be, utterly useless, not to say hopelessly misleading, to anyone else who is trying to get a handle on wine appreciation. – John Prince

That is the best description of the “newbie” factor I’ve seen yet. Keep in mind these people may be honest and hey – don’t think I’m not aware this analogy works both ways. It speaks as much to my own ignorance as it does any of my detractors. Or Tabby’s for that matter.

Again, I think we lost something when Tabby got locked down. There was something about his frankness, diary-style posts which I found really refreshing. I would have enjoyed a discussion on the missing basic, even in private, but he never allowed comments to his blog. I couldn’t even contact him to arrange my own one month training session with Mr. Yao. I live near beijing (relatively speaking) and I would love to hop over and spend a month there. I suppose I could have done more research on it and found an email address but now the front page is actually locked – it’s not like how I failed to notice a “sign up” button on ZMS’s new blog…

I don’t want to ramble on forever but I do want to comment on Tabby’s allusion to a missing basic. I think it is unfair and unwise to parade this sort of thing and not be open to discuss it. I have my own ideas about training and practice which many would find off. I’ve been heavily chastized before. But the funny thing is that when I look these people up, I realise they have less training than I do, and might even train less than I do on a daily basis (according to more than one person’s training diary. Big HMM.) It’s funny that they would be so crass to talk down to me.. So I kind of know what Tabby might be feeling right now. As I recall Tabby said he trained 6+ hours a day which is even more than I used to train. So I am sure he has some interesting insights which NO ONE ELSE including myself would have.

I think a measure of respect for one man’s devotion is not too much to ask. Let’s all take a moment to think about anything we said regarding Tabbycat and how we may have completely misunderstood him. Then let’s say goodbye. No sense dwelling on the past.

DVD/VCD Review: Chen Style Taiji Quan New Frame Routine 1 by Chen Zheng-Lei

I bought this as a DVD on ebay. Once again, I bought from kungfu_tea001‘s online store – his prices and shipping are inexpensive and fast.

This is a two-DVD set featuring Chen, Zheng-Lei instructing us on the New Frame, routine one, otherwise known as “Xin Jia Yi Lu” (新架一路). For the students of chinese out there, please note that “jia” here is not 家 as you might expect, but 架.

The First DVD (one of two)

The first DVD is a step by step introduction to the movements found in Chen Style new frame. So let’s get down to basics. After a five minute general outline of Chen Taijiquan’s history and goals (section one), we are treated to a demonstration of Chen Zheng-Lei performing Chen style, while the specific history of the new frame, and some special principles of Chen style are explained (this is section two). Some examples, “use the waist as an axis”, “the body leads the hands”, and “pay special attention to the twining force”.

Next, is section three. This is where Chen Zheng-Lei begins to instruct us in Chen Style Taijiquan. Whereas Chen Xiao-Wang’s introduction in his video series starts from standing meditation and first principles, Chen Zheng-Lei takes the interesting approach of categorizing the different movements themselves. For example, he introduces “three hand forms” – palm, fist, and hook. He then extends this knowledge into basic hand techniques such as waving like clouds, push palm, press palm, arc palm and chop palm. From there he teaches us where these movements can appear in the form.

This kind of categorizing will appeal very strongly to some people, and frankly I like it a lot. It is a great way to introduce beginners to Chen Style, and here Chen Zheng-Lei does a really good job of covering all the basics. I get the feeling that you can really learn from this. It isn’t a demonstration, it is actual instruction, and Chen Zheng-Lei goes into enough detail that I didn’t think I needed to ask any questions. The way to practice the hand techniques is very clearly and comprehensively taught.

Chen Zheng-Lei gives stances the same treatment. He introduces Bow step, Empty step, Crouch step (pu bu-dropping body step), and many other steps. Again he shows where the stances appear in the form and gives a very detailed and instructive list of pointers on how to do the stances properly. Finally, he introduces the basic stepping patterns and footwork, again replete with examples from the form.

