Tai Chi is an accurate reflection of the natural order of things.  As we draw current into the body, value is seen as it moves through the body.  Previously its value had been in potential only.  E.g. Hoarding money.  It has no value if one dies.  Pure potential never realised.  The other extreme; if one fails to value the experience at all, just spend it, bleed it away.  Real value exists when both are honoured.  Most important aspect is to honour the Wu Chi, otherwise expression is disempowered.
Balance and moderation is vital, if an aspect is out of balance the whole is ill.
Tai Chi as a vital part of Chinese Medicine:  Look at the overall picture and develop sense of balance/imbalance.     Martial Art – as much an art as a discipline.  Need to align with the natural flow of things to perceive harmony and disharmony.  Need to develop both intuitive and rational aspects of self.

Philosophy Of Alignment (Attunement)
Appears that life has no agenda, no forgiveness. (Taoists don’t define source, steer away from it).  Life is offered for all.  Therefore all have value and an equal right to life / all hold unique position within it.  We as humans are not above or outside natural law.  We may be seen as stewards, but natural law applies to us as to any other being.  Unlike other religions of separation.
Tai chi is a pure expression of the philosophy of alignment.  Of honouring all aspects of life equally.  Receive value on so many levels through the practice that is life enhancing.  Most powerfuls idea – that of bringing the current of life through the body thus allowing the body to become a perfect instrument, not just in an intellectual, nor just physical, but in a balanced way.

General Philosophy
Circle: honour the life current.

The name Tai Chi Chuan is taken from Taoism.  The Tai Chi (The supreme Ultimate) is a  symbol of the eternal Tao.  It is a circle containing one Yin and one Yang harmoniously interconnected.  It signifies everything in creation which is manifested and the duality that is contained in all.
Nothing is purely light or dark, good or bad in the cosmos.  The Yin and Yang are balanced and compliment each other perfectly.  One cannot exist without the other.  Furthermore they are continually moving and changing.A basic tenet of Taoism states that the Tao cannot be defined.  “The Tao that can be spoken of is not the eternal Tao.”  To truly understand Tao one has to experience it directly.
The I CHING states:
”This ultimate meaning of Tao is the spirit, the Divine, the Unfathomable which must be revered in silence.”  We may use words like Way, Spirit, Truth, Ultimate Reality or God to approximate Tao.  Tao translated as The Way refers to the Cosmic Way of the Universe, the order of Nature.This original, unfathomable Tao was eternally formless and un-manifested, yet complete and perfect.  It is called ONE.  From itself it brought for the entire Cosmos and thus it manifested.With the creation of the Cosmos, this oneness (Tao) became dualistic.  This dualism is termed Tai Chi – Yin and Yang.  It is dualism because it is now individu8alised and therefore separate from the original Tao.  The instant it became manifest it cast its own shadow and its complimentary opposite also took form.
Ina ll things that exist there is Yin and Yang, form and essence.  That which is outer and can be flet, seen etc is form.  That which is contained is essence.  Our body is form, the invisible Essence, Tao took form, Yin and Yang were created: Body and Soul, matter and spirit were also made.
Original essence, Tao, has no manifested form.  It is called the Great Void, Nothingness.  This is called Wu Chi.  But this Void is capable of giving birth to all forms in Creation and all of Creation carries its Essence somewhere in itself. Tai Chi, the Primal Creation is therefore Tao with form.
Applying these concepts to the movements:
Drawing in – Experience – Yin = Wu Chi e.g. Ball
Pushing out – Expression – Yang = Tai Chi e.g. Parting Wild Horses Mane
Chat Mah = Wu Chi
Lifting and Lowering = Tai Chi
One needs to find the balance between the 2. 
Wu Chi – Experience – we receive energy from the Universe.
Tai Chi – we need to honour that experience through Expression:
Otherwise value exists in potential only.  Emphasise the Wu Chi otherwise Expression is disempowered.

What is chi kung?
Chi kung is the art of developing vital energy particularly for health, vitality, mind expansion and spiritual cultivation.

Is chi kung the same as qigong?
Yes, they are the same. "Chi kung" is the usual English spelling, whereas "qigong" is the Romanized Chinese spelling. In Romanized Chinese, q is pronounced like the English "CH" and "O" like the English "U". Hence, both "chi kung" and qigong" should be pronounced like the English "Chi gung".

