Chen-Style Double Saber

This has to be one of the flashiest forms in all of Tai Chi. I’ve been working on it off and on for about three years. As usual, I have Jesse Tsao’s instructional video (available from taichihealthways.com either as a DVD or for download). Here is a YouTube clip from that video:

Jesseshuangdao

Chen Zhenglei has made a YouTube tutorial consisting of 8 short videos, each covering a few of the 35 moves. The tutorial:

  1. Moves 1-3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qvs_bIsWw_E
  2. Moves 4-8: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mq0T3Z4Pwr0&t=8s
  3. Moves 9-13: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ze__qQeKwD8
  4. Moves 14-18: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JujcbNnUwyo
  5. Moves 19-22: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JW9gWM8bLs
  6. Moves 23-26: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eQqcHmBOlA
  7. Moves 27-29: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EFsa5qFYsg
  8. Moves 30-35: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1ZXgwJal78

Here’s a video of Chen Zhenglei doing the whole form:

CZjump

When I first learned this form in 2015, I used the long, two-part tutorial by Master Tzu Tian Cai. It’s in Chinese with some English subtitles and rewards patience with very clear footwork and swordplay for every move.

Here is a list of the names of the movements, derived from multiple sources as well as my own translation. The Chinese and Pinyin are certainly correct; the English translations are, as usual, all over the map. I’ve settled on fairly literal, simple English. I use the Chinese. The name of the form is 陈氏双刀 (Chén Shì Shuāng Dāo).

Shuang Dao Names (PDF): Shuang-Dao

Finally, here’s the link for all my posts (notes) on this form, but the resources in this post cover everything I find useful when refreshing or trying to improve my form.

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Laojia Yilu

Laojia Yilu (Old Frame, First Way) is the Chen-style long form from which, arguably, all other forms and styles have been derived. I have spent the last year relearning and practicing this form. The main sources I’ve used are Master Jesse Tsao’s instructional videos (available on Taichihealthways.com) and the YouTube videos below.

I want my Laojia to conform as closely as possible to Chen family practice. Jesse’s lineage as a Chen master is directly under Chen Zhenglei and his form closely follows the video above. Jesse’s instructional video provides ample demonstration and instructions in English. I’ve been able to practice with Jesse in person over the last two years when traveling with him in China and at his Tai Chi summer camp in San Diego. Hopefully, I’ll be able to work with him again in the coming year.

Chen Xiaoxing is the owner and head of the Chen family’s school in Chenjiagou. In a series of teaching videos, he performs each movement slowly and very clearly several times. There are sixteen segments to this series, each just a few minutes long, each covering two to four movements.

laojiaxiaoxing

Chen Xiaoxing is the owner and head of the Chen family school in Chen Village.

Teaching series, Chen Xiaoxing:

1  Beginning through Lanzhayi

2  Liu feng si bi – Bai he liang chi

3  Xie xing – 2nd Shang san bu

4 Yan shou gong quan – Qing long chu shui

5 Shuang Tuishou – Bai he liang chi

6 Xie xing – Yan shou gong quan

7  Liu feng si bi – Gao tan ma

8  Tsa jiao – Ji di chui

9 Ti er qi – Yan shou gong quan

10  Xiao qin da – Dan bian

11 Qian zhao – Hou zhao

12  Ye  ma fen zong – Lanzhayi

13 Liu feng si bi – Jin ji duli

14 Dao juan gong – Gao tan ma

15 Shizi tui – Que di long

16 Shang bu qi xing – Shou shi

Chen Xiaoxing’s son, Chen ZiQiang, is the head instructor at the school.  Here Chen ZiQiang performs the whole routine. And here is the list of movements in the form:

Laojia Yilu List of names

I notice that Chen Zhenglei does Cha bu yun shou in the middle set of Cloud Hands; Chen Xiaoxing does three sets of regular Cloud Hands. Chen ZiQiang does three sets of Cha bu yun shou.

Also, when Chen Zhenglei does the Shuang bai lian near the end, he does not slap his left foot; Chen Xiaoxing does. So does Chen ZiQiang. Apart from these minor deviations, all three masters practice a very clean, unadorned form, and this is what I would like to emulate.

Taiji 32-Step

I keep telling myself: No more new forms! But I can’t seem to avoid them. My Friday class is learning 32 now, so I need links and a list of moves.

32wu

This intermediate-level form is more interesting than I thought (I had only followed along a few times on occasion). For one thing, it is a combined form—I didn’t realize that—mostly Yang but with elements of Chen, Sun and Wu. A number of movements are also in 42, so I am glad to be working on those. Other movements are backwards, so to speak—performed on the unfamiliar side, such as single whip, which is most often on the left, but occurs in 32 is on the right. Cloud Hands travels to the right, too.