To sum it up, what Chen Zheng-Lei did was provide us with an encyclopedia of knowledge about Chen Style Taijiquan. All of the kinds of movements found in Chen style are broken down into their bare essentials. If this was everything on the first DVD, I would honestly be satisfied.. however, the best is yet to come.

What Chen Zheng-Lei does next should be extremely interesting to Taijquan players!

In the next section, Chen Zheng-Lei takes our hand and shows us 1+1 = 2. That is to say, he demonstrates that the basic hand forms, combined with the basic stances and footwork, are actually moves from the Taijiquan form! “Well, of course they are,” you might think. But let me explain more fully. When he demonstrates the moves, instead of practicing a move and then stopping, going back to the beginning and and repeating it again, he links the end of one movement to it’s beginning. While this is obvious for some movements and sections of the form (such as step back and whirl arms, or wave hands like clouds) it is non-intuitive for others. This is a very xingyiquan idea; such as doing beng quan over and over in a line, then turning around and doing it back down the line. In the same way, Chen Zheng-Lei shows us how to do Taijiquan. Several movements are demonstrated this way which you normally wouldn’t expect to be; the stepping and catching movement from Opening of Taiji/Buddha’s Warrior Attendant Pounds Mortar, as an example.

Overall, I am very very happy with this first DVD in the set of two. We are not only taught all the basics of Taijiquan and given a solid foundation, we are taught how to drill moves from the form in a very small space. Now, finally, we have no excuse for not practicing in our bedrooms on rainy days. We have been taught how to practice boxing in the space where an ox may lie down. This set of drills alone is worth the price of the set; but there’s more.

In the last half of this first, one hour and ten minute DVD, Chen Zheng-Lei discusses:

  • Silk Reeling – shun chan and ni chan
    He demonstrates all of the classic silk reeling motions several times, including several silk reeling chi kung you may never have seen.
  • Standing Meditation
    A complete overview with some demonstration and discussion of postures.
  • Several important rules about Chen Style
    Requirements for the three sections of the body (head, back, and leg), and other general principles you need to know.

All in all, there is no basic or technical question which Chen Zheng-Lei does not demonstrate about Xin Jia Yi Lu in the first DVD. If you’re looking for a demonstration which is exceedingly difficult to learn from, this is not your DVD. Chen Zheng-Lei makes this stuff exceedingly easy to pick up at your own pace.

The Second DVD (two of two)

If you were pleased with the first DVD, just wait until you see this one! Once again I am very pleased with a product that the Chen family has produced. It is very clear that this DVD set should be worth many times the sticker price. It is very easy for a beginner to learn from this video. And as much as this is a two DVD set; the first DVD only prepared the way for this one. This second DVD is where we are taught the form in a very straightforward and step by step manner.

Let me be frank. If you try to learn the form by watching a demonstration, you won’t get very far. For difficult moves you may need to rewind the tape ten or twenty times to get an idea of the proper form; other times the angle is wrong and you just can’t see what is going on with the hands or the feet. In this way errors creep into your form and even when you are “done” learning, your form is nowhere near correct enough to be worth practicing.

Thankfully, this is not the case with this instructional DVD. Chen Zheng-Lei comments on all the important things that you can’t pick up from just watching a demonstration; tounge on the roof of the mouth, relax in this spot, weight on this leg or that leg, some of the intentions behind the movements , etc. The way he does this is by first breaking up all the movements into their essentials. He talks you through the *entire* form, showing the form in a very clear manner. If you’re the kind of person who needs to rewind a tape ten or twenty times to get a difficult move from a demo tape; take heed; there will be no rewinding here. The requirements are very clear. Very easy to pick up.

I might also add that experienced practitioners will love this kind of demonstration as well, as beginners, since it clues you into some possible standing meditation postures where Chen Zheng Lei pauses to talk about the form.

Also, Chen Zheng-Lei never demonstrates too much at once, without pausing to review the whole set so far. At the end of every section, we are treated to Chen Zhenglei leading a group of beginners and intermediate students in practicing the section of the form we just learned. Again, we are talked through the form, but at a somewhat faster pace. This is a brilliant method, and one I found exceedingly easy to follow.