Are there many types of chi kung?
Depending on how we would define "types", there are two, three, four, five, six, hundreds of or thousands of types of chi kung. Some people divide chi kung into two types: quiescent and dynamic, or internal and external. Some into three types: quiescent, dynamic, and quiescent-cum-dynamic. Others into four types: standing, sitting, lying down, and moving. Still others into five types: Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian, medical, and martial. Some add populace chi kung to the five to make six types. There are various schools of chi kung, such as Shaolin Cosmos Chi Kung, Shaolin Damo Chi Kung, Tatji Eighteen Steps Chi Kung, Flying Crane Chi Kung, Fragrance Chi Kung and so on. Sometimes, people may refer to different chi kung techniques as different types of chi kung, in which case there are thousands of them. Hence, it is understandable that there are also different levels of attainment in the various types of chi kung.

Is chi kung the same as Tagiquan?
They are different, although Taijiquan (if it is practised the way traditional masters practised it) makes extensive use of chi kung. Basically, Taijiquan is a martial art, whereas chi kung is a collective term for various arts of energy, which may or may not be used for martial art purposes. The movements of some chi kung types resemble those of Taijiquan, whereas many other chi kung movements are totally different from typical Taijiquan movements.

What are the benefits of practising chi kung?
There are many wonderful benefits derived from practising chi kung, and they may be
generalized into the following five categories:

  1. Curing illness and promoting health.
  2. Enhancing vitality and developing internal force.
  3. Promoting youth-fulness and longevity.
  4. Expanding the mind and the intellect.
  5. Spiritual cultivation.

Many Chi Kung types focus on only one or two of the above categories, but a few cover all the five. For example, most types of medical chi kung aim mainly at curing illness, virtually all sexual types of chi kung emphasize solely on youthfulness, whereas Shaolin Cosmos Chi Kung touches on all the above five categories of benefits.

What kinds of illness can practising chi kung overcome?
According to Chinese medical thought, practising chi kung can cure as well as prevent all kinds of illness, including diseases like asthma, diabetes, hypertension and cancer which are generally considered "incurable" by conventional medicine. Practising chi kung is also very effective for overcoming psychological problems.

How does practising chi kung cure so-called incurable diseases?
One must, first of all, realise that the conventional medical paradigm is only one of many ways to look at health and illness, and it is not necessarily the only correct way. According to the Chinese medical paradigm, there is no such a thing as an incurable disease, although a patient may be incurable if his disease, even a simple one, has done damage beyond a certain threshold. No disease is incurable because it is our natural birth-right to overcome all types of diseases — if our psychological and physiological systems are working the way they should work. Illness occurs only if one or more of these natural systems fail in their functions. When all our systems are functioning naturally, the Chinese figuratively describe this condition as harmonious chi flow, i.e. the energy flow that supplies the right information to every part of our body (and mind), that provides the right defence or immunity when needed, that repairs all our wear and tear, that channels away toxic waste and negative emotions, and that performs other countless things to keep as alive and healthy, is functioning the way it should. If this harmonious chi flow is disrupted, illness occurs. The forte of chi kung is to restore and enhance this harmonious chi flow, thus overcoming illness, irrespective of the labels one may use to define its symptoms, and promoting health, which the Chinese have always considered to be more important than curing diseases. It is significant to note that the claim of chi kung to overcome illness and promote health is not based just on the above philosophical explanation, but on thousands and thousands of practical cases.

How is chi kung related to kungfu?
All great kungfu makes use of energy training (which is chi kung) to develop internal force, without which it remains at its external, mechanical level, considered by Chinese martial artists as rough and low-class. Hence, a kungfu master may look, and actually is. gentle, yet with his internal force he can cause much damage to his opponent if he wishes. Moreover, his internal force does not diminish with age. and he can apply it for peaceful use in his daily living. Unlike in many other systems of martial arts where the training itself often results in physical as well as emotional injuries, kungfu training with chi kung enhances harmonious chi flow, thus promotes health, vitality and longevity.

How is chi kung related to Zen (Chan) or meditation?
There are three aspects in all types of chi kung. namely form, energy and mind. If you practise only the form, without the energy and the mind dimensions, then you are merely performing physical exercise, strictly speaking not chi kung, for there is no training of energy. For an effective control of energy, you have to enter what is called in modern terms "a chi kung state of mind". In the past, this was called "entering Zen" or "entering silence". When you are in Zen or a meditative state of mind, you can. among other things, tap energy from the cosmos and direct the energy to flow to wherever you want in your body. It is this mind aspect of chi kung, even more than its energy aspect, that enables chi kung masters to perform what lay people would call miracles, or, depending on their attitude, fakery.

