Chen Sword (49-step)

My class at Master Gohring’s Tai Chi and Kung Fu is reviewing Chen sword, and I’ve been searching out the names of the movements. The form we do is the late Grandmaster Cheng Jincai’s version, and here he is performing it (this is the only video I know of):

Chen Zhenglei’s version is more widely known and practiced, and there’s plenty of video for that. Here video of Chen Zhenglei performing Chen Sword:


Chen Zhenglei (Chau Yang)

In addition, I’ve found a series of short videos in which Chen Zhenglei goes through the form a few moves at a time, with names and some instruction. The videos are in Chinese, but with a list of names and a modest vocabulary for sword techniques and stances, etc., I find I can understand quite a bit.

  1. (Moves 1-10)
  2. (Moves 11-21)
  3. (Moves 22-28)
  4. (Moves 29-37)
  5. (Moves 38-44)
  6. (Moves 45-49)

A major difference between the two versions is the opening (起势 Qǐshì), which is basically everything up to taking the sword in the right hand. Another difference: In the early move called Protect the Knees (hu xi), Chen Zhenglai travels, while Cheng Jincai does not. A thorough comparison will take me a while yet. Anyway, the list of names seems to work for both.

The form has 49 steps; it is called 陈氏太极剑四十九式 (Chén shì tàijí jiàn sì shí jiǔ shì): Chen Style Tai Chi Sword 49-step form. The list:

ChenSword List of Movements (PDF)

I arrived at the list above by transcribing from the six videos. I also referred to the list of moves on Chen Bing’s excellent website ( The Chinese on that list is all good, the Pinyin not so much—numerous typos, at least according to the dictionary I use (MDBG). I rely heavily on Pinyin, so I worked out my own. The English translations are mine and are not guaranteed (or even likely) to be accurate! This form is not so well known that there are established English names. As usual, I prefer to learn the Chinese.

By the way, Zhong Kui (鍾馗)  is the Ghost King (vanquisher of ghosts).  Luóhàn (罗汉) is Arhat, an enlightened person in Buddhism, one who has reached nirvana.     Yèchā (夜叉) is a malevolent spirt, Nézha (哪吒) is the protection deity, and Wéi Tuó (韦驼), aka Skanda, is one of eight divine protectors in Chinese Buddhism.

Chen ZiQiang also offers a step-by-step instructional video on YouTube, with names. I have elsewhere linked to a good (eye-opening!) article about him from KungFuMagazine,com: WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A TAIJI MASTER IN CHEN VILLAGE.

At about 5:40, he lists the nine sword techniques (Jian fa) in the Chen system: beng, gua, liao, pi, ci, dian, tuo, jia, and sao. So, for example, the instruction for Chau Yang is jia jian (the overhead block pictured above).

One last resource, which I think I’ll turn to after my class finishes its review of this form, is Jesse Tsao, who offers an English instructional video which can be downloaded or streamed.

Jesse is a lineage-holding Chen Master under Chen Zhenglai, so he is teaching that version of the form. I find that his videos are well worth the reasonable cost.