So basically by this point we are taught straight line movement sequences which approximate the actual movements of the form as they should be performed with spiral force. For example, “Obliquely Walk” is taught in six sections. It is called as “walk obliquely. One.. two.. three.. four.. ” etc, as each section of the move is performed, or “Buddha’s Warrior Attendant.. One.. Two.. Three.. Four.. Five”, etc. This is very easy for a beginner to digest. But don’t worry; even though your form may look like a robot in the beginning, they are then demonstrated more roundly after each section. Finally, Chen Zheng-Lei demonstrates the entire form.

With this, we have gone from rote basics of knowing the name and form of each basic component of the moves, to the complete yi lu form, properly performed with spiral energy. There is truly no question left in my mind about how to do any of the exercises.

In conclusion, I’d like to say that if you just can’t find a good teacher, this DVD is light years ahead of a crappy one. If you don’t rush and carefully listen to what Chen Zheng-Lei says, you will certainly learn enough about Tai Chi to increase your ability by daily practice. And although I still encourage people to seek out a competent teacher instead of just learning from books and videos, you have to admit this video is pretty damn near complete.

Quan Xue Chan Hui review, part 2

This is part two of “DVD/VCD Review: Chen Xiao-Wang “Internal Strength Learning Boxing and Coiling Slightly“.

You can order the videos on kungfu_tea001’s ebay store. (DVD version | VCD Version)

First let me say that this is the first dvd in a series of twenty six DVDs(!) in which Chen Xiao Wang completely teaches Chen style. This VCD/DVD however will not teach you the form of taiji. No, Chen Xiao Wang realizes that before you learn the form, you must learn the basic movement rules of taiji. And he uses the first DVD in the series (three VCDs) to teach you how to do that. This review covers the second and third VCDs of part one (of twenty six).

The impact of the first VCD (part 1/3 on the dvd) was not lost in the second and third VCDs. Chen Xiao Wang answers many questions that should be understood by tai chi players of the Chen style.

What really has to be remembered is that this is the first DVD in a complete series of DVDs by Chen Xiao Wang. Furthermore is that this is Chen Xiao Wang speaking. Without question, he is an authority on this art with few equals.

So when the second VCD opens with the question “What is the relationship between the taijiquan frame and the law of motion?” and “What is the standard to judge of the taijiquan frame is correct or not”, we are blown away. The implications of the answer Chen Xiao Wang gives are not neccessarily profound; But rather, an answer has been given. This will hopefully clear away the cobwebs of misunderstanding among millions of uderinformed (or worse, misled) taijiquan players in the world.

As a fatter of fact, when Chen Xiao Wang answers the questions above, he does so (again) by outlining the basics of how to fight using taijiquan. He, quite simply and clearly, links the principle of movement discussed in part one with the frame of taiji and explains why it is important in a fight. This fresh perspective is not a violent one; actually Chen Xiao-Wang appears calm, yet firm. This is a great middle ground between wet noodles and paramilitary types which you tend to see at either end of the spectrum (no names, no names).

As he does, Chen Xiao-Wang tends to go off on relevant tangents. Here he begins to discuss the truth about the relationship between large circle and small circle in Chen style. As an example, some people (jarek szymanski and formosa neijia) seem to have said that that Xiao Jia, Da Jia (Lao Jia), Xin Jia, etc. are unique branch within Chen Style, or that you must first start with large circles and then “progress” to smaller ones, or something like this. This is not the opinion of Chen Xiao-Wang, and he explains his position with reference to the basic theories of taijiquan. What he says certainly makes a lot of sense. He also discusses the history of all of these different branches and how they relate to each other as recorded in the Chen family documents, for the past several hundred years. All in all, it’s completely fascinating. And this is just the first part of the lecture he gives in part two of this DVD (vcd #2).