(Principles attained Through the heart)

Yi San Tan Tian
(The Intention Guards the Field of Elixir)

(The Mind Abides At the Field of Elixir)

(Qi Focuses [Swells, Accumulates] at the Field of Elixir)

(The Spirit Is Alert And The Energy Is Full)

(One Finger Zen (Chan) Stabilises the Kingdom)

(To attack forward it is necessary to ask the way)

Extend the hand to facilitate the Three Arrivals

Reaching of the Heart

Reaching of the feet (legs)

Sau Tou
Reaching of the hands (arms)

Persistent Training (allows gradual and consistent development of force)

Gradual Progress (allows body sufficient time to adjust to higher levels of force)

Chiew Man Sam Chiow
Morning and Evening for 3 Autumns (twice daily is the optimum training frequency)

One Day Hot – Ten Days Cold (Inconsistent training offers no appreciable increase in force)

The Previously Accumulated Force is all Lost (a consequence of inconsistent training)

Training The Arms (in order to develop power and protection)

Golden Bridge Stance (a method of achieving the above)

Respect Master – Emphasise Morality

Misguiding Student And Wasting His/Her Time

First Gain Health - Only Then Focus On Self-Defence

If your training is in error, you will have come to harm before you can learn to defend against attack

 Strongman Show (Developing Qigong for show rather than for energy/power)

Fall-Hit (Medicine aimed specifically at treating injuries rather than illness)

Good circulation of Qi (meaning Good Luck) - Good luck is the result of aligning with the rhythm of the universe

The Three Ultimate Arts (or skills)

One Finger Chan (The First Art)

Shaolin Marvelous Fist (The Second Art)

Striking Across Space Palm (The Third Art)


Ihave heard that in ancient times
There were the so-called 'Spiritual Beings'

They stood between Heaven and Earth Connecting the Universe
They understood and were able to control both Yin and Yang

The two fundamental principles of nature
They inhaled the vital essence of life
They remained unmoving in their spirit
Their muscles and flesh were as one
This is the Tao - the way you are looking for
Taken from Huang Pi Nei Jing

Standing alone and unchanging
One can observe every mystery
Present at every moment and ceaselessly continuing
This is the gateway to indescribable marvels

Taken from Tao Teh Jing

At the Shaolin Kung Fu Institute of South Africa, the style of Tai Chi Chuan we study is the Yang Style.


There are actually 36 postures in the 24 Posture Form, but if we ignore repetitions, there are 24 different ones. This form is predominately Yang system in content. The following is the names of the postures in English and in Mandarin.

1.     Commencing or Opening (Qishi) (also called Lifting and Pressing Water)
2.     Part the Wild Horse's Mane (Yema Fenzong)
3.     White Crane Spreads Its Wings (Baihe Liangchi)
4.     Brush Knee and Twist Step (Louxi Aobu)
5.     Playing the Lute (Shouhui Pipa) (also called Playing Stringed Instrument)
6.     Step Back and Roll Arms (Daojuan Gong)
(also called Step Back and Repulse Monkey Stealing Peach)
7.     Left Grasping the Sparrow's Tail (Zuolan Quewei)
8.     Right Grasping the Sparrow's Tail (Youlan Quewei)
9.     Single Whip (Danbian)
10.    Wave Hands Like Clouds (Yunshou)
11.    Single Whip (Danbian)
12.    High Pat on Horse (Gaotan Ma)
13.    Right Heel Kick (You Dengjiao)
14.    Strike Ears with Both Fist (Shuangfeng Guaner)
(also called Double Bees Buzzing at Ears or Two Dragons Play with Pearl)
15.    Turn Body and Left Heel Kick (Zhuanshen Zuo Dengjiao)
16.    Left Lower Body and Stand on One Leg (ZuoXiashi Duli)
(also called Snake Creeps   Down & Golden Pheasant Stands on One Leg)
17.    Right Lower Body and Stand on One Leg (You Xiashi Duli)
(also called Snake Creeps down & Golden Pheasant Stands on One Leg)
18.    Work at the Shuttles (Right then Left side) (Chuansuo)
19.    Insert Needle to Sea Bottom (Haidizhen)
(also called Jade Girl Sinks Needle into the Sea or Pluck Needle from Sea Bed)
20.    Flash the Back (Shan long Bei)
(also called Fan through Back or Flash the Arm)
21.    Turn Body, Deflect, Parry and Punch (Zhuanshen Banlanchui)
22.    Apparent Close Up (Rufeng Sibi)
23.    Cross Hands (Shizishou)
24.    Closing (Shoushi)

