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:

chaoyang-jiajian

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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4ef-8oCcIU (Moves 1-10)
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNta5a-lfhA (Moves 11-21)
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESnV8IVL0xA (Moves 22-28)
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7nkgG6QDNg (Moves 29-37)
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cd3MDlS-Q7k (Moves 38-44)
  6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bF-A8TJ1pCM (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 (ChenBing.org). 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.

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Chen Sword Videos and Names

I am brushing up on Chen sword and trying to figure out the names of the movements, of which there are 49–the form is also known as si shi jiu shi taiji jian. My school does Chen sword the way Grandmaster Cheng Jincai teaches it. Most of the material I am looking at online is the version practiced by Chen Zhenglei, Chen Bing, and Chen Ziqiang.

Chen Zhenglei Ch Shui

Chen Zhenglei Ch Shui (emerges from the water)

These three videos are helpful. The first, Chen Bing’s, is great but distractingly, when I view it, it’s displayed in widescreen that it was not intended for, so it’s distorted. Maybe that’s just the way I’m viewing it? Can’t figure out how to fix that.

The second video is Chen Zhenglei. Excellent, clear. The third is Chen Ziqiang, and it is a full instructional video with subtitles. Very helpful, though the subtitles and voiceover are not very well coordinated with the video (the name shown is not always the move he’s demonstrating).

These versions of the form differ from the one I’ve learned in several ways that I’ll note as I go along, but also the openings (Qishi) are different–we simply step left. All three of these masters start with a more typical Chen-style opening step (ca bu).

I have found several lists of names, with a few variations, and differently divided into sections. I’ve referred to all of them to settle on the names I’ll use. The lists are:

The first movement is Chao Yang– Face the Sun. For us, this is a simple movement, holding the sword at chest level in front. Next, Xian Ren Zhi Lu –Immortal Points the Way–is easily recognizable below:

Chen Ziqiang Points the Way

Chen Ziqiang Points the Way

Next, we present the sword, turn in place, take the sword and stand on one leg, stabbing down; then stab level to the left. This is Qing Long Chu Shui–Bluegreen Dragon Emerges from the Water; See Chen Zhenglei at the top of this post doing this move.

The slicing back and forth movement that follows is Hu Xi Jian–Protect the Knees. We do only R/L/R and we stay in place. The move varies according to the number of slices and also because some (Chen Ziqiang for example) travel forward doing this move.

Chen Zhenglei Closes the Door

Chen Zhenglei Closes the Door

Turn to the left and raise the sword as pictured above. This move is called Bi Men Shi–Close the Door–but it can also be called Tiao Lian, or Raise the Screen, a move familiar from Yang sword forms.

Next, Qing Long Chu Shui–Bluegreen Dragon Emerges from the Water again, but a little different. Just a level stab. This is followed by turning and chopping back. That move is called Fan Shen Xia Pi Jian–Turn Back and Chop Down.

Turn back, stamp the foot and stab level. This is Qing Long Zhuan Shen–Bluegreen Dragon Turns its Body. Next, Xie Fei Shi–Slant Flying. In Chen Bing’s list of names, this is the end of the first section.

Chen ZiQiang Videos

Chen ZiQiang is the son of Chen Xiaoxing and nephew of Chen Xiaowang. He’s also the great grandson of Chen Fake. (In case you’re wondering, as I was, that’s pronounced Fah-kuh.) Kungfumagazine.com has a good article (from 2006) on Chen ZiQiang: What it Takes to be a Taiji Master in Chen Village.

Chen ZiQiang step-by step Pao Chui

Chen ZiQiang step-by step Pao Chui on YouTube

A lot of video has been posted, and continues to be posted (he is young and active), on YouTube. As recently as May 2015, an hour-long tutorial on Laojia Erlu was posted. He demonstrates each move multiple times, slowly, with names in both Chinese and English.

The intro is long, with history of Chen Taiji (interesting!) and Chen ZiQiang’s lineage and credentials. The actual breakdown begins around the 18-minute mark. The English translations of names vary from what I’ve seen elsewhere, but the Chinese names are the same. It’s my first opportunity to learn how to pronounce them correctly.

