Monday, January 3, 2011

Chen Xiaowang Seminar 2004: Journal Notes #20

Notes from the July 23-28, 2004 Chen Xiaowang seminar held at Petoskey, Michigan, USA. The seminar covered Six word qi-gong, Silk reeling, the entire Lao-Jia form and introduction to push-hands. This seminar was organized by The School of Cultivation and Practice. (My current reflections are added in italics.)

(I remember my friend taking this picture at the end of the seminar. Master Chen made some postural adjustments. My right leg was on fire! I was yelling at my friend who was laughing to hurry up and snap the picture before my leg gave out. Master Chen was laughing too. We calmed down and he took this picture. What a great memory!)

I wrote these notes during the lunch and dinner breaks. Here we go:

* One principle, three movements, ten thousand techniques/forms

* One movement principle: move from the center. When the tan-tien moves, then everything moves.

* Three movements:
  1. Forward-backward
  2. Turn left - turn right
  3. Change direction
* You can learn ten thousand forms/techniques but if you don't move according to "One principle, Three movements", then it is useless.

* All silk reeling movements are the basis for and are in the Tai-chi form.

* Stance is the foundation for silk reeling which is the foundation for the form.

* Semantics. "Chi is flowing" means open, full, not broken, connected.

* Posture is the most important. Bad posture is like a car with a flat tire. 95% of people have bad posture that must be corrected.

* Expand. He adjusted everyone for larger, longer, fuller, open, postures. (Everyone was doing the postures too contracted.)
(I remember Master Chen's corrections to my posture resulted in a different, more open or "one-ness" kind of connected feeling and a heavier-ness feeling in my legs. I learned that "bad posture" can also mean being too contracted, 'chi not flowing', not connected and not sunk enough.)

*Keep stance high and steps small. Get clear first. Get structure, correct posture, chi flowing first. This is good. If you work low with bad posture, broken, chi not flowing, this is bad practice.

* Stance - listen behind. This helps sink the chi. (While in stance, he snapped his fingers behind me at about belt level).
(I've used this method sporadically over the years, for example, using a small, ticking alarm clock sitting on the desk behind me. Using this also helped "pull me back in" when my mind started to wander.)
* Learning sequence:
  1. Learn movements/postures.
  2. Learn chi flowing.
  3. Learn application.
*Question: What does it means when the legs shake during stance?
Answer: No shake means chi blocked or chi flowing. Shaking means some chi blocked, some chi flowing.

* Every move can be done fast or slow, with or without fa-jing. Most important, go slow first and learn movement principle, get chi flowing, then fast or slow doesn't matter.

* Much later, when learning fa-jing, only do it when you have enough energy - are not tired. Every or any move can be done with fa-jing. Every move can be done fast or slow. Most important is movement principle. Go slow first to learn movement principle then get chi flowing. Once chi is flowing (connected), then slow or fast is all the same.

* Push-hands is two people doing Tai-chi together; practicing the movement principle with another person.

* Three Languages:
  1. Spoken, aural words. These are the most misleading.
  2. Demonstration. What you are able to see, you will see.
  3. Touch/feeling. You get the feeling when someone more experienced can align your structure for a particular feeling.
(I understand the truth in this more now than I ever did when wrote this.
Those who can talk-the-talk can fool those who cannot walk-the-walk.
You can only see in others to the level you are able to manifest in yourself.)

* I noticed that Master Chen doesn't talk or explain when he demonstrates the form. He's completely into the form. So.... keep explaining and doing separate.

* I noticed one of Master Chen's warm-ups looks like an advanced side-to-side exercise. For example, from the left leg turn the right hip back so hips are angled horizontally to line of feet, then shift on this angle to right foot. After in right leg, turn left hip back and shift into left leg, and repeat.
(We reviewed this exercise in a recent Wujifa class and I learned a lot more regarding how to do this exercise internally vs. externally and where people make mistakes. If I recall correctly, Master Chen did not "teach" this exercise in this seminar, rather, he performed a "silent demonstration".)
If you get an opportunity to attend a Chen Xiaowang seminar, it is well worth it. Although I could not "see" what he was doing internally, his teachings shaped my views on Taiji and internal martial arts. The more I learn, the more I understand what he shared.

See also:
Pizza from Chen Xiaowang over on The Way of Wujimon
Chen Xiaowang World Taijiquan Association
Chen Xiaowang on Facebook

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Practical Non-Attachment: Journal Notes #19
Next article in this series: Living Puzzle Anxiety: Journal Notes #21

Make sure to visit and the Wujifa blog.
And stop by The School of Cultivation and Practice.


  1. That was a lot of fun... Weekend seminars are one thing... The extra time and staying "on campus" walking to the room on breaks if one would like... Yes it was a fun time. I remember people singing the song "Pony Boy" for some odd reason there... there are other stories too... I'm sure some people are glad your blog is about martial arts and isn't a tabloid... LOL

  2. This is the most meaningful post you have made to date. You have captured the essence of Master Chens teaching. Do not try and explain it. Good work Master Mike.

  3. I agree with anonymous here... The simplicity of this post really does just about grab the whole thing. Very inspirational, and has made me want to seek out master chen in this area!