The Taiji practiced by the Chen family has become far more popular and well known in recent years. Though few dispute their primacy as the creators of what we now call Taiji there are many opinions about the actual practice of this style. Three main forms are acknowledged: Lao Jia or "Old Frame", Pao Chui or "Cannon Fist", and Xin Jia or "New Frame." With these three as a tripod foundation there are, nonetheless, many variations on the forms and practice of this fascinating style.
on pictures to see larger versions and inner pictures
NEW!! KS080 Shadowboxing in Shanghai:
A Memoir and a Guide to the Traditional Chen Taijiquan From Dragon Park
by Andrea Falk
325 pages, heavily illustrated with clear photos, $32.95 (If ordered with Falk's first memoir, Beijing Bittersweet, 10% discount on both titles.)
In our opinion, Andrea Falk's contributions to the literature of martial arts is substantial, and this new book, Shadowboxing in Shanghai: A Memoir and a Guide to the Traditional Chen Taijiquan From Dragon Park, only confirms her standing.
In this newest book, she layers the memoirs of her own decades of training in Shanghai with detailed instruction and concepts on the first form, Yilu, of this traditional Chen Taijiquan set in Chen Xin's lineage. She writes in her preface:
"I started out writing up this Chen taijiquan form in English to reduce the chances of becoming a lost form. I ended up including principles, conversations with my sifu, training experiences, and whatever came to mind relating to my time spent learning this very traditional taijiquan in Shanghai. I have interspersed these stories into the text, instead of keeping everything all tidy and separate...I have noticed that in many books that describe martial arts forms the important concepts are introduced at the beginning and then the form is presented, getting sketchier towards the end as the repetitions wear down the author...This is the equivalent of paying attention at the beginning of practice of a form and getting distracted towards the end...I purposefully mixed up theory, practice and relevant and irrelevant things in the text. I may or may not repeat important concepts...to give that “just like training with sifu” touch."
Falk has visually set off the instructional material from the concepts, comments, and conversations that also inhabit this volume. The book itself is painterly in its format, exposing a deep appreciation of all aspects of her experience in Shanghai: she details lineage; practical instruction; advice from her teachers; even going into precise key points and connections between Western anatomical and Chinese medical angles.
She ends her preface with this:
"The value of this branch of Chen Taijiquan, whatever it is and wherever it came from, is undisputed to those who practice it. Its intricate coiling and recoiling movements show a true balance, support, and interaction of Yin and Yang; its practical applications are clear and effective; and it directly stimulates the internal system in a way that renders irrelevant any additional practice of Qigong. Performing this yilu allows you to realize that time and space are not as separate as they seem."
KC074 Chen Style Taijiquan:
Collected Masterworks—The History of a Martial Art
by Mark Chen
232 pages, clear photos, reg $18.95 PLUM price: $15.95
A book like this will inform the martial artist on a number of levels. Here, for the Taijiquan student and teacher, is a detailed interweaving of technical advances in the art, with specific references to the famous key figure, Chen ZhaoPi, a pivotal character subject to harsh political reversals. This book also provides an undeniable record of valuable keywords and phrases, and a final generation of skilled masters improving Taiji’s efficacy through real life challenges and battlefield encounters. In short, an undeniable Halo Effect, an amalgamation of knowledge.
Mark Chen's search and find is carried through the book, represented in the blend of history, politics and technical enrichment, a method especially useful during its time for encouraging thinking, experimenting and consolidation—all within the Tai Chi community—using every opportunity for improving skills and plumbing concepts, even for students with little or no Taiji literacy. He includes testimony from many illustrious Chen style teachers, filling out both the history and, not surprisingly, the arguments and contradictions concerning the history of Taijiquan. Chen even includes resources in the original Chinese.
This is a beautiful work of research on Chen style Taijiquan. Many of the pieces here were collected by Chen ZhaoPi, though others are less sure; however, there is no question of the facticity of these ancient photographs, occasional bits of poetry, undefeated matches. This book reminds us that a breathing, moving and adapting art such as Taijiquan is like the cast of a play, with everyone knowing their lines while still allowing for the uniqueness of individual interpretation.
KH021 Hong Style Tai Chi Chuan
Developed by Master Wu Shi-zeng
119 pages, clear photos $32.95
Few people would acknowledge any origin for Tai Ji Quan other than Chen style and its many facets. Coming from this, there also exists a wave of Tai Chi styles influenced by local traditions.
