Yang/Chen Side-by-Side (3)

Continuing the Yang and Chen style comparison project (scroll down for the first and second posts in this series), the third video starts with the second set of Cloud Hands and finishes with 收势 Shōu Shì (Closing Form).

Again, I am an old lady; there are no drop-splits to be seen in this video! But you can see that the two forms continue to track each other closely. One disparity occurs at the very end, where Yang does 搬拦捶 Bān Lán Chuí opposite the final occurance of pounding the mortar. Also, nothing in Chen corresponds to the final Yang 如封似闭 Rú Fēng Sì Bì (Like Sealing as if Closing). So I have slowed the closing of Chen to allow Yang time for a hasty finish.

It bears repeating that, necessarily, neither style has its normal pace in these videos. Both alternately speed up and slow down in order to line up against each other. The three videos total about thirteen minutes—a slow-ish Chen and defnitely a very fast Yang!

Also, both of these forms are widely practiced, with minor variations. Where I have had to choose which way to do a particular move, I have used to the following sources to settle the issue:

  • The Essence and Applications of Taijiquan by Yang Chengfu
  • Mastering Yang-Style Taijiquan by Fu Zhongwen
  • Chen’s Taichi Old Frames One and Two by Chen Zhenglei

See also, this series Part 1 and Part 2

Yang/Chen Side-by-Side (1)

I’ve just completed a study comparing the Yang and Chen styles of Tai Chi. The two styles look and feel quite distinct, but the one (Yang) is derived from the other (Chen) and retains much of its essential content.

In an earlier post on this subject I made reference to a very clever video in which the Yang and Chen traditional long forms are shown side-by-side, with Chen Zhenglei performing Laojia Yilu and Yang Jun performing the Yang 108.

In that video, the alignment between the two forms is achieved entirely through very skillful video editing after the fact. The two separate videos have been subtly sped up and slowed down so that certain obvious touchpoints such as Single Whip and White Crane Spreads Wings occur at the same time side-by-side.

At the time I worked up a list (PDF) of the movements in the two forms, side-by-side, to show as many correspondences as possible. Now I’ve gone a step further. I wanted to link up the two forms much more closely, not just move-by-move but down to every corresponding step, shift, and block—as far as possible—working on the assumption that the two forms share a common deep structure.

In this manner, I’ve made three videos of roughly equal length:

  1. 起势 Qǐshì to 单鞭 Dān Biān 2 – Beginning to the second Single Whip (above)
  2. 单鞭 Dān Biān 2 to 单鞭 Dān Biān 5 – from Cloud hands through Fair Ladies
  3. 单鞭 Dān Biān 5 to the end

I am not a master of either style, so I am not the best person to make these videos. I would be happy to see this project replicated at a higher level of proficiency.

Necessarily, neither form has its normal pace. Laojia usually takes ten minutes or so, the 108 twice as long. To match the movements, I have slowed and sped up however and whenever necessary. And it’s not always Chen waiting for Yang!

One irreconcilable difference between the two forms in this first segment is the signature pounding of the mortar (金刚捣碓 Jīn Gāng Dǎo Duì) that occurs three times near the beginning of Laojia. That move has no counterpart in Yang, so in the first video, I simply pause Yang and wait for Chen to make that move.

Also, in Chen there is no counterpart for Slant Flying (斜飞势 Xié Fēi Shì) and the second Lift Hands (提手上势 Tí Shǒu Shàng Shì). However, the retreating move (倒卷肱 Dào Juǎn Gōng) in Chen has five steps; Yang repulse monkeys (倒黏猴 Dào Nián Hóu) is just three steps. So I have mapped the two extra Yang moves onto the last two steps of dao juan gong. The two forms then come together again with White Crane Spreads Wings (白鹤亮翅 Bái Hè Liàng Chì).

Throughout, both forms return again and again to the counterpoint of Six Sealing Four Closing (六封四閉 Liù Fēng Sì Bì) and Grasp the Bird’s Tail (揽雀尾 Lǎn Què Wěi) followed by the shared move, Single Whip. In all, this combination will occur six times.

Next: Part 2 – Cloud Hands to Fair Ladies

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.


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 (cloud hands with the cross step behind) 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.