Chen ZiQiang Double Saber Demo

Chen ZiQiang Double Saber Demo

I learned about Chen ZiQiang when Grandmaster Gohring (my teacher) sent around the link to Chen ZiQiang’s demo of the double sabers, which we are working on in class. Other Chen ZiQiang video links to study:

The Chen sword demo is another step-by-step tutorial. Laojia Yilu and saber are just demos. For those who like to do push-hands, YouTube has a whole slew of Chen ZiQiang Tui Shou video.

Chen Sword

This form is required for the second degree black sash. The sword is double-edged and flexible, so it snaps when jabbed sharply. It’s the first sword form I learned; I now recognize some of the same movements in the Yang sword forms I’ve been studying.

Chem sword form

2010 Black Sash Graduation

The 2010 Black Sash Graduation video shows the form as we do it, which is the way Master Cheng Jincai teaches it. Here’s a video of Cheng Jincai performing Chen sword at the Legends of Kung Fu tournament. My Chen class performed it at the 2013 Graduation (I’m in the back in gold silks).

I don’t know the names of the movements, though I did find a list of movements on a site for the Dragon River School. I have my own notes describing the sequence; I’ll have to compare the two lists and see if I can make any sense of it. I’m not even sure that list is for the same form.

  1. Opening Form. Step left, sword across chest; shift left, turn right toes in, shift back, pivot on left heel, right arm forward; Step right, circle the arms and present sword; shift back, right toes in, open all the way around to left, return back around to right, sink, switch hands.
  2. Stand on right leg and SNAP DOWN.
  3. Step left and stab level.
  4. Slashing. Cut Right, left, right, left and turn.
  5. Step left and stab level.
  6. Over-the-head stab down behind.
  7. Stamp, step left and stab level.
  8. Slant Flying.
  9. Rhinoceros Gazes at the Moon.
  10. SNAP horizontal.
  11. Slashing. Cut left, right, left.
  12. Sink and Pull Back.
  13. Stamp right.
  14. Stand on right leg and SNAP DOWN.
  15. Stab Up. Cut left and right, left knee, stab upward.
  16. Slashing. Cut left, right, left, turn right, left, right, open.
  17. Stab Up. Knee, step right, left, skip, stab upward.
  18. Stab horizontal. Pull around to left, sink and pull back, step up and stab horizontal.
  19. Twirl Sword. Step left, twirl right; step right, twirl left, turn and face front.
  20. Lunge. Step back with right foot, wipe blade and brush knee, stab overhead and catch right wrist with left hand.
  21. Over-the-head stab down behind.
  22. Fish: Turn back to front, cast overhead to cat stance, step up and horizontal stab.
  23. Slant Flying.
  24. Stab Up Left. Cut left, left knee, stab behind and up to left.
  25. Fish: Open and step right, left, right cat stance stab down.
  26. SNAP vertical. Open to right, recoil and snap open to side, sword up.
  27. SNAP. Turn to front, scoop on right, stamp, stand on right leg and snap down.
  28. Over the Shoulder. Step left throw sword up and over the right shoulder, right cat stance.
  29. Over the Shoulder. Step right and left throw sword forward, around and down in front, right cat stance.
  30. Slant Flying. Facing front.
  31. Recoil, hilt right, step right, left, right, fajin.
  32. Cut right and left, recoil, step right, left, right, fajin.
  33. Fish: Open step right, left, right cat stance
  34. Circle sword and catch.
  35. Slashing. Cut left, right, left, and open, right knee, step right and stab upward.
  36. Fajin. Turn back and stab down.
  37. Slant Flying.
  38. SNAP. Coil, step right, left, right, and SNAP horizontal.
  39. Over-the-Head stab behind.
  40. Horizontal SNAP. Facing front.
  41. Slashing. Left, Right turning, right, right, sink and pull, step up and stab horizontal.
  42. Close Form. Change hands, step left, slip sword, feet together, left hand circles down.

One more video, of Master Chen Zhenglei, is recognizably the same form, styled differently and with a different opening. I like it! And another variation has the opening that looks a bit like a Buddha Stamp, plus a bit more Fajin.