Chen Taiji Chuan

Legends and Theories of the Origin of Chen Taiji Chuan

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Determining the origin and nature of Chen Taiji Chuan is almost like determining the origin Taiji or Tai Chi. It is unclear how the Chen family began to practice their family style. What is clear at the moment is that the other four traditional tai chi styles trace back to the teachings of the Chen village. There are several theorie regarding the history of Chen-style Taiji Chuan.

The first one involves the Chen Village family history. According to it, Chen Bu, the founder of the Chen village in the Henan Province was a skilled martial artist. Originally, the place they settled into was known as Chang Yung Cun (Sunshine village). However, since there were three deep ravines or Gou beside the village and since a large number of Chen descendants were already there, it was changed to Chen Jia Gou (Chen Family creek). While the village developed, so did its martial arts, which it became known for. It was during the time of the ninth generation leader Chen Wangting that Tai Chi Chuan's practice and nature was developed towards how we know it today. The existing Chen training practice at that time was codified into seven routines. Five of these routines were called Five Routines of Tai Chi Chuan and the other two were the 108 Form Long Fist and the Cannon Fist. He also involved principles from other fields and styles such as:

  • Principles of Yin-Yang theory - the universal principle of universal opposites and is often related to balance
  • Doayin techniques - leading, guiding, controlling energy
  • Tu-na - expelling and drawing energy
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine theories
  • Boxing theories from 16 different martial art styles found in the Ji Xiao Xin Shu (New Book Recording Effective Techniques) by Ming General Qi Jiguang

By combining various elements of Chinese philosophy into the martial arts style, Chen Wangting slowly laid the foundation and developed what we now know as "Internal Martial Arts".

The work of Chen Wangting was still revised by th 14th generation leader of the Chen Village, Chen Changxing. He combined the first training corpus into two routines which were eventually collectively known as Lao Jia (Old Frame). The two routines are known as Yilu (first Form) and Erlu (Second Form better known as the Cannon Fist). It was Chen Changxing who would be the first to take in a non-family member as a recognized and recorded disciple. He did this despite his family's long-observed tradition. This non-family member was named Yang Luchan and after he left the Chen household, went on to popularize Tai Chi in China. Yang Luchan called his style Yang Tai Chi Chuan to distinguish his style from the one he learned from Chen Changxing.

While the previous theory of history describes Chen Taiji Chuan to have originated from within the Chen family, several other stories or legends state that it was Wang Zongyue who taught Chen Taiji Chuan to the Chen family. Wang Zongyue was said to be a disciple of Zhang Sanfeng, a Chinese Taoist priest believed to have achieved immortality.

Some other legends narrates that a monk from Wudang mountain named Jiang Fa came to came village and along with Chen Wangting, helped develop Chen Taiji Chuan by focusing on internal fighting techniques, practices and concepts. The problem with this story, however, is that its details make it difficult to assess whether they were partners or teacher-student wherein one might wonder about who taught whom.

Description of Chen Taiji Chuan

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Chen Taiji Chuan is one of the five major family styles of Taiji Chuan, the other four being Yang style, Sun style, Wu Hao style of Wu Yu-hsiang and Wu style of Wu Ch'uan-yĆ¼ and Wu Chien-ch'uan. Taiji Chuan or Tai Chi for short is a term meaning "Supreme Ultimate Fist" that is used to refer to a type of internal Chinese martial arts.

The Chen family style is the oldest of all the five traditional family styles. A family style is a style practiced solely within the household of a certain family. There were strictly no outsiders allowed. At some point, the Chen family taught their family style to Yang, an outsider who eventually left the household. After that, he continued to practice the Chen family style and slowly began to use it as a basis to form his own style.

Chen style is characterized with coiling moves and fast transitions in speed. Not only does it shift from fast to slow in such a small amount of time but it also uses moves with bursts of power or stamping moves.

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