Here is a beautiful demonstration of the whole form by Wu Amin (aka Amin Wu, since she is now living and teaching in California): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKilyW_awUo . Also on YouTube, she offers a set of tutorials in Chinese, in eight short segments with great detail. I also got an English tutorial from her website.  http://www.wuamintaichi.com/products/video-products/32-form-tai-chi-1-disc-dvd/

The Chinese tutorials go into much more detail, but of course I miss a lot. In Chinese, she is a very animated and charming teacher. The English version is precise and correct, but confined to a fairly limited script. She is good about making it clear where the various styles come in, though, which I appreciate; that’s the kind of remark that might go over my head in Chinese. Either way, she offers excellent, clear instruction. Here are the links to the Chinese.

Amin Wu tutorial in Chinese:

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVOhB4-k_98
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dMKsndIC2Q
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81ig95q1N-8
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqsHVNf4imk
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZHEOkmzUzk
  6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UILrbgW6bhE
  7. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nNZmbJqE6w
  8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knZgHsAActk

The name of the form is三十二式太极剑 (Sān Shí Èr Shì Tàijíjiàn), and here is the list of movements, for sequence: 32-step-taijiquan

Yang-Style Long Form

I’ve been on a mission this year to correct my Yang-style long form to make it as authentic as possible. I’m studying Jesse Tsao’s instructional videos (available on taichihealthways.com), Yang family videos, and these two books:

chengfu fuzhongwen

Yang Chengfu was arguably the most influential tai chi master of the 20th century, and it is his long form that defines the Yang style today. Fu Zhongwen studied with Yang Chengfu from an early age and traveled with him throughout Yang’s teaching career, demonstrating for him and representing him in push-hands contests, at which he was famously unbeatable.

Yang Chengfu explains each movement in terms of its martial arts application. Fu Zhongwen, by contrast, describes each movement in great detail, but does not make reference to the purpose of the move. I don’t know that you could learn the form from these books, but they serve very well to check the authenticity of one’s own practice.

The Yang style originated with Chengfu’s grandfather, Yang Luchan, who developed a new style of tai chi after studying for ten years with Master Chen Changxing in Chenjiagou. Yang had three sons and many disciples to preserve his teachings, but there is no concrete record of exactly what his form was like.

The historian Gu Liuxin suggests that Yang Luchan’s boxing initially shared more characteristics of Chen style, such as fajin and bursts of speed. Over time, his form took on more and more of the smooth, continuous, and gentle character that we associate with Yang style today.

Yang Chengfu learned directly from his grandfather, and according to Gu, early in his career his kicks were swift and explosive, his movements generally more physically challenging. It was only in the later years that he modified his entire form to adhere to the principle of slow, steady, and soft movements.

Whatever mystery may surround Yang Luchan’s practice, we can be pretty clear about Yang Chengfu’s fully developed long form. We have photographs of every posture as well as the careful descriptions in the two text books. Variations in detail are few and minor, and in the practice of Yang’s best-known disciples there is very substantial agreement and consistency.

In addition, we have the photographs and descriptions of Li Yulin, dean of studies at the Shandong Provincial Martial Arts School, who prepared teaching materials under the direction of Yang Chengfu himself. The major content of the 1931 book is reproduced in Li Deyin’s  book, Taijiquan.

While we can be pretty clear about what the movements were, the naming and counting varies significantly. Some count 81, others 85, 94, 103, 105, and 108. The form doesn’t vary; it’s mostly a matter of whether you count a repeated movement one or three times (cloud hands versus cloud hands 1, cloud hands 2, cloud hands 3). My own list compiles all notable names but no repetition, and comes out to 86. I still usually call the form the 108.

See also:

The Horsetail Whisk

The fuchen (拂尘 Fúchén), or chen (尘), is a soft Taoist weapon from the Wudang mountains. My friend and teacher Hu Pei Yi brought me one from China and she is teaching me a 38-step routine. Here is a video of Vicky Ting performing the same one we’re doing:

vickyting

This is a modern combined wushu form. There is a shorter, faster and more furious traditional form practiced by the Wudang masters. The setting of this video makes me long to go back there!

wudangchen

The chen makes a beautiful sound much like its English name: whisk. A number of its movements are borrowed from the saber (daofa): chan tou, hua. Others are derived from sword (jianfa): jiao, pi, dian, ci, beng. Miss Hu also gave me a list of names and instructions, which it has taken me the better part of a month to decipher.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-9-19,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

Here is the PDF list of names, many of which are familiar from other forms: fuchen38names.

I have worked out all the instructions (with a lot of help) in Pinyin, but haven’t bothered to translate into English; the vocabulary is familiar, with just a few new words. Here are several new (to me) words that are good to know: 弹dàn  (flick); 曲qū (bend, as in 曲肘qū zhǒu, bend the elbow); 把bǎ (handle); 后坐hòu zuò (sit back); 拉 lā (pull). I needed to clarify for myself: 反 fǎn is reverse; 翻 fān is flip over, overturn.

Fuchen 38 names and instructions (may not be 100% correct, errors are mine): fuchen-instructions.

