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 either as a DVD or for download). Here is a YouTube clip from that video:


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:
  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:

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


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.

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:


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.

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.) 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.

Double Saber Names Parsed

For the Chinese, I am using the Absolute Tai Chi list (note one typo in move 16, chang for chao). For the English I am using that list but also referring to the translations in Master Tzu’s instructional videos and the MDBG online Chinese dictionary. In brackets, I am connecting to the informal descriptive names we’ve been using in class.

Qi Shi – Preparing form
Quan Wu Hua Chao Yang Dao – Full circle of flowers, Salute the Sun
Qie San Dao Chao Yang – Three cuts, Salute the Sun [3x jump to kneeling, turn around]
Yi Dao Yue Bu – One Cut Jump Forward [turn around, cross blades]
Shang San Dao – Step up with Three Cuts [3x chop on left; cuisinart]
Yan Bie Jin Chi – Swallow/Goose Spreads its Golden Wings [stab both dao on left]
Gu Yan Chu Quan – Lone Swallow/Goose Leaves the Flock [fajin with R dao]
Yi Dao Chao Yang – One Cut Salute the Sun [over the shoulder turn around/reset]
Zuo/You Cha Hua – Left/Right Arrange Flowers [monkey hops]
Hu Die Xi Shui – Butterfly Drinks Water [turn around, 3-cut left and double stab overhead]
Zuo/You Cha Hua – Left/Right Arrange Flowers [monkey hops]
Fu Hu – Tame the Tiger [turn around, 3-cut left, stomp R and cross blades]
Yi Dao Chao Yang – One Cut Salute the Sun [over the shoulder, turn around/reset]
Zhong Kui Zhang Jian – Zhong Kui Wields his Sword [jump L/R to snap blade]
Gu Shu Pan Gen – Uproot the Old Tree [360 turn, cross-step and double chop]
Fan Shen Kan – Turn Body and Cut [jump around to double chop]
Yi Dao Chao Yang – One Cut Salute the Sun [over the shoulder, turn around/reset]
Zuo Jiao Xiang – Left Stir the Top [180 degrees, double chops]
You Jiao Xiang – Right Stir the Top [1.5 turns, double chops]
Liang Dao Chao Yang – Two Cuts Salute the Sun [retreat L/R, turn around]
Liang Dao Zuo Zhuan Xiang – Two Cuts Left Rotation [Bagua Walking left]
You Zhuan Xiang – Right Rotation [Bagua Walking to the right]
Ba Wang Ju Ding – Ba Wang Lifts the Ding (= 3-legged urn) [stamp R and cross blades]
Luo Han Xiang Long – Luo Han Subdues the Dragon [double stab overhead left]
You/Zuo Pian Ma Dao – Left/Right Cut the Horse [fen jiao (toe kick) right and left]
Bai She Tu Xin – White Snake Spits its Tongue [turn around/ reset and snap blade]
Zuo/You Pu – Left/Right Pounce/Attack [Snap blades 1-2]
Shang Bu Qi Xing – Step Up Seven Stars [Turn around to face opposite way]
Xia Bu Kua Hu – Step Down to Ride the Tiger [Turn around to face opposite way]
Yi Dao Xia Shi – One Cut Downwards [repeat Quan Wu Hua then chop down left]
Shou Shi

I needed both Master Tzu (second video of two) and the Chen Zhenglai video to parse the last few names, but I think I’ve got it right. Names, at least. I’m not sure we are doing Shang Bu Qi Xing or Xia Bu Kua Hu quite the way these two masters are doing them, or that those two are doing the same thing as each other. I think not?

Then, where we repeat Quan Wu Hua, Masters Tzu and Chen are doing something different (talking about Yi Dao Xia Shi)–I haven’t figured out what! See ca. 25:00-30:00 on Master Tzu’s second video. But again, there are a lot of discrepancies, throughout, between these two versions and between both of them and ours, which is essentially Cheng Jincai’s (I think). This seems always to be the case with traditional forms. Makes me appreciate the standardization movement.

