Chen-style t'ai chi ch'uan
|Chen-style t'ai chi ch'uan)
Chen-style practitioners in Single Whip
|Also known as||Chen-style taijiquan
Chen family taijiquan
Chen school of taijiquan
Chen shi taijiquan
|Date founded||late 16th century|
|Country of origin||China|
|Current head||Chen Xiaowang
11th generation Chen
|Arts taught||T'ai chi ch'uan|
|Descendant arts||Yang-style taijiquan,
Wu (Hao)-style taijiquan
Chen Zhaopi (陈照丕),
Chen Zhaokui (陈照奎),
Chen Xiaoxing (陈小星)
|Part of a series on|
|Chinese martial arts (Wushu)|
|List of Chinese martial arts|
|Wushu in the world|
The Chen family-style (陳家、陳氏 or 陳式 太極拳) is the oldest and parent form of the five traditional family styles. Chen-style is characterized by Silk reeling (chán sī jìn; 纏絲勁), alternating fast/slow motion and bursts of power (fa jin; 發勁).
Contemporary t'ai chi ch'uan is typically practised for a number of widely varying reasons: health, external/internal martial art skills, aesthetics, meditation or as an athletic/competition sport (sometimes called "wushu tai chi"). Therefore a teacher's system, practice and choice of training routines usually emphasizes one of these characteristics during training. The five traditional schools, precisely because they are traditional, attempt to retain the martial applicability of their teaching methods. Some argue that the Chen tradition emphasizes this martial efficacy to a greater extent.
- 1 History
- 2 Chen forms
- 3 Closely related Chen traditions
- 4 Modern Chen forms
- 5 Weapon forms
- 6 Additional training
- 7 Martial application
- 8 References
- 9 External links
The origin and nature of what is now known as tai chi is not historically verifiable until around the 17th century. Documents of this period indicate the Chen clan settled in Chenjiagou (Chen Village, 陳家溝), Henan province, in the 13th century and reveal the defining contribution of Chen Wangting (陈王庭; 1580–1660). It is therefore not clear how the Chen family actually came to practise their unique martial style and contradictory "histories" abound. What is known is that the other four contemporary traditional tai chi styles (Yang, Sun, Wu and Woo) trace their teachings back to Chen village in the early 1800s.
Chen Village (Chenjiagou)
According to Chen Village family history, Chen Bu (陳仆; 陈卜) was a skilled martial artist who started the martial arts tradition within Chen Village. The Chen family were originally from Hong Dong (洪洞), Shanxi (山西). Chen Bu, considered to be the founder of the village, moved from Shanxi to Wen County (溫县), Henan Province (河南) in 1374. The new area was originally known as Chang Yang Cun (常陽村) or Sunshine village and grew to include a large number of Chen descendants. Because of the three deep ravines (Gou) beside the village it came to be known as Chen Jia Gou (陳家溝) or Chen Family creek/brook. For generations onwards, the Chen Village was known for their martial arts.
The special nature of Tai Chi Chuan practice was attributed to the ninth generation Chen Village leader, Chen Wangting (陳王廷; 陈王庭; 1580–1660). He codified pre-existing Chen training practice into a corpus of seven routines. This included five routines of tai chi chuan (太極拳五路), 108 form Long Fist (一百零八勢長拳）and a more rigorous routine known as Cannon Fist (炮捶一路). Chen Wangting integrated different elements of Chinese philosophy into the martial arts training to create a new approach that we now recognize as the Internal martial arts. He added the principles of Yin-Yang theory (the universal principle of complementary opposites), the techniques of Doayin (leading and guiding energy) and Tu-na (expelling and drawing energy), theories encountered in Traditional Chinese Medicine and described in such texts as the Huang Di Nei Jing(《黃帝內經》; Yellow Emperor's Canon of Chinese Medicine). In addition, Wangting incorporated the boxing theories from sixteen different martial art styles as described in the classic text, Ji Xiao Xin Shu(繼效新書; "New Book Recording Effective Techniques"; ~ 1559–1561) written by the Ming General Qi Jiguang (戚繼光; 1528–1588).