One particular style acknowledges a direct relationship between Chen Fa Ke, (a major martial figure) and one of his students, Hong Jun-Sheng. A beautifully constructed and artistic branch, the so-called Hong style is based firmly on the general principles of Tai Chi and Kung Fu.
This book, the first in English, offers a rare look at Hong Style and its study. There is no fluff here; for instance, a detailed example accompanies a discussion of whether or not the elbows should ever touch the ribs. This is a real—not academic—section, displaying a comprehensive examination of the question. Because of this and the treatment of other qualities and methods, one might come away from this text with the distinct impression that Hong may be a “completion” of some aspects of Chen style.
KC073 Chen ZhengLei: A Taichi Biography by Cui ChunDong
by Cui ChunDong, translated by Jack Yan $24.95, Softbound,
353 pages, English Language, photographs
This book has something for everybody interested in the topic of Tai Chi Chuan—this includes the martial artist seeking for Tai Chi’s principles; for the person interested in health; for the teacher studying his master’s personal approach; or for someone investigating the general growth of Tai Chi. And, of course, there is a healthy audience for those wondering about the personal biography of a special teacher who ended up having to redraw his section of the Tai Chi map.
A book like this—tracing the public career of a man like Chen ZhengLei while building a more intimate picture—can surprise us by an attentive recreation of the high contrasts in his life. One day he receives an invitation to show his art, the next he is serving soup to his children and working without cease. Meanwhile, even the citizens of Tai Chi’s birthplace where he was born, are barely convinced that the art still exists.
This is a tale of two cities. It introduces us to what looks to be like a hunched life dominated by a dust storm. Those early years of depredation show Chen’s personal life of struggle, struggle, struggle. And opposite this is his martial journey, coming on so quietly that he doesn’t recognize he HAS a career until it becomes so big it can’t be ignored.
"The two assumed a sticking hands posture. He thought ZhengLei was small so he tried what he did with his co-worker. He also planned a retreat. If he couldn’t lift ZhengLei he would just move back. He was wrong about that! Just when he wanted to apply strength to do the lift, ZhengLei pulled him in and bumped him right on the chest! “Tong!” He was tossed on out on the ground hard meters away. “Wow, you are good!” he got up shouting."
He starts with a few people asking for lessons and pushes through until there are thousands. He practices for the love of it, but is slowly enveloped with challenges of every stripe and temperament. Though minimally educated, he consults the texts and teachings, studying and applying with such depth that his lectures are universally popular, offering deep insight into Tai Chi's core.
Even more personal is the treasure inherited from his family. These pages chronicle his growth as a youth in a unique family, uncles and cousins all coming from the Chen family, the historical creators of Tai Chi. From the ninth generation to the nineteenth lies an unbroken red thread of Tai Chi masters and players, from military Generals to overtaxed workers. In modern times, blackballed without knowing it, Chen and his mother live a world of continual hard work and inconvenience never expecting dawn.
"Strangely, all the “red” slogans billboards were written by the “black” Chen ZhengLei. Even during that time when a public shaming was planned against him, he was asked to do that. The brigade leader came to look for ZhengLei with a roll of paper under his arm, “Xiao ZhengLei, come on! We have to make more billboards. I can’t do it. It has to be you.”"
While the politics change like a Hawaiian rain storm, Tai Chi’s slow growth is unchallenged, bringing more and more people into the arena, until Chen is recognized by a multitude. Even the now-steady influx of foreign students, especially Japanese, is only a prelude to the creation of new prosperity such as the Tai Chi Hotel. Day after day, new informal schools pop up, and small practice halls are permitted to open.
This is also one of those biographies that doubles as the story of a time as well as a person. It is a record of unavoidable change, where life may be dependent on a phone call by the right person. With so many scene shifts—physical and emotional—you may find yourself shouldering some of the anxiety of his turmoil, as though going through it yourself.
See below for discounts.
KC056-KC058, KC066, KC068 Chen's Tai Chi Series
Chen Zhen Lei, Translator/Editor Jack Yan
Order any three for a 10%discount
Order the entire series plus DVDs for a 15%discount
(discount taken in shopping cart)
See details about each volume below
DVDs by Chen ZhengLei Chen Zhen Lei's DVD Lectures series
This is a major contribution from Chen ZhengLei and Jack Yan, especially if you are an aficionado of Chen style TaiJi. This four-part series, in which each volume stands alone is, at its core, a very detailed description of Taiji health movements, the two major forms of Old style and the two major forms created by Chen Fa Ke of the new style. Then a volume with four major weapons sets explained. Add to this the fact that each volume has its own supplementary text with an in-depth discussion of its topics. The translation is literate and intelligent and very clear. Jack Yan resolves translation problems that have been stumbling blocks for a long time. Of particular interest is the second volume which has over 100 pages on the deeper practices of Chen and how, once you have reached a certain level, to use these principles in your own practice. A bit pricey, but a solid presentation.