Shuang Dao Names

Looking further at the names for the first half of the form using:


I’m looking at the Chinese names because they tend to be the same everywhere. English names vary so much with the translation. Absolute Tai Chi gives the Chinese names, but they don’t give the characters or the standard Pinyin, so it’s a little harder for me to look up the exact meaning of individual words. Master Zhu gives characters but they are images, so I can’t copy/paste to a dictionary.

Chaoyang — — means facing the sun or exposed to the sun. This is what Absolute Tai Chi calls Salute the sun; Master Zhu calls it Sun-facing (the Sun-facing Broadsword). This posture, pictured above, recurs throughout the form.

Dao —  — means knife, blade, or single-edged sword, but it seems also to mean cut (Jess Tsao’s translation) or chop, as in Yi Dao Chao Yang: one cut, salute the sun. (I have to believe that’s a typo in #16: surely it should be “chao” not “chang”.)

“Monkey Hop” – Cha Hua (arrange or stab flowers)

Hua is flower. I can’t figure out what cha is, in cha hua. Master Zhu says arrange; Absolute Tai Chi says stab. This is precisely why I prefer to use the Chinese names: Just call it Zuo/You Cha Hua. Easy enough.

Yi Dao Yue Bu

Yi Dao Yue Bu – Master Zhu Tian Cai

Yue bu is a new one to me. Yue can mean jump or jump forward. Yi dao yue bu is one cut, jump forward, pictured above.

Double Saber Names

Absolute Tai Chi (an all around excellent website–look through it!) offers a list of movement names in both English and Chinese. I’ve also transcribed a list from Master Zhu’s instructional videos (which are in Chinese with English subtitles).


Master Tsao also has an instructional video, too, which would be in English, with good (and sensible!) translations. All of his videos are good and well worth the moderate cost.

The immediate challenge is to figure out which name goes with which movement. The one Jesse Tsao demonstrates in the picture above is Butterfly Drinks Water. Referring to the Absolute Tai Chi list, Part I ends with the snap of the right blade, which is demonstrated in Master Gohring’s Video 6. Lone Swallow Leaves the Flock is the fajin.

What we call the Monkey Hop, and Master Zhu calls Arranging Flowers, on the Absolute Tai Chi list is left and right Stab and Flowers.  Honestly, why not just use the Chinese? Cha Hua. Short and easy. And correct! After the second set of Cha Hua, the move with the crossed swords is Subdue the Tiger, Fu Hu in Chinese.


Zhong Kui Wields His Sword is the 180-turn with fajin right before the series of double chops (above). This is the end of Part II. To be continued!

Chen Double Dao

In class at Master Gohring’s Tai Chi & Kung Fu, we have resumed learning the Chen double saber routine. Below, the routine is performed by Chen Zhenglei.


Earlier this year, we had reached the two jumps that we call monkey hops, which occur at about :30-:35 in the video. The name for these hops is actually Arrange Flowers (left and right).

The next move is a combination of three-cutting, a turn, and what we call cleaning the blade. This move occurs repeatedly as a sort of punctuation between sections of the sequence. We do a lot more blade-cleaning than I see Chen Zhenglei doing–it is an optional flourish, as far as I can tell. In any case, the move finishes in the position shown above.


Next we do a three cut on the left and stand on one leg with both knives overhead, as shown above. Afterwards, turn back to the right, leading with a right chop and turn around.

Then we do another set of monkey hops/arrange flowers, followed by 3-cut turnaround and clean.


Then we do a turn that finishes with blades crossed and extended as pictured above–sort of. It’s hard to catch an image of this. He stomps down with the right foot, steps forward on the left, and extends the crossed blades. And Master Chen snaps the blades, thrusting forward.

Three-cut, turnaround and clean. Again, the wash is optional. With or without, we finish each new move in the Chau Yang (Sun Facing) position.


From here, jump around from the position shown at the top of this post to the position shown above, snapping the right saber. We are doing a vertical snap. Chen Zhenglei does a horizontal snap.


Turn to the left, slashing with the right saber, swing both sabers in a big clockwise circle and chop down in a cross stance (cha bu) as shown above. Unwind, jump around, and chop down with both sabers. This movement looks just like Fan Hua Wu Xiou (Pao Chui).