Next, Chen Xiao Wang explains the five levels of Taiji kungfu. This is similar to his classic “five levels of taiji skill” essay which has been published in tai chi magazine and on websites many times. However, to hear him discuss it as a part of this presentation is different, because he explains it in a different way. He links it to everything he has said so far, using the terminology he has defined. This opens up new levels of understanding for the student of Taiji. For example, he says “two yin and eight yang is sanshou”, and “three yin and six yang is drawing a large circle”. These are all explained very clearly in the video. One of the most memorable things about this video is how Chen Xiao-Wang yet again uses the principles he discusses to outline how he would react in a fight. He will freely admit, “If I am attacked from behind, I can’t know about it.” and then answer the obvious question on how to apply the training and principles already discussed to best respond to such a situation.

I’d just like to say again what a great motivator Chen Xiao-Wang is. Listening to him explain, you can feel his enthusiasm. But more than that, he is a great teacher, and the way he explains things makes you think that if you just practice a little harder.. or a little more correctly.. you will make progress. Of course, what he says is true.. Thats what makes this such a great video.

Okay so this review is a little long. I’ll say this much: The last half of this video (including the third VCD, or part 3 of the DVD) is in no way a lower quality than the first half. This set is such an amazing value I’m actually very suprised it didn’t cost five or six times as much.

Other lectures and demonstrations on VCD #2 and #3 in this 3-VCD set:

3. How to exert force (fa jing) – in this martial applications from the form are shown, including a very interesting application of single whip versus one, two, and four opponents.

4. The direction of Taijiquan – demonstrates many martial applications for the first section of yi lu. Here, “direction” is like “aim” or “intent” behind movements, i.e. the proper direction to fajing or apply the combat techniques, for example. Then Chen Xiao-Wang performs the form but every movement is a fajing. I counted fifteen fajings in the first few movements.. Must be seen to be believed. Then a discussion of some misconceptions about taiji applications, such as “punch at ground”, etc.

The third VCD opens with a few questions to answer, such as “what is the psychological state we should hold while practising taiji” – from that point he also gets into discussing theories of TCM and how they apply in taijiquan practice, and what you can expect from them when *you* practice.

Next question, “what effect can be achieved by the frequent practice of taijiquan hand pushing”.

Like every single question in this video, this one is a bombshell. Chen Xiao-Wang discusses everything you ever wanted to know about Taiji pushing hands. The exercise is explained from the ground up and linking it to taiji theory, which is of course immediately linked to practical demonstrations of how to practice. A complete set of pushing hand exercises is shown. Chen Xiao-Wang’s opponent must have gotten tossed out twenty or twenty five times just in what’s shown. Well, who ever said taiji practice was slow and gentle?

Well, this review is getting really long 🙂 But you know what? It’s worth it. Overall, I think this first offering in Chen Xiaowang’s DVD video series is an excellent product and well worth the money.

If I had to say anything bad about it, then I would say that it says too much; In a first video (there are more than twenty DVDs in his series) I didn’t expect to see pushing hands demonstrated so completely. They also didn’t really teach the form. But then again, the *next 14 dvds in the series* teach empty handed forms – 19 form, 38 form, lao jia and xin jia. This includes a three disc set entitled “punch in new frame”! For old frame and new frame there are four DVDs each. So actually the truth is I can’t find a single fault with this video series…. SO FAR (evil laugh)

I’m planning to slowly pick up the entire series. I’ll write some reviews of what’s in the other videos later on.

Hey.. is that a knock on my door?

Wow, my *four DVD laojia set* just arrived! I can’t believe it got here in less than a week 🙂

DVD/VCD Review: Chen Xiao-Wang “Internal Strength Learning Boxing and Coiling Slightly”

First, the basics. I ordered this in VCD form (original, not a copy) instead of DVD. Same thing. Anyways, the seller on e-bay was kungfu_tea001 – he is in hong kong, but shipping was extremely fast, it arrived in something like 2 weeks. The item was listed in his auction as “Chen XiaoWang TaiChi:Internal Qi Gong Chen Si Gong 3VCD”.

It cost $18.99 US plus $3.50 S&H. (IOW: You should complain to ebay if any HK seller wants to charge you $40+ for “airmail” unless you live in the USA.)