Chen Changxing (陳長興 Chén Chángxīng, Ch'en Chang-hsing, 1771–1853), 14th generation Chen Village martial artist, synthesized Chen Wangting's open fist training corpus into two routines that came to be known as "Old Frame" (老架; lao jia). Those two routines are named individually as the First Form (Yilu; 一路) and the Second Form (Erlu; 二路, more commonly known as the Cannon Fist 炮捶). Chen Changxing, contrary to Chen family tradition, also took the first recorded non-family member as a disciple, Yang Luchan (1799–1871), who went on to popularize the art throughout China, but as his own family tradition known as Yang-style t'ai chi ch'uan. The Chen family system was only taught within the Chen village region until 1928.
Chen Youben (陳有本; 1780~1858), also of the 14th Chen generation, is credited with starting another Chen training tradition. This system also based on two routines is known as "Small Frame" (xiao jia; 小架). Small Frame system of training eventually lead to the formation of two other styles of Tai chi chuan that show strong Chen family influences, Zhaobao jia (趙堡架) and Hulei jia (Thunder style; 忽雷架). However they are not considered a part of the Chen family lineage.
Other Origin Stories
Other legends speak of Jiang Fa(zh) (蔣發 Jiǎng Fā; 1574–1655), reputedly a monk from Wudang mountain who came to Chen village. He is said to have helped transform the Chen family art with Chen Wangting (1771–1853) by emphasizing internal fighting practices. However, there are significant difficulties with this explanation, as it is no longer clear if their relationship was that of teacher/student or even who taught whom.
The availability and popularity of Chen-style t'ai chi ch'uan is reflective of the radical changes that occurred within Chinese society during the Twentieth century. In the declining period of the Qing Dynasty, the emergence of a Republican government and the policies of the People's Republic of China, Chen Tai Chi Chuan underwent a period of discovery, popularization, repression and finally internationalisation.
During the second half of the 19th century, Yang Luchan (杨露禅; 1799–1872) and his family established a reputation of Yang-style t'ai chi ch'uan throughout the Qing empire. Few people knew that Yang Luchan first learned his martial arts from Chen Changxing in the Chen Village. Fewer people still visited the Chen village to improve their understanding of Tai Chi Chuan. Only Wu Yu-hsiang (武禹襄; 1812–1880), a student of Yang Luchan and the eventual founder of Wu (Hao)-style t'ai chi ch'uan (武/郝氏), was known to have briefly studied the Chen Family small frame system under Chen Qingping (陳清平 1795–1868). This situation changed with the fall of the Qing empire when Chinese sought to discover and improve their understanding of traditional philosophies and methods.
In 1928, Chen Zhaopei (陈照丕; 1893–1972) and later his uncle, Chen Fake (陳發科, 陈发科, Chén Fākē, Ch'en Fa-k'e 1887–1957) moved from Chen village to teach in Beijing. Their Chen-style practice was initially perceived as radically different from other prevalent martial art schools (including established tai chi "traditions") of the time. Chen Fake proved the effectiveness of Chen-style t'ai chi ch'uan through various private challenges and even a series of Lei tai matches. Within a short time, the Beijing martial arts community was convinced of the effectiveness of Chen-style t'ai chi ch'uan and a large group of martial enthusiasts started to train and publicly promote it.
The increased interest in Chen-style t'ai chi ch'uan led Tang Hao (唐豪; 1887–1959), one of the first modern Chinese martial art historians, to visit and document the martial lineage in Chen Village in 1932. During the course of his research, he discovered a manuscript written by 16th generation family member Chen Xin (陳鑫; Ch'en Hsin; 1849–1929) detailing Chen Xin's understanding of the Chen Village heritage. Tang Hao then helped publish Chen Xin's work posthumously, entitled Taijiquan Illustrated (太極拳圖說 see classic book) in 1932.
For nearly thirty years, until his death in 1958, Chen Fake diligently taught the art of Chen-style t'ai chi ch'uan to a select group of students. As a result a strong Beijing Chen-style tradition centered around his "New Frame" variant of Chen Village "Old Frame" survived after his death. His legacy was spread throughout China by the efforts of his senior students.
The Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) resulted in a period of Chen-style t'ai chi ch'uan decline. The Chinese government engaged in an active policy to suppress all traditional teachings, including the practice of martial arts. Training facilities were closed and practitioners were prosecuted. Many Chen masters were publicly denounced. For example, Chen Zhao Pei was pushed to the point of attempting suicide and Hong Junsheng was left malnourished. To the great credit of the Chen-style practitioners at that time, training was continued in secret and at great personal risk ensuring the continuation of the tradition.
During the Era of Reconstruction (1976–1989), the policy of repression of traditional Chinese culture was reversed. Under this new climate, Chen tai chi chuan was once again allowed to be practiced openly. Through a series of government-sponsored meetings and various provincial and national tournaments, Chen-style t'ai chi ch'uan regained its reputation as an important branch of Chinese martial arts. In addition, those meetings created a new generation of Chen-style teachers.
The start of the internationalisation of Chen-style can be traced to 1981. A t'ai chi ch'uan association from Japan went on a promotional tour to the Chen village. The success of this trip created interest in Chen-style t'ai chi ch'uan both nationally and internationally. Soon t'ai chi ch'uan enthusiasts from other countries started their pilgrimage to Chenjiagou. The increasing interest led all levels of the Chinese governments to improve the infrastructure and support of Chen Jia Guo including the establishment of martial art schools, hotels and tourist associations.
In 1983, martial artists from the Chen village received full government support to promote Chen tai chi chuan abroad. Some of the best Chen stylists became international "roaming ambassadors" known as the "Four Buddha Warrior Attendants". Those four Chen stylists including Chen Xiaowang (陳小旺; Chen Fake's direct grandson), Chen Zhenglei (陈正雷; 1949–), Wang Xian (王西安) and Zhu Tiancai (朱天才) traveled relentlessly giving global workshops and creating an international group of Chen-style practitioners.
Other well known Chen teachers active in China or overseas include:
- Chen Yu (陳瑜; grandson of Chen Fake)
- Li Enjiu (李恩久; disciple of Hong Junsheng)
- Zhang Xuexin (張學信; disciple of Feng Zhiqiang; teaching in the US),
- Zhang Zhijun (張志俊),
- Cheng Jincai (程進才; disciple of Chen Zhaokui; teaching in Houston, TX),
- Joseph Chen Zhonghua (陳中華; disciple of Hong Junsheng and Feng Zhiqiang; teaching throughout North America),
- Wu (Peter) Shi-zeng (吴仕增; a student of Hong Junsheng in Australia)
- Chen Bing (陳炳; Chen Village)
- Chen Xiaoxing (陳小星; Chen Village)
- Chen Peishan (陳沛山) and Chen Peiju (陳沛匊) have been influential in promoting the less-known Chen Village Small Frame tradition
- Chen Huixian (陈会贤; Disciple of Chen Zhenglei teaching in the US) 
- Chou Wenpei (周文沛; Berkeley California) Student of 潘詠周. Promote and Document Chen-style t'ai chi ch'uan since 1996 
In recent decades Chen-style taijiquan has come to be recognized as a major style of martial art within China. In Western countries Chen-style is rapidly growing in popularity for either martial art (interest in its neijia skills) or healthy life-style (more lively than Yang style) reasons.
Chen-style schools with links back to Chen Village and Beijing have blossomed rapidly in Western countries in the last twenty years—offering a significantly different alternative to Yang family style (effectively the only tai chi known in the West before that time). Such countries with strong links back to Chen Village include the US, Canada, Britain, New Zealand, Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia.
T'ai chi ch'uan lineage tree with Chen-style focus
- This lineage tree is not comprehensive, but depicts those considered the 'gate-keepers' & most recognised individuals in each generation of Chen-style.
- Although many styles were passed down to respective descendants of the same family, the lineage focused on is that of the Chen style & not necessarily that of the family.
- Names denoted by an asterisk are legendary or semi-legendary figures in the lineage; while their involvement in the lineage is accepted by most of the major schools, it is not independently verifiable from known historical records.
Chen Wangting's Corpus of Seven Routines
Chen Wangting (9th generation) is generally credited with codifying less structured practices of his family's art into a corpus of seven training forms/routines. In addition to these "open fist" sets there was also practise of weapon forms and a two person combat "form" called tui shou (Push Hands).