Three-cut, turnaround and clean. Then turn back to the left and perform the same move as above but facing in the opposite direction. That’s cut right, circle sabers and chop in cha bu, then unwind and chop with both sabers, fan hua wu xiou.


Then turn to the right, slashing with the left, in the mirror image of the same move–cha bu with right foot behind, unwind and fan hua wu xiou to chop with both sabers, left foot in front as shown above. From here, return to sun-facing broadsword position at the top of the page.

Recapping the sequence starting after the first set of monkey hops:

  • 3-cut turnaround and clean
  • 3-cut stand on one leg
  • 3-cut turnaround and clean
  • Second set of monkey hops
  • 3-cut turnaround and clean
  • Cross blades
  • 3-cut turnaround and clean
  • Hop around and snap
  • Cross-stance, unwind and double chop
  • 3-cut turnaround and clean
  • Cross-stance, unwind and double chop, opposite side
  • Cross-stance, unwind and double chop, opposite direction
  • 3-cut turnaround and clean

This is a lot of moves at once, some of them quite difficult. We are three quarters of the way through the form, at about 1:30 of 2:00.

Double Saber Next Moves

Also: English names for all the moves so far. I using the translations from Master Cai’s instructional video, in which the form differs only very slightly from the one we’re learning. We are up to the move called Three Cutting, which is covered at about the 27-minute mark.

The Wild Goose Spreads its Golden Wings

The Wild Goose Spreading its Golden Wings

I don’t have Chinese names (yet!) because they appear only as images of characters, which of course I can’t copy and paste into a dictionary. But the English names for the moves are as follows:

  • The Sun Facing Broadsword
  • The Whole Flowery Circling Broadswords
  • The Sun Facing Broadsword
  • Broadsword Faces the Sun after Cutting Three Times
  • Advance to Cut Once with the Broadsword
  • Three Cutting

The next few moves are as follows:

  • The Wild Goose Spreading its Golden Wings
  • The Solitary Wild Goose Flying Out of the Flock
  • One Broadsword Facing the Sun
  • Arrange Flowers Left
  • Arrange Flowers Right
  • Two Broadswords Facing the Sun

This, by the way, is the end of Section One.

Three cutting, what I call a flurry, is not repeated; it’s just one three-cutting flurry on the left (with a step forward on the left, toe turned out), then two cuts on the right (stepping right, toes turned out).

Then step and turn left and step right to the position shown at the top of this post. This is the Wild Goose Spreading its Wings. The snap is the Solitary Goose Flying Out of the Flock. Note here that in class we do a vertical snap; Master Cai is doing a horizontal snap, as does Chen Zhenglei.

The Solitary Goose Flies Out from the Flock

The Solitary Goose Flying Out of the Flock

For the next move, Master Cai first draws back the right saber, as shown below. Then he cuts right over the right foot, left with the left foot, and turns around into the Sun-Facing position. He executes a simple turn; in class we are adding a “blade-cleaning” flourish.


Next, right and left Arranging Flowers. These are what we call monkey hops that finish with a lunge, as shown below. I notice that he backs up a couple of steps, right left, after the hop (which, if correct, solves a problem for me, getting into the lunge). The sabers circle overhead and cross in front of the chest before opening to the final position below:

Arrange Flowers Left (end position)

Arrange Flowers Left (end position)

Arrange Flowers Right mirrors what he’s just done, except that you have to lift out of a lunge (whereas the first time we stepped out from Xu Bu). Steps are Right, left, right, left, right.


The demo and explanation for this movement starts at 32:30 in the video. Again, the sabers cross in front of the chest, with the right above the left, before opening to the final position.

More Shuang Dao Video

Master Gohring has recorded walk-through video for the Chen Tai Chi Double Saber up through the flurry that we’ve just reached in class. There are six videos in all, links listed below.


Video 1: Opening move to diagonal open chop

Video 2: Second movement through “blade cleaning”

Video 3: Three times jump to kneeling

Video 4: Return to Sun-Facing Broadsword

Video 5: Crossed Sabers Clashing

Video 6: Flurry to parallel stab and fajin

Also available on YouTube is a video of Michael Guidry performing Chen Double Sabers at graduation (he was graduating to fourth degree black sash):


Finally, here a performance of Double Saber recorded at the Legends of Kung Fu tournament (looks like Houston, 2012); I don’t know the performer (but she’s good!).