First Impressions

I was exicited to receive the vcds, and was immediately struck by the professional quality of the box, jewel case cover, etc.

Plugging the first VCD into my computer (you can also watch them on most DVD players) I was VERY impressed with the quality of production. VERY nice. Short info in chinese and english about chen style, and master Chen Xiao-Wang. I was alarmed at first because there are no subtitles for the introduction, which is in Mandarin. But I was relieved to see english text after the chinese text in the bio of Chen Xiao-Wang.

Continuing to watch, I was struck once again by the professionalism of the production quality. This DVD/VCD is worth the money you pay for it, they have really put a lot of effort into making it LOOK good.

The Meat and Potatoes: or, what’s it GOT?

If you have never heard Chen Xiao-Wang talk, he sounds like a professional public speaker. He exudes confidence and authority on the subject matter. Everything he says is clear to understand – even through the subtitles.

Chen Xiaowang begins at the beginning and builds a logical case for complete practice. The back of the jewel case says, “This CD is theoretical crystalization of master Chen Xiaowang…it will illuminate Taijiquan fans walking in the wrong field like a beacon in darkness….if you practice Taijiquan without the dantian and without moving qi you will practice in vain…this is very instructive words have you heard it? please watch the work of master Chen Xiaowang quan xue chan hui (studying boxing, silk coiling etc)

Now let me say that the blurb on the back is NO exaggeration. This is easily the best taijiquan video I have ever seen. Let me try to state this in another way. In my nearly 20 years of Tai Chi and Chi Kung, I have learned a great number of secrets. This video blows the roof off of everything I have ever learned. So much of it verifies what I have known, and so much is new.

From the very beginning, Chen Xiaowang teaches Chen Style. Explaining every theoretical point clearly and concisely with physical examples. Along the way, the definitive way to practice is shown. Standing on stake is shown and thouroughly explained. Silk reeling chi kung is shown and thoughroughly explained. Chen Xiaowang clearly explains with many physical examples exactly what double weighting is. Everything is just EXPLAINED and SHOWN. It needs to be seen to be believed, just how good this video is at bringing the spirit of Chen Xiaowang into your livingroom.

They slowly move into teaching the movements of the form. Everthing is explained properly. Chen XiaoWang also mentions how the dantian rotates (and BTW, dantian rotation is fully explained earlier in the video and shown with examples so you KNOW what he means when he says it). Suddenly you realise they are *teaching the form* and you are like wow, this is such good stuff, and you feel like you want to just GET UP AND PRACTICE!

I am still somewhat in shock after viewing this video. It is the closest thing possible to learning in the dojo. No, this is not your average video. There is an almost spiritual effort to bring Chen Xiaowang in front of you and have him explain Taiji and teach you the proper moves. My final comment on this is that if the DVD was any better, it could only be so if Chen Xiao Wang was really in your living room, instead of on a TV screen. This is the best DVD/VCD I have ever seen on Taiji, and I have something like 15 gigabytes of footage I pulled off youtube, and have bought many other videos over the years.

If I had to start my entire collection of reference materials over again, I would first seek this video out. Then if I had any extra money, I would buy Hong Junsheng’s book. Then maybe Chen Style Taijiquan by Feng Zhi-Qiang. Then again, Chen Xin’s book is coming out soon, and I haven’t read any of the books by Chen Zhenglei (I have Taiji Qigong for Health book & VCD but it’s in chinese!) or Chen Xiao Wang, or other Chen family members yet.

But… my GOD… this VCD – it is very difficult to imagine there is a better VCD in existance. I hope Chen Zhenglei’s silk reeling/push hands video is this good! I just ordered it from kungfu_tea001. Let’s hope shipping is just as fast!

This is part one of the review. I haven’t even seen the 2nd and 3rd VCDs yet!

Since I cannot teach you, and if I could, I cannot teach you as well as Chen Xiao-Wang, I wholeheatedly reccomend this video to you!

Love, renli