Big frame/small frame split
Around the time of the 14–15th generation, Chen Village practice is said by some to have differentiated into two related but distinct practice traditions, which are today known as big frame (sometimes called large frame) and small frame. The various practise routines embodied in big/small frame traditions modified and assimilated Chen Wangting's seven set corpus and the original practice routines are now said to have been lost. (Though recent claims are being made that Chen Wangting's 108 form has been rediscovered from two possible sources: senior Beijing disciples of Chen Zhaokui; Chen relatives back in Shanxi Province)
There are conflicting claims about which of these two traditions came first. Western theories and most of the famous masters from Chen Village (see Chen Zhenglei's English language book) tend to favor the view that big frame tradition came first (noting that "small frame" tradition was originally called "new frame"). There is a minority view from outside of Chen Village that tend to favor the reverse view.
There are also conflicting stories about the reason for the differentiation into these two traditions. Zhu Tian Cai comments that small frame tradition routines tended to be practiced by "retired" Chen villagers (and mimicked by younger children). It seems this was because the more demanding leaping, stomping, low frame, and intensive Fa jin of the advanced big frame tradition routines have been eliminated and the retained movements emphasize the training of the soft internal skills. Keep in mind that this is only a tendency and a master of the principles may use them to add fa jing, leaping, stomping, and low frame back to the small tradition at will. Just as a master of the large frame can perform the set small, large, smoothly, with fa jing in every movement, low, middle, or high. The traditions are only significantly different because the elder practitioners tend to focus on longevity and may develop injuries if they practice in the same manner as the younger practitioners.
Other authors, however, say that "big" does not simply mean large exaggerated outer movements and nor does "small" simply mean confined/close outer movements. They argue that in small frame both large and small motions are used—with the smaller motions considered to be more advanced. It is also useful to frame the discussion in terms of human physiology. The large and small frame traditions have similar training methods and are training the same tai chi principles (clear movement of qi, shifting the weight, relaxation, etc.) it is only the external presentation that confuses beginners.
In the book "Chen Style: The Source of Taijiquan" the explanation is given that both the large and small frames were developed at the same time, by two related masters, as distillations and simplifications of the existing routines.
Keep in mind throughout this discussion that no literature of Chen-style before 1932 appears to mention anything about New, old, big or small styles. As with so much of Tai Chi history complete comprehension and certainty is hard to find.
It is important to understand that currently what is called "small frame" or "large frame" are not necessarily accurate representations of past practices, nor past labels. What we have now are actually separations of style, whereas the ideology of "small" and "large" frame originally referred to the relative size and method of movement practice within one style. This is to say that the size and method of practice could vary but the style itself was the same. In today's versions of what is often called small and large, the major difference is that of style and method, which are radically different even down to the basics. Regardless of stylistic divergence or political factions, the original concept of large and small frame practice within any one stylistic method still exists in modern Chen Taijiquan methods.
Big frame tradition
Chen family traditions were kept secret from the public until around 1928 when the big frame routines were taught openly for the first time. This was started in Beijing by Chen Fake's nephew and then by the legendary Chen Fake himself.
Big frame encompasses the methods handed down from the late Chen Zhaopei, which came to be called "old frame" by Chen village residents in the 1970s, the reason being that it was all that generation had been exposed to in the village due to the line of Chen Fake having been in Beijing for decades. This method from Chen Zhaopei was not called "old" until Chen Zhaokui was called back to the village to teach due to a fear of the art dying out in the village after the death of Chen Zhaopei. At this time the locals of that generation being newly exposed to the methods of Chen Fa Ke through his son Chen Zhaokui reasonably saw it as "new", to them.
Regarding currently popular labels, between "laojia" (old frame) and "xinjia" (new frame), which one is actually older is questionable at best. So-called new frame is also said by some lines to contain very old methods that were not present outside of the leading family line of Chen Fa Ke.
Big frame encompasses the classic "old frame" (lao jia) routines, one and two, which are very well known today. It also includes the "new frame" (xin jia) routines, one and two, which some say evolved from the classic Old Way/Frame routines thanks to the work of Chen Fake in Beijing in his later years (1950s).