We now have DVDs to go with this series. Originally filmed a few years ago these well-known videos have been re-edited and narrated in English by Jack Yan. Sifu Chen's additional instructional material can be found by clicking HERE for DVDs, and HERE for VCDs. There is also a wonderful 6 volume DVD series on Chen Tai Chi principles and theory HERE.
D22063 Lao Jia DVD:
This one gives an introduction, talks about Lao Jia (Old Frame), shows the postures and basics, then the entire form followed by breakdown instruction.
Price: $29.95 and it will be discounted 10% if ordered as part of any three items in this series
D22062 Qi Gong and Health Routines DVD:
KF014 The Five Levels of Taijiquan
by Chen Xiao Wang, translated and with additional commentary by Jan Silberstorff
photographs $29.95, Softbound,
If you are thin-skinned you may find this book an indictment. It is meant to be a statement on the standards for judging one’s own progress in the art of Taijiquan. Chen Xiao Wang discusses those qualities which define each level of practice and eventual mastery.
Basing everything on the writings of Chen Xiao Wang—one of Chen Taijiquan’s top teachers and his own instructor—Jan Silberstorff adds additional commentary to apply these levels to the normal evolution of Taiji skills. He clearly explains the differences in skill and training methods. He details the application of well known features such as Peng energy with commentary on its different features and refinements.
For some, if you take this too seriously and specifically it will be a deflating experience. Having dedicated a substantial portion of his life to this journey, Silberstorff is a determined and authoritative critic. This does not prevent the book from threatening to fall back across that shadow line where, by implication, everything WE are doing is right and everything THEY are doing is wrong. Sometimes this is truly the state of the art, but it can also be the result of over-active critical analysis, so critical is becomes less productive.
KT006 Taijiquan Hand and Sword
Ren Guangyi & Stephen Berwick , forward by Kenneth Chung
photographs by Martin von Hasselburg $24.95, Softbound,
The well known student of Chen Xiao Wang here demonstrates both the Lao Jia form but also the Chen style Tai Chi sword. Excellent pictures and an introduction by Lou Reed add elegance and interest to this book. There are over 1000 photos and the effect is that of an instructional DVD tying together Ren's strong form. Not a great deal of text but all of it poignant and interesting.
KO001 Old Frame Chen Family TaijiQuan
Mark Chen, forward by Kenneth Chung $19.95PLUM Price $15.95, Softbound,
243 pages, photographs
Mark Chen is a disciple of Chen Qingzhou, in fact with the status of "rumen" as a 20th generation inheritor. Chen is a good writer with a keen mind. Much of the information in this book is very useful. First, of course is the Lao Jia of Chen QingZhou ( in our opinion one of the best practitioners of Chen in its combat orientation) is broken down and shown.
Mark Chen also has much to say about many topics and is not shy about saying it. He discusses intelligently such issues as why some sets are slow, some fast, fantasy Kung Fu, Push Hands (along with an instructional section) and more. His comments are intelligent if not sometimes condescending. His honest and incisive criticisms of some misunderstandings about Chen Taiji should interest all players of the art. His introduction alone brings up many interesting and well thought out points on practice and attaining skill. A good book.
See VCDS of Chen QingZhou. DVDS of Chen QingZhou.
KC005 Chen TaijiQuan
Chen Xiao Wang, Feng Zhi Qiang, & Feng Da Biao $16.95, Softbound,
is a major book. It's been around a while but this is still
one of the best books on Chen Style published in China. Two
Chen style Taiji (T'ai Ch'i) sets with examples of self-defense
applications. Short set performed by Chen Xiao-Wang. A fine
introduction for those interested in Chen style. Demonstrations
of usage and good English breakdowns along with some decent
pages on theory. Topics include:
of the Forms in Road One
of Attack-Defense in Road One
of Road Two
of Attack-Defense in Road Two
of the postures in Chen 38 form TaiJi
of: Chen Fa-Ke, Feng Zhi-Qiang and Chen Xiao-Wang
See Chen Xiao Wang's DVD and English language VCD series