Chen style tai chi chuan

The Chen family style is the oldest and parent form of the five main tai chi chuan styles. It is third in terms of world-wide popularity compared to the other main taijiquan styles.
Chen style is characterized by its lower stances, more explicit Silk Reeling (Chan Si Jing) and bursts of power (Fa Jing).
Many modern tai chi styles and teachers emphasize a particular aspect (health, aesthetics, meditation and/or competitive sport) in their practice of tai chi chuan. The five traditional family styles tend to retain the original martial applicability of tai chi teaching methods. Some argue that Chen style schools succeed in this to a greater degree.

History Origin Theories

The origin and nature of tai chi is not historically verifiable at all until around the 1600s when the Chen clan of Chenjiagou (Chen Village), Henan province, China appear identified as possessing a unique martial arts system. How the Chen family came to practise their unique style is not clear and irreconcilable views on the matter abound.
Sourced histories center around Chen Wangting (1600-1680), who codified preexisting Chen training practice into a corpus of seven routines. Wangting is said to have incorporated theories from a classic text by General Qi Jiguang, Jixiaoxinshu (new book of effective techniques) and Huang Di Nei Jing (Yellow Emperor's Canon of Chinese Medicine), which described martial arts from 16 different styles.
Some legends (i.e. unsubstantiated) assert that a disciple of Zhang Sanfeng named Wang Zongyue taught Chen family the martial art later to be known as taijiquan. No mentioned of taijiquan was found in the book Biography of San Feng On the other hand some in the Chen family claim that it was Wang Zongyue who learned taijiquan from them
Less accepted explanations speak of Jiang Fa Reputedly a monk from Wudang mountain who came to Chen village, he is said to have radically transformed the Chen family art for the better when he taught Chen Changxing (1771-1853) internal fighting practices. However there are significant difficulties with this explanation: it is no longer clear if their relationship was that of teacher/student or even who taught who.

Chen Village (Chenjiagou)

Historically documented from the 1600s, the Chen family were originally from Shanxi, Hong Dong. First generation, Chen Pu, shifted from Shanxi to Wen County, Henan Province Originally known as Chang Yang Cun or Sunshine village, the village grew to include a large number of Chen descendants. Because of the three deep ravines (Gou) beside the village it became to be known as Chen Jia Gou or Chen Family Village. Chen village has since been a center of tai chi learning. Ninth generation Chen Wangting is credited as performing the first formal codification of Chen family martial art practice.
Perhaps the best known Chen family teacher was 14th generation Chen Changxing (陈长兴 Chén Chángxīng, Ch'en Chang-hsing, 1771-1853). He further synthesized Chen Wangting's open fist training corpus into two routines that came to be known as "old frame" (老架) (lao jia). Chen Changxing, contrary to Chen family tradition, also took the first recorded non-family member as a disciple - the famous Yang Luchan (1820). Yang went on to develop his own family tradition (Yang style tai chi chuan) and was hired by the Imperial court to teach members of the Aisin Gioro clan and their Imperial guardsmen. Tai chi proved very popular and the other three traditional styles of tai chi chuan further sprang from Yang family tradition, some of these styles also borrowing from the Chen family "small frame" tradition (see immediately below). Chen family teaching remained hidden and was not officially "released" to the public until 1928.
Chen Youben (陈有本), of the 14th Chen generation, is credited with starting a mainstream Chen training tradition that differed from that created by Chen Changxing. It was originally know as xinjia (新架) (New Form) as opposed to Chen Changxing's lao jia. It gradually became to be known as xiao jia (小架) or small form. Small Form eventually lead to the formation of two styles with Chen family influences - Zhaobao jia and hulei jia (thunder) which are not considered a part of the Chen family lineage.