Xin yi hun yuan tai chi is an offshoot of the new frame (xin jia) tradition and blends in material from Feng Zhiqiang's Xing Yi background.
Lao jia – old frame
The Chen lao jia (old frame; 老架) consists of two forms yi lu (1st routine) and er lu (2nd routine) It was taught privately in Chen Village from the time of Chen ChangXing—the 14th generation creator of these routines. These were the very first Chen tai chi routines to be publicly revealed. This happened in Beijing from 1928 onwards—being taught by Chen Fake and his nephew.
Yi lu (the first empty hand form) at the beginner level is mostly done slowly with large motions interrupted by occasional expressions of fast power (Fa jing) that comprise less than 20% of the movements, with the overall purpose of teaching the body to move correctly. At the intermediate level it is practiced in very low stances (low frame) with an exploration of clear directional separation in power changes and in speed tempo. The movements become smaller and the changes in directional force become more subtle. At the advanced level the leg strength built at the previous level allows full relaxation and the potential for Fajing in every movement.
The second empty hand form, "er lu" or "cannon fist" is done faster and is used to add more advanced martial techniques such as advanced sweeping and more advanced fajing methods. Both forms also teach various martial techniques.
Xin jia – new frame
The Xin Jia (New Frame; 新架) is attributed to Chen Fake, and some regard him as the author of the style, while others see him as the inheritor of a mix of different older methods held by the family that he developed as his own practice. Credit for actual public teaching/spread of these two new routines probably goes to his senior students (especially his son, Chen Zhaokui).
When Chen Zhaokui returned to Chen Village (to assist and then succeed Chen ZhaoPei) to train today's generation of Masters (e.g. the "Four Buddhas") he taught Chen Fake's, unknown (to them) practice methods. Zhu Tian Cai, who was a young man at the time, claims that they all started calling it "xin jia" (new frame) because it was adapted from classic old frame.
Some of the main differences that 'new' frame has compared to 'old' frame are xiongyao zhedie (chest and waist layered folding), which is the coordinated opening and closing of back and chest along with a type of rippling wave (folding) running vertically up and down the dantian/waist area, connected to twisting of the waist/torso. The stances tend to be more compact in the goal of better mobility for fighting applications, while they still remain quite low. This form tends to emphasize manipulation, seizing and grappling (qin na) and a tight method of spiral winding for both long and shorter range striking.
Zhu Tian Cai has commented that the xinjia (new frame) emphasises the silk reeling movements to help beginners more easily learn the internal principles in form and to make application more obvious in relation to the Old big frame forms.
It was also recounted that by the time of the cultural revolution, Chen Village was losing qualified teachers of Taijiquan, and the resident students (who are now the more famous exponents of the style) had not been taught much in the areas of tuishou (push hand) or martial application methods. It was not until the return of Chen Zhaokui that these methods were covered in detail, over a series of visits. What some called "Xinjia", or Chen Zhaokui's form, was explicitly practiced with the purpose of developing tangible and effective martial arts methods and strengths. This is another reason it was said to be exciting for younger students.
In Chen Village xin jia is traditionally learned only after lao jia. Like lao jia, xin jia consists of two routines, yi lu and er lu (cannon fist). The new frame cannon fist is generally performed faster than the other empty hand forms, at the standardized speed its 83 movements finish in under 15 minutes.!
Small Frame tradition (xiao jia)
The small frame (xiao jia; 小架) style was until recently not publicly known outside of Chen Village. DVD material has been made available in more recent times though authentic, public teaching is still hard to find. The reasons for this may be more to do with the nature of small frame tradition itself rather than any particular motivation of secrecy.
Although it recently had the term "small frame" attached to it "xiao jia" was previously known as "xin jia" (new frame). Apparently the name change occurred to differentiate it from the new routines that Chen Fake created (from big frame tradition's "old frame" routines) in the 1950s, which then became called "Xin Jia" (by the young men of Chen Village).
Even today some people confuse Chen Fake's altered routines (from big frame tradition's "old frame" routines) with small frame tradition and believe he revealed the secret teaching of small frame tradition as well.
