World Chen Xiao Wang Taijiquan Association

The Dantian connection

Master Chen Xiaowang

19th generation successor of Chen Family Taiji. President of International Chen Xiaowang Taichi Association. Head of Chen Style Taiji both recognized domestically and internationally. His father was Master Chen Zhaoxu of the 18th generation, his grandfather Master Chen Fadou of the 17th generation, his great grandfather Master Chen Zhaoxi of the 16th generation, his great-great-grandfather Master Chen Gengyun of the 15th generation... They were all Head of Chen Family Taiji.

Born into the famous Chen Taiji Family in October, 1945. He started his training with his father Master Chen Zhaoxu when he was a small child. Then he learned Chen Taichi - Laojia, Yilu, Erlu and forms with sword, spear and pole. He learned 5-step Tui Shou from Master Chen Zhaopi and Chen Style 83 Form, Yilu, Erlu and Single Taichi Arresting/Qinna techniques from Master Chen Zhaokui. With his outstanding talents and incredible diligence, he came to the depth of this technique very quickly and became the chief representative of Chen Taiji.

In the early 1980s the world came to know this master from the documentary shot by Central China TV Station; people who didnt know Taiji was astonished to see that in the world there was such a beautiful art and people who knew Taiji were also surprised to see that there was a person who practiced this art unbelievably well.

Between 1980-1982, he won the National Champion three times in a row. In 1985, he became Taiji Champion at the 1st International Martial Arts Invitational Competition held in Xian, China.

In 1990 he migrated to Australia, ever since then he has been traveling the globe once or twice a year giving seminars for people who love Taichi.

'Shichuan Chenshi Taijiquan Chen Style Taichi from Family Heritage'
'Chenshi sanshiba shi taijiquan, Chen Style Taichi in 38 Form'
Numerous articles and VCD/DVDs released in different countries.

Chen Xiaowanqs Teaching - The Dantian Connection

Coordinating the energy of the dantian with the rest of the body through correct movement is the key to efficient use of neutralization and power in Taijiquan, according to Chen Xiaowang, one of the top Chen Masters. The links enabling the dantian to connect energy to the rest of the body, is the practice of chan su jin, or spiral force, with correct movement, making it possible to mobilize the entire body in each movement, whether advancing or retreating. Chen described the dantian, the area in the lower abdomen, as the main energy center in the body and the main source of power in Taijiquan.

"That is where the energy comes from. The force originates from the dantian area, then you coordinate the rest of the body with the source, the dantian. The dantian area by itself doesn't have much force. But when it is coordinated with the rest of the body, it can coordinate a lot of force. When you initiate movement from the dantian area, the energy from the dantian will communicate with the rest of the body. Then together, the energy becomes a strong force."

The spiral force comes into play when you rotate the dantian area from left to right and then push with the whole body, moving from left to right.

"This will generate force. The body then pushes the hands, which express the force. Once the dantian is moved, it will push the hands accordingly, after proper training. The dantian is just like the center of a circle or sphere. Once it moves, the whole body responds to that movement. When the dantian starts moving, you connect it with your muscle and bone to your hands and feet and they start moving together.

"If the hand moves by itself, it is not correct. The dantian makes the connection through the muscle and bones to push the hands. It is the same thing with the legs. The whole body is coordinated. It is like the Taiji diagram. It is a three-dimensional movement, with the dantian driving the hip, the leg, knee, and feet, all coordinated together. As the center of all energy in the body, it will push the force to the rest of the body.

"The movement of the hand or a leg kick by itself is not powerful. But if you use the dantian center to coordinate the energy through the muscles and bones in all the body, then the force can become very strong."

He said the dantian is strengthened by standing postures and through correct movement and alignment. Qi, he said, is itself very weak.

"It cannot do much movement. And the muscle without the qi cannot do any useful work. The dantian through the qi will communicate the movement to the muscle and then the muscle communicates with the bone. The communication is through the jingluo, or meridian channels, that run up and down and around the body. When the qi is generated in the dantian area, it communicates to the cells, muscles and bone, the entire body. Then the whole body can move the force. It is a combination of qi, muscle and bone. The qi is like a wire that ignites a bomb. The wire communicates the ignition information to the bomb."

He gave the example of a 100 kilogram bomb. If there is only one wire to ignite the bomb, one wire would have to set off the entire 100 kilograms of explosives. If there are two wires, each wire can be responsible for half the bomb.

"If the energy of the dantian can only communicate half of the energy to the hands and legs, then only half of their force will be useful. If 100 percent of the energy is communicated and flows to the body, then the strongest force can be used."

Chen said it is important to control the qi flow by moving slowly, having correct alignment, and practicing standing postures. He compared the flow of qi to water, saying that when a stream flows naturally it can clear leaves that fall in the stream.

"When you practice Taijiquan, your qi flow is many times stronger than the natural flow and it can flush out blockages. The principle way of communication is the correct movement. The correct movement is very important. That is how the dantian can communicate with the muscle, which is the main mechanism of communication."

"You move the dantian and then it connects with the muscle, and the muscle connects with the hand and leg. That is what is meant by the correct movement. In Taiji, this is very important. This is the essence of Taiji."

He cautioned against being misled by isolated movement.

"Even turning the dantian by itself doesn't do much. The dantian is the storage space for the energy of the whole body, but by itself, it is not too useful. But when the dantian movement is connected with the rest of the body and the hands and legs, then the whole working together can generate force."

The Yin/Yang aspect of the dantian, he said, conies into play in the movement of qi. When the qi comes from the dantian outward to someplace like the hand, then the dantian is functioning in a Yang mode. When the qi is moving from the body extremity to the dantian, then it is said to be in a Yin mode. The way the mind is employed in doing movement, he said, depends on whether the practitioner is in an early, middle, or advanced stage of development.

"At an early stage, half your mind concentrates on the movement itself and how the muscles communicate with the hands and other parts of the body. The other half is empty so you can be open to how the body feels. At the intermediate stage, half of the mind pays attention to the movement and the other half to the movement of qi itself. In an advanced stage, all the channels in the body are functioning and you no longer have to think about it or notice the movement of energy. Then you can work on imagining how an opponent might attack you and how a particular movement might counteract the attack. You pay attention to applications in the advanced stage because at this advanced state, the energy is now moving freely through the body. But no matter what stage you are in, it is important not to focus on just a single spot on the body. You must pay attention to the whole body, not just local parts of the body."

In regard to whether certain acupuncture points are stimulated by particular movements, Chen said that different postures require different coordination of the muscles. Therefore, because different muscles are activated, those acupuncture points and channels particular to the different muscles will be activated and stimulated. Because the qi in the body communicates through the channels, different postures will push different channels and influence different acupuncture points, he said.

Breathing in Taijiquan, he said, involves certain principles. However, he cautioned against trying to control the breath during movement. "You must breathe naturally, even though there are specific principles associated with breathing. The principle for breathing is that when you energize or attack, then you should breathe out, exhale. When you withdraw or collect yourself, then you breathe in, inhale.

"At the beginning, because students are unfamiliar with the movements, they are not doing the movement correctly or applying force correctly. Therefore, they should not control the breathing. Just let the body adjust the breathing according to what the body needs. After you accumulate more experience in Taiji practice, your movement will become better and better and more correct. Then the body requirement for oxygen and air will adjust itself to approach the correct principles of breathing. If you try to control the breathing while inexperienced, you can hurt, rather than help, the body."

He gave the example of someone doing the movement wrong but breathing naturally so that the body receives the air it needs. That is basically correct breathing. However, if your movement is not correct and you apply the correct breathing into that movement, then it is the wrong breathing.

"You must breathe naturally based on your own body's response to its needs. This is very important. Breathing is your most honest and best friend. If you start running or jumping, the body will respond very naturally as you go faster and faster. Even though you may forget about many things, the body will not forget about breathing. The body will respond to whatever you need naturally."

There are two major categories of jing, he said. One is not obvious and involves small movements and is called hidden jing, or anjing. The other category of jing, he said, is fajing, or explosive jing. He said that jing, qi and shen are different but related. Jing is the reproductive essence of the body and is like the foundation of a building. Qi is the energy of the body and shen, spirit, is at a higher level and is like the top of the building.

Chen said there are two important factors in the practice of Taijiquan that every practitioner should learn. The first principle, he said, is correct posture. This starts with the first posture in which the student prepares to make the first movement. In this initial stance, he said, the students should get their bodies ready for the rest of the Taiji form.

"It is just like driving a car. Before you start the car, you must adjust the mirror, the windows, the seat, etc. In Taiji, the first thing is to relax your whole body and to let the energy everywhere in the body communicate with the dantian. The dantian is the center of energy of the body. And the body must be in balance. The body and mind need to be very peaceful and quiet. When the rest of the body is able to communicate with the dantian, then when the dantian moves, the rest of the body can follow."

He said the posture is similar to zhan zhuang, standing meditation, in the sense that both increase the communication between the dantian and the rest of the body. He said it is very important to understand this principle.

"When you just open up your hand, the body and its energy is not quite ready yet. The energies of the body are not quite ready to communicate with the dantian yet. So you have to do the standing, zhan zhuang. Stand for enough time to reinforce the communication of the energy of body with the dantian. When you understand this, then you understand the principle of the movement."

The second principle, he said, is that of a rippling of the body as the shoulders, chest, and hips rotate in small circles, front and back, supported by the rotation of the dantian and the movement of the legs. Similarly, another aspect is a side-to-side-to-side movement with the rotation of the dantian. He explained that it is a little different from chan su jin, or spiral movement, because the rippling movement is done in transition from one posture to another.

Chen said once a person understands these concepts preparation, forward and back rippling and spiral movement then he can understand all the movements in Chen Taijiquan.

"If you don't understand these principles, it is like being a tree without roots that cannot grow. Once you understand the principles, then it is like being a tree with roots."

One of the common mistakes that students make, Chen said, is not to understand and follow these principles.

"They just follow blindly without understanding the motions of the teacher and without understanding the principles."

He cited an example of a teacher in Singapore who injured his leg and was in pain with each movement. His students followed his incorrect movement and his expression of pain without questioning.

"It is very important to understand that each of the movements have their own principles and purposes. The teacher must follow the principles. Once the teacher teaches the principles, the student can see if the teacher is doing the movement correctly. And they can also evaluate other students' practice. And the teacher can use the same principles to judge the students. I would like very much to see both the student and the teacher move forward together and not just have the student follow the teacher. They should both be able to move forward toward some goal."

Before beginning the practice of push hands, he said, the student must wait until he understands correct movement.

"This includes the principle that once the dantian moves, the whole body moves. After that he can start practicing push hands. Once you understand the coordination of the whole body, then you will not use just the top of the body to do push hands. You will not just push with the hand. If the person doesn't understand the coordination of the body with the hand, then he will just use the hand and arm for pushing. This results in the use of just local force to push the opponent. The people who understand the coordination use the whole body for their push and release in the proper way."

Nowadays, he said, people go quickly into push hands because they are interested in it.

"They should not use brute force, but try to do push hands as soft as possible. Then, accordingly, people who know how to use force intelligently, rather than using brute force, will use their force smart."

The concept of central equilibrium, he said, is similar to principles involving the first posture and the two movement principles. He said the dantian is used to center each movement.

"Many times, people lose or fail because they don't maintain the posture and the balance of the dantian. If you can maintain the balance of the dantian to keep your balance, then it is very difficult for you to lose. Maintain your beginning posture and then when you move, move according to the two movement principles, left and right and back and forth."

The correct practice of the form, he said, will help in the development of the central equilibrium. He said it is important to understand Yin and Yang and solid and empty.

"It is difficult to explain the meaning of solid and empty. For example, usually the language to describe someone who does not distinguish between Yin and Yang is to say that they are double-weighted. Even the word double-weighted is not quite correct. Double-weighted means that both sides have the same weight. If this is the case, then to avoid that all you have to do is make one side lighter than the other. That is too easy. Then everybody would be able to do that.The real meaning, the real interpretation, is that it is a static posture. The body is not moving. When the body is in movement, if there is a static posture, the energy in the body cannot travel easily. That is stagnation. Then the Taiji diagram becomes disturbed. The real meaning of double-weighted is that the Taiji Yin/Yang balance is not correct. There is no balance and no flow. If you just make one side lighter than the other, than anybody can understand Taiji easily. The real meaning is stagnation of energy. The Taiji diagram is no longer flowing."

Qigong, Chen said, works the same as the preparation posture.

"The dantian qi goes to the various parts of the body, and then the energy from the rest of the body goes back to the dantian. But Taijiquan is a fighting art, so it is a lot more complicated than qigong."

When asked what types of qigong might be useful for Taiji training, Chen said: "In my opinion, Taijiquan is already a very complete set of qigong. You won't need any other kind of qigong. It is a more complete system of qigong. Very complete."

Commenting on the rough and tumble nature of push hands competition in China, he said it is the result of people not having practiced properly and entering tournament competition before they have completed their training.

"Also, both persons in the ring are trying to actively attack, instead of one being active and the other neutralizing."

There are two different aspects of push hands, he said. One is actively attacking, such as in a push. The other is passively protecting yourself, as in a pull back.

"If someone pushes me, he is the attacker. I become passive. In this case, the man attacking should practice the principles involved in attack. And the person defending should practice how to avoid damage from an attack. Then you alternate, so you can learn both methods."

Regarding peng (Ward Off energy), Chen said the basic idea for it is for the energy of the body to flow smoothly.

"There is no stagnation. If the energy cannot enter any part of the body, there is no longer peng jin. If in a certain area of the body there is too much energy, then that is also not peng jin. Peng means just the right amount of energy in each part of the body. The best peng jin is the energy which circulates to every portion of the body. It is not too much and not too little. It is just the right amount. Then that person has very good peng jin."

Chen said a good way to produce peng jin is to cultivate a mind that is very clear and peaceful.

"You cannot just say, 'I am going to produce peng jin and demand it.' That is the wrong way. The mind must be relaxed and at peace, with the energy flowing and no stagnation. If you just pay attention to peng jin without relaxation, that is not true peng jin. And if you just concentrate on peng jin, that is wrong because your mind is no longer relaxed. Peng jin is produced when the whole body is relaxed. The dantian area is relaxed, the mind is relaxed, and the posture is relaxed. Then, when an opponent attacks you, you will respond naturally. That is real peng jin. Many people use the body to push and think that is peng. That is not correct."

He repeated the key point that the dantian must communicate with every portion of the body.

"And the qi must circulate very fluidly. Then this qi can produce an energy shield around the body. And that shield will protect the body. If you keep the body relaxed, then the shield that will be produced by the energy flow will naturally communicate with your body and you will respond naturally. However, if you have some tension and try to push somebody, then the energy shield produced by the qi flow can no longer communicate with the dantian area. In this case, you will lose the communication between the arm and the body and the dantian. If the opponent then attacks you, your body can no longer efficiently protect you. If you use natural peng jin to keep the body relaxed and then the opponent attacks you, the hand will immediately communicate the signal to your body. The whole body will naturally respond. That is the real peng jin."

Chen said he regrets that not enough people appreciate Taijiquan.

"Many people think they really need Taijiquan to improve their health. However, they don't know much about Taiji. Many people cannot find a good teacher, so they get many wrong ideas about Taijiquan. So you have on one hand that Taiji has a lot of energy and because few practice it, this is a waste "

(article quoted from TAI CHI Magazine)