Double Saber – first moves

I’m looking at the Pennsylvania Chen Taiji ( video of the Shuang Dao form. A second or so is missing from the very start. We begin much the way we do for the single saber: step left, step back with the right and step up to right cat stance. Step back with the right and chop right and left with the sabers to reach this position:


I note that Chen Zhenglei steps up with the left, rather than back with the right; then up with the right to right xubu (which we call cat stance).

The position pictures above is called 朝阳, Cháo Yáng, or 朝阳刀, Cháo Yáng Dāo. Chauyang translates as sun-facing or salute the sun. Chauyang dao can be called Sun-Facing Broadsword, and this position, either on the right or the left, recurs throughout this form. Strike this position sitting on the right leg, and you are prepared to cut with the right; Strike it on the left leg and you are prepared to cut with the left.

Next is 全舞花朝阳刀,  Quán Wǔ Huā Cháo Yáng Dāo: The Whole Flowery Circling Broadswords and the Sun-facing Broadsword (I’m taking the English from the Master Cai video). I would have called this three moves, as follows.

(1.) Feet: From the position above, step left, step around right, step across in front with the left, and step out diagonally with the right. Blades: Slash right, left, circle left overhead (now your arms are closed, sabers crossed left on top), and open the sabers. You’re here:


(2.) Withdraw to a left Sun-Facing Broadsword, like this:


(3.) Feet: Right, step around left, step back right and draw back into (right) Sun-Facing Broadsword. Blades: Slash left, then right, lift the left (leading with back of blade), then return to right Sun-Facing Broadsword.

That last flourish, where the left dao flashes up and then returns to the hidden position, is an added touch of flower; it does not occur in either of these videos I’m using. Master Gohring calls it “cleaning the blade,” but the blades do not actually touch. You could add this flourish nearly anywhere that Sun-Facing Broadsword occurs.

When Chen Zhenglei does this “washing the blade” movement, he circles the head a second time with each blade. I notice that he adds this, or doesn’t, randomly from one repetition (of the same move) to the next, so I conclude that it’s optional flower.

Next is Broadsword Faces the Sun After Cutting Three Times. One move is repeated three times, then followed by another move to reach Sun-Facing Broadsword, as follows.

Feet for cutting three times: Step left, then right, turning the right foot in, and step across behind with the left. In class, we call this “jump to kneeling” and give it a little leap. Blades: Slash right so both arms are crossed (right on top) and open out. Master Cai says the left blade blocks up, the right down. Finishing position is like this:


Above, that’s Master Cai (Master Cai Instructional Video); Chen Su Yang is moving so fast I can’t even grab this position in slow motion! Master Cai gives the other side, too (this is a great video!)–click on the image below for a better look:


Then swivel to the left, step right, step across behind with the left to repeat. And repeat again, for a total of three cutting turns. Swivel–or as Master Cai says, make the feet rub the ground! It looks like he’s pivoting on the left toe and right heel.


Master Cai does not jump on these turns; he glides through them. But he does jump into the Sun-Facing Broadsword. Swivel the last time, then jump around with the right and step back with the left. The blade slashes right, so the arms are closed as they would be for a fourth round of cutting, but instead of opening up, the right saber circles the head to finish here:



Next comes Advance to Cut Once with the Broadsword. From left Sun-Facing Broadsword, step right, pivoting to the right on the right heel, step around with the left, pivot the right on the heel again, and step up and over with the left to left-front-crossing sit:


On this one, the blade slashes left, then right (while the left circles over the head). The right circles overhead and the two blades cross in front at the same time as left foot crosses over. In the ending position above the two swords are not vertical but oblique.

Seriously, it is well worth wading 25 minutes into this video. So slow and clearly broken down! One more small discrepancy in technique: we do not touch sabers in this sequence; Master Cai does. The sabers clang against each other, crossed, as they open for the xie bu sit.