Recent History

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 neija skills) or healthy life-style (more lively than Yang style) reasons.
This more recent popularity can be seen to be grounded on "promotional" efforts made by leading Chen style masters at two major periods during the 1900s:
In the late 1920s the legendary Chen Fake (陳發科, 陈发科, Chén Fākē, Ch'en Fa-k'e 1887-1957) and his nephew broke with Chen family tradition and began openly teaching Chen style - providing public classes in Beijing for many years. Chen Fake's influence was so great that a powerful Beijing Chen style tradition survived his death; it was centred around his "New Frame" variant of Chen Village "Old Frame." His legacy spread throughout China by the efforts of his senior students (e.g. Hong Junsheng, Feng Zhiqiang, Li Jingwu, Chen Zhaokui, Gu Liuxin, Lei Muni, Tian Xiuchen, Xu Rusheng, and Li Jianhua).
At this time mention must also be made of the first in-depth book ever written on Chen style. It was written by a 16th generation family member Chen Xin 陳鑫 (Ch’en Hsin, 1849-1929) called Taijiquan Illustrated 太極拳圖說 (see classic book) and proved very popular but was not actually published until 1932, well after Chen Xin's death.
A second significant "promotional wave" in Western countries began in the 1980s. It can be traced to changes in Chinese foreign policy and the migration of Chinese Chen stylists around the world. On a more organised level mention must be made of Chen Village's international "roaming ambassadors" known as the "Four Buddha Warrior Attendants." These specially trained sons of Chen Village are Chen Xiao Wang (Chen Fake's direct grandson), Chen Zhenglei, Wang Xian and Zhu Tiancai. They are extremely well known internationally on account of their many years of relentless global workshops and talks.
Other well known 19th generation Chen teachers active in China or overseas include: Chen Yu (grandson of Chen Fake), Li Enjiu, Zhang Xuexin, Zhang Zhijun. Growing in more recent popularity are Chen Zhonghua, Chen Xiaoxing, Chen Xiang.
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 USA, Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia.

Chen forms

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 appears 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 practise 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 jing 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 manor 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.
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.

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 classic "old frame" (lao jia) routines, one & two, which are very well known today. It also includes the more recent "new frame" (xin jia) routines, one & two, which 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 老架
The Chen lao jia 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 (Fajing) 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 新架

An older Chen Fake plays the "xin jia" form he introduced to the world
This style was first seen practiced by Chen Fake in his later years (1950s) and many regard him as the author of the style. 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 adaptation of old frame. Zhu Tian Cai recalls, as a young man at the time, they all started calling it "xin jia" (new frame) because it was adapted from classic old frame.
The main difference from old frame (lao jia) is that the movements are smaller and more obvious torso twisting silk reeling and twining of the arms/wrists is employed. This form tends to emphasise manipulation, seizing and grappling (qinna) rather than striking techniques.
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.
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 72 movements finish in under 4 minutes.!

Small frame tradition (xiao jia) 小架

This 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 (see below).
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 practicing 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.
The current lineage successors (20th generation) are Chen Peishan and Chen Peiju, founders of the International Society of Chen Taijiquan. They continue to travel and teach small frame Chen taijiquan around the world.

Closely Related Chen Forms

Zhaobao Taijiquan has just very recently gained recognition within the Western tai chi community, and as such many misconceptions surround the style. While it claims Chen style influence and is often mistaken for Chen tai chi when demonstrated it is not a facet of Chen family tai chi. It was said to have been created by Small frame practitioner Chen Qingping.
Chen Style xin yi hun yuan tai chi 陳式心意渾元太極 (陈氏心意浑元太极) This style is much like xin jia with an influence from Shanxi Xinyi. It was created by Chen Fake's senior student Feng Zhiqiang 馮志強. Specifically, the style synthesizes a large amount of Xin Yi Qigong and to a lesser degree fighting movements of Xin Yi. When performed the style appears similar to other Chen style set forms. In Feng's own words: "Our style of tai chi is called Chen style hun yuan taiji. It belongs in the big frame family. Why is it called hun yuan? Hun yuan symbolizes the orbital path of the sun, the moon, the constellations, the earth; when everything is moving together, it is hun yuan. For example, bicycles, it spins; automobiles, the wheels spin; ships, steamboats, airplanes, rockets; it’s just that they have different directions of spin. Airplanes with rotary propellers, they spin like this. Bullets from guns they also spin. When everything is spinning, it’s hun yuan. In our own body there is circulation of qi and blood, and they follow particular meridians. For example, up the inner leg and down the outer side. Same thing with the arms, and also around the belt meridian. When everything is circulating and spinning together, this is hun yuan. Nothing can leave this basic foundation. Even when we’re walking, there are also curved lines involved. Curved lines are better. Everything moves in the orbit of curved lines.".

Modern Chen forms

Similar to other family styles of tai chi, Chen style has had its frame adapted by competitors to fit within the framework of wushu competition and to accommodate the contemporary trend towards shortened forms that take less time to learn and perform. Prominent examples of these include Chen Xiaowang's 19 and 38 posture forms (synthesized from both lao and xin jia) and the standard 56 form developed by the Chinese National Wushu Association from lao jia yi lu and er lu.
In the last ten years or so respected teachers of traditional styles have also realized that 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 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).

Weapons forms

Chen Tai Chi has several unique weapons forms.

  1. the 49 posture Straight Sword (Jian) form
  2. the 13 posture Broadsword (Dao) form
  3. Spear (Qiang) solo and partner forms
  4. 3, 8, and 13 posture Gun (staff) forms
  5. 30 posture Halberd (Da Dao/Kwan Dao) form
  6. several double weapons forms utilizing the above-mentioned items

Additional training

Before teaching the forms, the instructor may have the students do stance training such as zhan zhuang and various qigong routines such as silk reeling exercises. These stance training and qigong exercises are done to condition and strengthen the body to have the correct frame and alignment so as to be able to develop the subtle feeling of silk reeling energy (Chan Si Jing) before moving to the more complicated movements that are in the forms.
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 traditional phases of push hands in Chen Village (see External Links) that students may learn before they can move on to a more free-style push hands structure which begins to resemble sparring.

Martial application

In contrast to some tai chi styles and teachers, 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 tai chi uses a wide variety of techniques applied with all the extremities that revolve around the use of the Eight Gates (Bafa) 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 focuses especially on cultivating 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.

Pushing hands

Wu Chien-ch'uan applying "Wild Horse Separate Mane" on a student in Push Hands, circa 1930
Pushing hands, is a name for two-person training routines practiced in internal Chinese martial arts such as Pa Kua Chang (Baguazhang), Hsing-i Ch'uan (Xingyiquan), T'ai Chi Ch'uan (Taijiquan) and I Ch'uan (Yiquan).


Pushing hands is said to be the gateway for students to understand experientially the martial aspects of the Internal martial arts, leverage, reflex, sensitivity, timing, coordination and positioning. Pushing hands works to undo a person's natural instinct to resist force with force, teaching the body to yield to force and redirect it. Health oriented tai chi schools may still teach push hands because there is a limit to the amount of physical conditioning available from performing solo form routines, so pushing hands adds the weight of the training partner's pushes onto the legs of the student. Training with a partner also allows a student to develop ting jing (listening power), the sensitivity to feel the direction and strength of a partner's force and thereby avoid or redirect it. In that sense pushing hands is a contract between students to train the defensive and offensive movement principles of their martial art; learning to generate, coordinate and deliver power to another and also how to effectively neutralize incoming forces in a relatively safe environment.

Pushing hands is said by T'ai Chi's Chen family to have been created by Chen Wangting (1600-1680) the founder of the Chen style Tai Chi Chuan and was originally known as hitting hands (da shou) or crossing hands (ke shou). Chen was said to have devised pushing hands methods for both empty hands and armed with spears. Other T'ai Chi schools attribute the invention of pushing hands to Zhang Sanfeng.

In recent history push hands has become a part of modern martial arts tournaments, especially those devoted to internal arts. Within this context, pushing hands is not an exercise to develop skill but a competitive sport.

Training pushing hands

In T'ai Chi Ch'üan, pushing hands is used to acquaint students with the principles of what are known as the "Eight Gates and Five Steps," eight different leverage applications in the arms accompanied by footwork in a range of motion which proponents say will eventually allow students to defend themselves calmly and competently if attacked. Also known as the "13 original movements of tai chi", a posture expressing each one of these aspects is found in all tai chi styles. Training and push hands competitions generally involve contact but no strikes.
The Eight Gates (bā mén):
P'eng (py péng) - An upward circular movement, forward or backward, yielding or offsetting usually with the arms to disrupt the opponent's centre of gravity, often translated as "Ward Off." Peng is also described more subtly as an energetic quality that should be present in every taiji movement as a part of the concept of "song" (鬆) or relaxation, providing the strength to maintain structure when pressed and still avoid tension.
Lü ( lǜ) - A sideways, circular yielding movement, often translated as "Roll Back."
Chi (jǐ) - A pressing or squeezing offset in a direction away from the body, usually done with the back of the hand or outside edge of the forearm. Chi is often translated as "Press."
An (, àn) - To offset with the hand, usually a slight lift up with the fingers then a push down with the palm, which can appear as a strike if done quickly. Often translated as "Push."
Tsai (, cǎi) - To pluck or pick downwards with the hand, especially with the fingertips or palm. The word tsai is part of the compound that means to gather, collect or pluck a tea leaf from a branch (採茶, cǎi chá). Often translated "Pluck" or "Grasp."
Lieh (挒, liè) - Lieh means to separate, to twist or to offset with a spiral motion, often while making immobile another part of the body (such as a hand or leg) to split an opponent's body thereby destroying posture and balance. Lieh is often translated as "Split."
Chou (肘, zhǒu) - To strike or push with the elbow. Usually translated as "Elbow Strike" or "Elbow Stroke" or just plain "Elbow."
K'ao (靠, kào) - To strike or push with the shoulder or upper back. The word k'ao implies leaning or inclining. Usually translated "Shoulder Strike," "Shoulder Stroke" or "Shoulder."
The Five Steps (五步 wǔ bù):
Chin Pu (進步 jìn bù) - Forward step.
T'ui Pu (退步 tùi bù) - Backward step.
Tsuo Ku (左顧 (simpl.: 左顾) zǔo gù) - Left step.
You P'an (右盼 yòu pàn) - Right step.
Chung Ting (中定 zhōng dìng) - The central position, balance, equilibrium. Not just the physical center, but a condition which is expected to be present at all times in the first four steps as well, associated with the concept of rooting (the stability said to be achieved by a correctly aligned, thoroughly relaxed body as a result of correct T'ai Chi training). Chung ting can also be compared to the Taoist concept of moderation or the Buddhist "middle way" as discouraging extremes of behavior, or in this case, movement. An extreme of movement, usually characterised as leaning to one side or the other, destroys a practitioner's balance and enables defeat.

The Eight Gates are said to be associated with the eight trigrams (Bagua 八卦 bā guà) of the I Ching, the Five Steps with the five elements of the Taoist Wu Hsing (五行 wǔ xíng); metal, water, wood, fire, and earth. Collectively they are sometimes referred to as the "Thirteen Postures of T'ai Chi Ch'uan" and their combinations and permutations are catalogued more or less exhaustively in the different styles of solo forms which T'ai Chi is mostly known for by the general public. Pushing hands is practiced so that students have an opportunity for "hands-on" experience of the theoretical implications of the solo forms. Traditional internal teachers say that just training solo forms isn't enough to learn a martial art, that without the pushing hands reflex and sensitivity to another's movements and intent are lost. Each component is seen as equally necessary, yin and yang, for realizing the health, meditative, and self-defence applications.
Pushing hands trains these technical principles in ever increasing complexity of patterns. At first students work basic patterns, then patterns with moving steps coordinated in different directions, patterns at differing heights (high, middle, low and combinations) and then finally different styles of "freestyle" push hands, which lead into sparring that combines closing and distancing strategies with long, medium and short range techniques. These exchanges are characterized as "question and answer" sessions between training partners; the person pushing is asking a question, the person receiving the push answers with their response. The answers should be "soft," without resistance or stiffness. The students hope to learn to not fight back when pushed nor retreat before anticipated force, but rather to allow the strength and direction of the push to determine their answer. The intent thereby is for the students to condition themselves and their reflexes to the point that they can meet an incoming force in softness, move with it until they determine its intent and then allow it to exhaust itself or redirect it into a harmless direction. The degree to which students maintain their balance while observing these requirements determines the appropriateness of their "answers." The expression used in some T'ai Chi schools to describe this is "Give up oneself to follow another." The eventual goal for self-defence purposes is to achieve meeting the force, determining its direction and effectively redirecting it in as short a time as possible, with examples provided of seemingly instantaneous redirections at the highest levels of kung fu by traditional teachers. Pushing hands also teaches students safety habits in regard to their own vital areas, especially acupressure points, as well as introducing them to the principles of chin na and some aspects of the manipulative therapy or tui na also taught in traditional T'ai Chi Ch'uan schools. At a certain point, pushing hands begins to take on aspects of ch'i kung, as the students learn to coordinate their movements in attack and defense with their breathing.