Zhu Tian Cai comments that small frame tradition routines also used to be practiced by "retired" Chen villagers. It seems this was because the more demanding leaping, stomping, low frame, and intensive fa jing of the advanced big frame tradition routines have been eliminated and the retained movements emphasize use of the more subtle internal skills, which is a more appropriate regimen for the bodies of elder practitioners. He also observed that young children used to imitate Small Frame routines by watching older villagers practising and this was encouraged for health reasons.
Xiao Jia is known mainly for its emphasis on internal movements, this being the main reason that people refer to it as "small frame"; all "silk-reeling" action is within the body, the limbs are the last place the motion occurs.
Chen taijiquan Beijing's branch (Xinjia)
This branch of Chen t'ai chi ch'uan is accredited to Tian Xiuchen, a student of Chen Fake. Beijing's branch, called Xinjia (New Frame; 新架) by Chen Zhaokui's descendents, is attributed to Chen Fake, and some regard him as the author of the style.
When Chen Zhaokui returned to Chenjiagou he taught Chen Fake's form, unknown to them, and some of the village started calling it "xinjia" (new frame) because it was adapted from classic "laojia" (old frame). Because of this distinction, Chen Fake's disciples decided to name his master style as "Beijing's Chen style" to differentiate it from Chenjiagou "Xinjia" and considered as the 1st generation to Chen Fake. This means that the disciples of Chen Fake continue the chen lineage (18th, 19th, 20th, 21st generation, etc...) but they usually start counting from his sifu.
The most diffusión of this style came through Tian Xiuchen (18 generation Chen style and 2nd generation Beijing's Chen style), the disciple that more time was learning Chen style with Chen Fake. He introduced Taijiquan teaching in chinese universities.
The lineage of this branch continued with masters Tian Qiutian, Tian Qiumao and Tian Qiuxin (19th generation Chen style and 3rd generation Beijing's Chen style).
Present day it is known Tian Qiutian's tudi: Wang Xiaojun (4th generation). Dr. Wang Xiaojun is a national Wushu referee of China and a graduate supervisor of Beijing Sport University (BSU). He has a PhD in Taiji Quan studies, he is President of National Traditional Chinese Exercise Medicine Institute, after serving as Director of Wushu Department of BSU. He is also a member of Chinese Wushu Association and a director of China Association of Research and Development on Traditional Chinese Medicine.
The Zhaobao Taijiquan shares many stylistic similarities with Chen-style taijiquan due to the influence of Chen Qingping, a Chen Family stylist. His disciples such as He Zhaoyuan and Wu Yuxiang promoted this unique style. Despite the similarities in appearance, this style has its own history, theory and philosophy. This style is considered to be a distinct and separate traditional Chinese martial art.
Chen-style Hun Yuan taijiquan
Hun Yuan t'ai chi ch'uan (Chinese: (traditional) 陳式心意混元太極, (simplified) 陈式心意混元太极) is much like traditional Chen-style Xin Jia with an influence from Shanxi Hsing Yi. It was created by Feng Zhiqiang 馮志強 (one of Chen Fake's senior students). Master Feng, who died on 5 May 2012, was widely considered the foremost living martial artist of the Chen tradition.
"Hun Yuan" refers to the strong emphasis on circular, "orbital" or spiraling internal principles at the heart of this evolved Chen tradition. While such principles already exist in mainstream Chen-style the Hun Yuan tradition develops the theme further. Its teaching system pays attention to spiraling techniques in both body and limbs and how they may be harmoniously coordinated together.
Specifically, the style synthesizes both Chen tai chi and Xin Yi (both Qigong and, to a lesser degree, martial movements). Outwardly it appears similar to traditional Old Frame Chen forms and teaches beginners/seniors a 24 open-fist form as well as a 24 Qigong system.
The training syllabus also includes 35 Chen Silk-Reeling and condensed 38 and 48 open-fist forms in addition to Chen Fake's (modified) Big Frame forms (87 and 73).
The Hun Yuan tradition is internationally well organised and managed by Master Feng's daughters and his long-time disciples. Systematic and comprehensive theory/practice international teaching conventions are held yearly. Internally trained instructors teach tai chi for health benefits with many also teaching Chen martial-art applications. Master Feng's specially trained "disciple instructors" teach Chen internal martial art skills of the highest level.