Laojia Yilu: End of Section 4

We are up to the end of Part the Wild Horse’s Mane, Ye Ma Fen Zong, which is followed by Liu Feng Si Bi and Single Whip. I haven’t found a video that shows the transition from Ye Ma Fen Zong to Liu Feng Si Bi. We left off in this position:


His weight is shifted to his left, and he is facing away from front (front being the way you face at the start of the form). The transition is as follows:

  1. Circle counterclockwise to block down and to the right, while shifting to the right.
  2. Circle counterclockwise again to block down and shift all the way to the left.
  3. Ball-change to turn 180 degrees (to face front) and put the right foot where the left foot was.
  4. Circle counterclockwise again to start Six Sealing Four Closing (Liu Feng Si Bi).

Follow Liu Feng Si Bi with Single Whip as usual. Now we’re ready for Fair Lady (or Jade Maiden) Works the Shuttle (or the Loom). Either way, it’s Yu Nu Chuan Suo, which is why I like to learn the names in Chinese: Jade Maiden, Fair Lady, Loom, Shuttle–these are just different translations.

We’ve got three video clips by Grandmaster Gohring for this one:

This move is so interesting. It occurs in so many different forms–the Yang 108, 24, 42, Laijia Yilu, and Laojia Erlu–which are all the empty hand forms I know. The Yang versions are all fairly similar, but the Chen versions in Laoia Yilu and Laojia Erlu are pretty different.

Yu Nu Chuan Suo in Laojia Erlu is this one, with the crossed wrists, four quick half-steps (we call them bamboo steps, but really, the name is ban bu, ban=half, bu=step) to stage right:

Advance with bamboo step right

Fair Lady, Laojia Erlu

We are learning Cheng Jincai’s Laojia Yilu, which is certainly authentic, but it’s quite different from what the Chen masters in China are currently doing. For comparison, here is Chen ZiQiang (Fair Lady is at about 6:35):

In 42, we do Chen-style Ye Ma Fen Zong. The move as I know it does not much resemble what we’re learning in section four of laojia; it’s closer to what Chen ZiQiang is doing. But then, 42 is a modern form. Laojia is a very old form. The oldest! So it’s not surprising that it has diverged as it has been handed down by different masters over the years.

Laojia Yilu: Tricks and Horse’s Mane

In section four, after the single whip that follows Push Mountain (Tui Shan), we do forward and backward tricks and Part the Wild Horse’s Mane right and left:

  • Forward Move (Qian Zhao)
  • Backward Move (Hou Zhao)
  • Part the Wild Horse’s Mane (Ye Ma Fen Zong)

Zhao (招) means maneuver, move, or trick. Here’s the video:

Part the Wild Horse’s Mane:

And finally, a video of section four through Part the Wild Horse’s Mane:

Ready for Yu Nu Chuan Suo and the end of section four!

Laojia Yilu: Begin Section 4

I left off at the end of section three, with Yan Shou Gong Quan. Next comes the Small Grab and Hit (Xiao Qin Da) and Embrace the Head Push the Mountain (Bao Tou Tui Shan). Master Gohring has made video instruction and demonstration for both moves.

Small Grab and Hit 1

Small Grab and Hit 1 (instruction)

And for Embrace the Head Push the Mountain. This move, by the way, is for when somebody grabs your hair! Also called Protect the Head Push the Mountain, but Bao does mean embrace.

These two movements are followed by Liu Feng Si Bi and Single Whip. This video shows how to get into Liu Feng Si Bi from the push:

Next up: Forward and Backward Tricks and Ye Ma Fen Zong, which I can’t wait to learn. I am hoping that the Chen Part the Wild Horse’s Mane is going to help me with 42-form. We’ll see.

Laojia Yilu: Rest of Section 3

I left off with the double jump kick, Ti Er Qi, but before I move on, I found some more supporting video by Master Gohring for the double jump kick, Ti Er Qi.