I always enjoy coming across idioms among the names of the movements. Love this one: (#10) 虎踞龙盘 Hǔ jù long pán is literally Where tigers crouch and dragons coil, a lovely figure of speech to describe forbidding territory.

Other good ones:

  • (#15) 声东击西 Shēng dōng jī xī means to threaten the east and strike the west; in other words, to use diversion.
  • (#4) 芙蓉出水 Fú róng chū shuǐ is translated as Lotus emerges from the water,  but Furong is actually hibiscus, not lotus. Anyway, this one is an idiom for blooming, either figuratively or literally.
  • (#17) 横扫千军 Héng sǎo qiān jūn is literally Sweep aside a thousand troops. It is an idiom for total annihilation.

Elsewhere I have seen Bawang ju ding as hero raises a pot. But when I looked up Bawang ju bian (raises the whip), I read that Bawang is a despot! A Simon Legree!

Shuang Dao Review

I first learned Chen double sabers two-three years ago at Master Gohring’s school. I’m reviewing it now with the help of a series of YouTube videos by Chen Zhenglei. Here he is doing the whole form:

CZjump

Here is my final list of Shuang-Dao Names, derived from multiple sources as well as my own translation. The Chinese and Pinyin are certainly correct; the English translations are as usual all over the map. I’ve settled on fairly literal, simple English. I think it’s easier to just learn the Chinese.

Shuang Dao Names (PDF)

Chen Zhenglei has also made a tutorial consisting of 8 short videos, each covering a few of the 35 moves.

  1. Moves 1-3
  2. Moves 4-8
  3. Moves 9-13
  4. Moves 14-18
  5. Moves 19-22
  6. Moves 23-26
  7. Moves 27-29
  8. Moves 30-35

I also have Jesse Tsao’s instructional video (available here), which is in English and well worth the small cost. When I worked my way through the form in 2015, I also used the long, two-part tutorial by Master Tzu Tian Cai. It’s in Chinese with some English subtitles and rewards patience with very clear footwork and swordplay for every move.

Here’s the link for all my posts (notes) on this form, but the resources in this post cover everything I found useful. The version I’ve arrived at this time around is a little different from what we learned in class; it now agrees with Chen Zhenglei , Jesse Tsao, and Tzu Tian Cai.

Chuantong 85

Last spring I asked Jesse Tsao what the traditional Yang-style long form was called in Chinese, and he told me it was known as Chuantong 81 or 85, most often the latter. That is, 传统杨氏太极拳八十五式 (chuántǒng Yáng shì tàijíquán bā shí wǔ shì): Traditional Yang-style Taijiquan 85 form. The key identifier is 传统 (chuántǒng), meaning traditional.

libookAccording to Li Deyin, Yang Cheng Fu, grandson of Yang Luchan, originally counted 81 movements in the long form we call the 108 (some say 103 or 105). Again according to Li, Yang Cheng Fu later separated some of the moves to arrive at 85 steps. In his book, Taijiquan, Li describes the 85 movements, which were recorded in a text and demonstrated with photographs taken in 1931 at the Shandong Provincial Martial Arts School, under the direction of Yang Cheng Fu and the deputy head of the school, Li Jinglin. The movements are demonstrated by Li Yulin, dean of studies at the school.

Li’s book (available on Amazon) is a great reference, not only for the interesting chapter on the traditional Yang-style long form, but even more so for the detailed descriptions of the contemporary forms, starting with 24. The book covers 24, 42, 32 sword, and 42 sword. It would be impossible to learn these forms from the book, but if you know them, the book is invaluable for checking the correctness of each move. Since Li is (or was for a long time) a (if not the) top judge in China, his specifications can certainly be trusted.

I am not sure how to reconcile the list of 85 with Yang Zhen Ming’s (if that’s his voice) list of 108 movements (see the post before this one), or with the Yang Family list of 103 moves. As I said before, these lists vary more than the actual form. But using the name, 传统杨式太极拳八十五式, (chuántǒng Yáng shì tàijíquán bā shí wǔ shì), I came up with this video, which I love.

tashi-1

Tashi performing chuantong bashiwu

This woman is 扎西老师 (Zhā Xī lǎoshī). Laoshi means teacher; Zhaxi is her name. I found a couple of bios for her. She is from Qinghai, Tibet, and her Tibetan name is written Tashi in English. She was born in 1932 and began to study Tai Chi in 1974, at the age of 42, when she was desperately ill. She was taught by Zhao Bin, a senior disciple and nephew of Yang Chengfu. She not only recovered her health but also became the first Tibetan Tai Chi master ever, widely recognized and much celebrated.

Her form looks very close to Yang Zhen Ming’s, and there is plenty of good video available. Here are her tutorials on the long form:

Here is another demonstration of the whole form by Tashi. Zhao You bin is Zhao Bin’s son, and he also offers demonstrations and tutorials for the traditional Yang-style long form as taught by his father, Tashi’s teacher, Zhao Bin.