Grandmaster Feng in his late years rarely taught publicly but devoted his energies to training Hun Yuan instructors and an inner core of nine "disciples" that included Cao Zhilin, Chen Xiang, Pan Hou Cheng, Wang Fengming and Zhang Xue Xin.
Chen-style t'ai chi ch'uan Practical Method
Currently Li Enjiu is the Standard Bearer and Chen Zhonghua is International Standard bearer of Chen-style taijiquan Practical Method.
Modern Chen forms
Similar to other family styles of t'ai chi ch'uan, Chen-style has had its frame adapted by competitors to fit within the framework of wushu competition. A prominent example is the 56 Chen Competition form (developed by the Chinese National Wushu Association from lao jia routines) and to a lesser extent the 48/42 Combined Competition form (1976/1989 by the Chinese Sports Committee developed from Chen and three other traditional styles).
In the last ten years or so even respected grandmasters of traditional styles have begun to accommodate this contemporary trend towards shortened forms that take less time to learn and perform. Beginners in large cities don't always have the time, space or the concentration needed to immediately start learning old frame (75 movements). This proves all the more true at workshops given by visiting grandmasters. Consequently shortened versions of the traditional forms have been developed even by the "Four Buddhas". Beginners can choose from postures of 38 (synthesized from both lao and xin jia by Chen Xiao Wang), 19 (1995 Chen Xiao Wang), 18 (Chen Zheng Lei) and 13 (1997 Zhu Tian Cai). There is even a 4 step routine (repeated 4 times in a circular progression, returning to start) useful for confined spaces (Zhu Tian Cai).
A comprehensive list of forms, old and new, can be found here.
Chen Tai Chi has several unique weapon forms.
- the 49 posture Straight Sword (Jian) form
- the 13 posture Broadsword (Dao) form
- Spear (Qiang) solo and partner forms
- 3, 8, and 13 posture Gun (staff) forms
- 30 posture Halberd (Da Dao/Kwan Dao) form
- several double weapons forms utilizing the above-mentioned items
Other methods of training for Chen-style using training aids including pole/spear shaking exercises, which teach a practitioner how to extend their silk reeling and fa jing skill into a weapon.
In addition to the solo exercises listed above, there are partner exercises known as pushing hands, designed to help students maintain the correct body structure when faced with resistance. There are five methods of push hands that students learn before they can move on to a more free-style push hands structure, which begins to resemble sparring.
The vast majority of Chen stylists believe that tai chi is first and foremost a martial art; that a study of the self-defense aspect of tai chi is the best test of a student's skill and knowledge of the tai chi principles that provide health benefit. In compliance with this principle, all Chen forms retain some degree of overt fa jing expression.
In martial application, Chen-style t'ai chi ch'uan uses a wide variety of techniques applied with all the extremities that revolve around the use of the eight gates of tai chi chuan to manifest either kai (expansive power) or he (contracting power) through the physical postures of Chen forms. The particulars of exterior technique may vary between teachers and forms. In common with all neijia, Chen-style aims to develop internal power for the execution of martial techniques, but in contrast to some tai chi styles and teachers includes the cultivation of fa jing skill. Chen family member Chen Zhenglei has commented that between the new and old frame traditions there are 105 basic fajin methods and 72 basic Qinna methods present in the forms.
- Guang Yi, Ren (2003). Taijiquan: Chen 38 form and applications. 364 Innovation Drive, North Clarendon VT: Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 0-8048-3526-8.
- Chen, Mark (2004). Old frame Chen family Taijiquan. Berkeley, Calif.: North Atlantic Books : Distributed to the book trade by Publishers Group West. ISBN 978-1-55643-488-4.
- Wile, Douglas (1995). Lost T'ai-chi Classics from the Late Ch'ing Dynasty (Chinese Philosophy and Culture). State University of New York Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-2654-8.
- Wile, Douglas (1983). Tai Chi Touchstones: Yang Family Secret Transmissions. Sweet Ch'i Press. ISBN 978-0-912059-01-3.
- Gaffney, David; Sim, Davidine Siaw-Voon (2002). Chen Style Taijiquan : the source of Taiji Boxing. Berkeley, Calif.: North Atlantic Books. ISBN 978-1-55643-377-1.
- Szymanski, Jarek. "The Origins and Development of Taijiquan (tr. from "Chen Family Taijiquan - Ancient and Present" published by CPPCC (the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference) Culture and History Committee of Wen County, 1992)". Retrieved 16 June 2011.
- Junsheng Hong (2006). Chen style taijiquan practical method: theory. Zhonghua Chen (trans.). Hunyuantaiji Press. ISBN 978-0-9730045-5-7. Retrieved 18 January 2011.
- Brian Kennedy (8 January 2008). Chinese Martial Arts Training Manuals: A Historical Survey. Blue Snake Books. pp. 50–. ISBN 978-1-58394-194-2. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
- "Tang Hao". Hunyuantaiji Academy Staff. 6 September 2008. Retrieved 2011-01-19.
- Cheng, Jin Cai (June 13, 2004). "Remembering Grandmaster Chen Zhaokui". International Chen Style Tai Chi Development Center. Retrieved 2011-01-22.
- Burr, Martha (1999). "Chen Zhen Lei : Handing Down the Family Treasure of Chen Taijiquan". Kungfu Magazine. Retrieved 2011-01-24.
- "Chen Zhenglei Website(陈正雷网站：英文)". Retrieved 2012-12-06.
- "Chen Zhenglei Website(陈正雷太极网：中文)" (in Chinese). Retrieved 2011-01-24.
- 王西安拳法研究会 (in Chinese). Retrieved 2011-01-26.
- 天才太极院 (in Chinese). Retrieved 2011-01-26.
- "陈瑜太极网". Retrieved 2011-01-26.
- "尚武太极网". Retrieved 2011-01-26.
- "Zhang Xue Xin (1928–) Chen Style Taiji 19th Generation Master". Feng Zhi-Qiang Chen Style Taijiquan Academy. 2006. Retrieved 2011-01-25.
- "陈式太极--张志俊". 太极乡音(taiji.net.cn). Retrieved 2011-01-26.
- "International Chen Style Tai Chi Development Center". Retrieved 2012-05-15.
- Chen, Joseph (2011). "Chen Zhonghua - Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method and Hunyuan Taiji". Hunyuan Taiji Academy. Retrieved 2011-01-25.
- "Chen Style Taijiquan Academy". Retrieved 2011-01-27.
- "Chen Bing Taiji Academy (陳炳太極院)". Retrieved 2011-01-26.
- "陈小星老师简介". Retrieved 2011-01-26.
- "ISCT - International Society of Chen Taijiquan/国際陳氏太極拳連盟". Retrieved 2011-01-26.
- "Chen Huixian Taijiquan Academy". Retrieved 2012-12-27.
- "Chen Taichi on-line". Retrieved 2011-08-07.
- Ranne, Nabil (2010). "The complex teachings of Chen Zhaokui" (in German). Chen-Style Taijiquan Network Germany. Retrieved 2011-02-02.
- Gaffney, David; Sim, Davidine Siaw-Voon (2009). "4". The Essence of Taijiquan. Warrington, UK: Chenjiagou Taijiquan GB.
- Chen, Zhenglei (2003). Chen Style Taijiquan, Sword and Broadsword. Zhengzhou, China: Tai Chi Centre. ISBN 7-5348-2321-8.
- "A study of Taijiquan"—Explores the extreme difficulty Westerners face in attempting to explore the history of Tai Chi. (Website maintained by Bing YeYoung, a disciple of Chen Zhaokui).
- An interview with Ma Hong Student of Chen Zhaokui, on Chen-style.
- Memory of Chen Fa-Ke by his student 潘詠周.
- International Society of Chen Taijiquan—ISCT Homepage headed by Chen Peishan and Chen Peiju (20th generation Chen family descendants)
- Taichichen.org—Chen Tai Chi Resources (e.g. videos/explanations of all Chen open fist forms)
- The World of Taijiquan—Website maintained by Jasmine Bu and Chong Sien Long (both disciples of 19th generation Grandmaster Zhu Tiancai).
- Chen's Taichi Association - Eastern Canada—Organization operating under the direct guidance of Chen Zhenglei