Now moving on: Protect the Heart, Hu Xin Quan (more literally, fist protects the heart). This move occurs in the Chen 38 (short form) and Laojia Erlu as well as in Laojia Yilu, and it’s a little different in each. What is in common is the backfist with the right, the pull-down with the left, and the fajin. Here’s some great instruction for Hu Xin Quan in Laojia Yilu:


Here is the Ti Er Qi/Hu Xin Quan sequence:


Next up is the tornado kick. Xuan is loop, circle or whirl. Feng is wind. Whirling wind kick (or foot). For us Texans, whirling wind brings to mind a tornado, so we call it a tornado kick. Here is the instruction:


More explanation of Xuan Deng Jiao:


The tornado kick is followed by a repeat of Deng Yi Gen, this time on the right and Yan Shou Gong Quan. So this whole section goes as follows:

Protect the Heart (Hu Xin Quan)
Tornado Kick (Xuan Deng Jiao)
Right Side Kick (You Deng Yi Gen) (pronounced dung ee gun, by the way)
Hidden Hand Punch (Yan Shou Gong Quan)

Finally, as a little video bonus, here is a more general bit of instruction about the Chen-style stance. It took me a while to figure out how to protect my knees while doing Chen, and this is a great summary that I will do well to study again.


Laojia Yilu Continued

We’d gotten up to the first Hidden Hand Punch. The next thirteen movements are exactly the same as the Chen 38, as follows:

Jin Gang Dao Dui (3rd Buddha Stamp)
Pie Shen Quan (Fist Across the Body)
Qing Long Chu Shui (Blue-green Dragon Leaps from the Sea)
Shuang Tui Shou (Double Push-Hands)
Zhou Di Kan Quan (Looking at the Fist Under the Elbow)
Dao Juan Gong (Whirling Wind Arms)
Bai He Liang Chi (White Crane Spreads Wings)
Xie Xing (Oblique Form)
Shan Tong Bei (Fan Through Back)
Yan Shou Gong Quan (2nd Hidden Hand Punch)
Liu Feng Si Bi (Six sealing Four Closing)
Dan Bian (Single Whip)

Yun Shou (Cloud Hands) is slightly different: we add one extra repetition (left hand extended, step across behind with the right; right hand extended, step aside with the left). Then proceed to Gao Tan Ma (Pat High Horse).

What follows is a short kicking section, consisting of three moves: Pai Jiao with the right, Pai Jiao with the left, and a left sidekick, which I would have called Chong (it seems to be the same as the sidekick we did in Laojia Erlu. Here’s Grandmaster Gohring demonstrating the two Slapping kicks:


On some lists, the Pai Jiao is called Tsa (or Ca, pronounced the way Tsa looks), which is variously translated as slap, rub, or brush the foot. The side kick is called Deng Yi Gen (which makes it a heel kick, literally on one root).

After the three kicks, we repeat Shang San Bu (Advance Three Steps). We then punch to the ground, turn around, do a double jump kick, land and turn to the left. Here’s the video for these moves, with instruction:


For names and translations, the list on the Madison Chen Style Tajiquan website is particularly useful because it includes the Chinese characters. Here’s the list for the new material in this post:

You Tsa Jiao – Brush the right foot
Zuo Tsa Jiao – Brush the left foot
Zuo Deng Yi Gen – Kick with Left Heel
Shang San Bu – Advance Three Steps
Zhi Di Quan – Punch the Ground
Ti Er Qi – Double Jump Kick

Next up, Protect the Heart.

Laojia Yilu Section 1

My class will be learning Laojia Yilu this coming year; we started last week. All of us already know the Chen 38 short form, so we’ve got a running start.

My class performing Laojia Erlu with Grandmaster Gohring, Dec. 2015

My class performing Laojia Erlu with Grandmaster Gohring, Dec. 2015

We count the first section as going up to the first Yan Shou Gong Quan (hidden hand punch). This section differs from the Chen 38 only in the addition of one new move after Lou Xi, which is then followed by a second Xie Xing/Lou Xi combination. So the sequence is:

  1. Jin Gang Dao Dui
  2. Lan Zha Yi
  3. Liu Feng Si Bi
  4. Dan Bian
  5. Jin Gang Dao Dui
  6. Bai He Liang Chi
  7. Xie Xing
  8. Lou Xi
  9. Shang San Bu (Step up three steps)
  10. Xie Xing
  11. Lou Xi
  12. Yan Shou Gong Quan

Shang San Bu

Shang San Bu, Grandmaster Gohring

At the end of the first Lou Xi, he rocks back on the left heel, steps up with the right. He shifts back, swinging the right arm across to the left, then pushes and shifts forward. The right hand is rotated so the fingers point to the left, palm away. The fingers of the left hand point up.

That’s it! Circle the hands to the left and step left into a second Xie Xing. Repeat Lou Xi. We have two videos of this section: