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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
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 didn’t 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 Xi’an, 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 Xiaowanq’s 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
"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
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
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)