Answers To Common Inquiries
Absolutely not, all levels of practitioners interested in factual martial art research, refined biomechanics, and traditional martial application are welcome. We are by appointment only and have a research-based approach to martial studies- with a focus on Distance Monitoring for those with research interests abroad. Our organization’s emphasis is on historical accuracy, yet applied in a way practical for contemporary life. The practitioners here range anywhere from physical therapists, PhDs, dentists, to retired Army, Airforce, and film people.
What should I expect from feudal Tai Chi Chuan training? How does the medieval approach to internal martial arts differ from the industry standard? I don’t know if I am qualified to train medieval Kungfu, so why all the elite history and context?
One should expect precise historical knowledge of ancient cultures, integrated with sophisticated biomechanics and practical martial strategy. There is no mystery to the original intent, what time period, which technique, what context. It is understood most modern internal martial art training carries elements of mind-body, philosophy, formwork, and one-on-one empty hand application as seen in kung-fu cinemas or MMA. This is the industry standard in today’s kungfu culture, whether or not we choose it. Realize, however, the current popular interpretation of Internal/ External styles is standardized by the Chinese government in 1928. Medieval Chen Tai Chi Chuan is not like this interpretation obviously. In fact, Chen Taijiquan in Chen Yanxi’s era (Chen Fake’s father) utilize an urban approach instead of modern sport- there is indeed a difference… In contemporary times, it is a challenge to wear steel armor and practice military formations with spear and shield. Our goal here is not necessarily to travel back in time to mimic generations of which we are not, but to restore factual methods and knowledge. Cerebrally, one must understand the mindset of ancient cultures, with detailed insight into the era of which the martial structures evolved- for which purpose. In biomechanical/ martial practice, one may choose whichever approach is preferred, in a way that makes sense for the individual. Defined military science and research is emphasized to preserve feudal Tai Chi Chuan artifact, which is near extinction in mainstream kungfu instruction. Everything you enjoyed about Tai Chi instruction before will still be available. However, there will be no delusions on the context or exact origins of the martial technique. There is extreme depth on historical biomechanics and body skill as used by feudal masters, with original psychology and strategy for self-defense. In summary, if one likes to train solo Tai Chi routine for health and biomechanical reasons, or only to work on easy going, scientific martial physics- this can be achieved, along with proper knowledge of medieval cultures and context. If the field of modern science or medicine was documented similar to the Peking Opera/1928 Reform interpretation of Chen Tai Chi Chuan- there would be “grand ultimate” trouble on many fronts.
I’m not really into weapons training and prefer empty-hand formwork. I prefer fitness and meditation, and some occasional sporting push hands with friends…actually I’m not interested in any fighting stuff. What then?
This is actually common in today’s kungfu culture due to commercialization and civil weapons ban in China- resulting in an overall misunderstanding of the definition of “real” Chinese kungfu or high-level Chen Tai Chi Chuan in ancient dynasties. Many lineage grandmasters today from Asia have feudal amnesia, in regards to the original weapons intent/ strategy of the unarmed practice as currently instructed in Tai Chi routines. The trend now is to present Ming military battalion training as silk reeling exercise and mind-body technology- creating a fairytale where one can kungfu like a medieval Chinese Knight, while not knowing the medieval history or proper context in the application. Factual documentation of Chen Taijiquan history is achievable without fighting interests- though there should be an appreciation of the systems ancient roots which earned its reputation. For contemporary times with interest towards empty-hand application, Beijing Gongfu Jia of the Chen Zhaokui branch is recommended. The system is fused with feudal Bajiquan and utilizes a “deductive” method of striking- obtaining different techniques from a single movement. The angles of postures and transitions are more compact- ideal for the modern empty-hand approach. The Old Frame Lao Jia Yi Lu is dominant in sword and shield tactics (feudal Chen utilized a two-handed sword grip or a single hand grip with a shield. Modern Chen Taijiquan sword routines with the two fingers are rooted in the early modern period Western fencing- not Ming era). Historically, Chinese Kungfu has strong weapons foundation in feudal times- this is a primary reason the postures look so exotic. However, unarmed techniques are used in conjunction with the instrument, or independent when it is unavailable. We strive for historical accuracy, one should know which posture is armed, which unarmed, what weaponry, the context of an application, etc., even for fitness reasons. Then one can practice the armed routine segments, unarmed, for cultivation and biomechanics- but do so while preserving the proper angles and structures as originally intended. This is the minimum to preserve feudal Chen Tai Chi Chuan while remaining practical for modern mind-body development. Almost all kungfu people train feudal weapons posture in unarmed context nowadays, often for relaxation and biomechanics. In our perspective, knowledge is primary- the choice is secondary. The setbacks of Tai Chi schools today is not knowing the entire foundation of modern training stems after the Peking Opera tradition, late Qing Dynasty, and fitness reform in 1920s. Numerous Tai Chi slogans such as, “ten years you don’t leave the door” etc, developed straight from the Chinese Opera and novels in the early 20th century, as with the beautiful, flowery, smooth Tai Chi form practice, popular in modern Tai Chi tournaments. Most are unaware of the feudal history, or original martial/ weapons context which the Chen Tai Chi system thrived. The trend of Chen Taijiquan today, ancient armed techniques are instructed as unarmed- not knowing which was which, due to lack of military science. Modern Chen Tai Chi practice has many benefits in healthcare and rehabilitation/ sport (stemming from the 1920s calisthenics movement)- though factual medieval techniques and context have been neglected. As an example, many lineages have been inspired to construct numerous and impractical Peking Opera weapons routines based on literary imaginative stories, neglecting the original weapons work contained in the now perceived Lao Jia empty-hand routine. Obvious problems will result from improper historical knowledge aside from feudal Tai Chi extinction.
Why are there military and armed escort documentation, and sometimes intense historical images on this website or your videos?
According to Chinese scholars, ancient kungfu masters were military/ militia etc. who dedicated their efforts in stressful situations for the greater good- this is the primary reason Internal Martial Art lineages branch from military officers. It is a modern myth that feudal kungfu people “dueled” one on one in pugilistic sports at a professional level. The feudal definition of “Real” Chinese Kungfu is close combat to serve the emperor, often risking life or death. Even Jet Li reveals this fact in numerous Tai Chi interviews. It would be of concern if there were no military or non-sports documentation on this website if the quest is for authentic, high-level Tai Chi Chuan. Military school for special forces was called Imperial Wushu Examination back in the day, that’s not the wushu now. China has a population of over 1.4 billion people- internal kungfu lineages branch from only a few founding fathers. Given the accurate definition of “real” kungfu in medieval China, the founders of Shaolin or Taijiquan better be some ultra tactical Qigong experts. The misunderstanding of real Chinese martial arts nowadays, is a mix of the Peking Opera tradition, Peking Opera-inspired cinema, and of China banning combative context from civilians- including original weapons… so now we are often left with Peking Opera Weapons and Peking Opera-inspired Tai Chi weapons routines. And yes, many schools will present you with a certificate of Peking Opera-fu mastery, which has merit- but is not historical. To be realistic, an individual has to decide whether they are in search of ancient Tai Chi Chuan, which was not called Tai Chi Chuan- or the post-Yang Style Tai Chi/ Fitness Reform fusion after late Qing Dynasty. Yang Luchan earned “Yang the Invincible” status from instructing military style applications to the Eight Flag Soldiers in Qing Dynasty. The context of this Taijiquan (called Mianquan) is also feudal. It is a challenge to represent both distinct methods and continue with just the commercial historical interpretation popular in modern times.
What makes this organization different from any other Chen Tai Chi school? Every lineage declares they are the purest and represent the one true system of Internal Martial Art founders, yet they do not present kungfu in this way?
This organization is different because we really do not talk about Internal Martial Arts in a mainstream way. Feudal Tai Chi Chuan, Xingyi, or Baguazhang are technically centuries apart in development, yet now they are instructed similarly and thrown into one basket labeled “internal”. That is an indicator something is not historically accurate- military science and research provide the answers when lineage grandmasters cannot. As a feudal martial art researcher, it is understood one cannot possibly represent an ancient art in the purest form- without understanding the exact historical context, date, and technology of the era in which it was used. The truth is, many believe they are the purest, and some are indeed authentic. Some descend generation after generation, with complete trust of their teachers. However, it takes just one generation to forever alter the original system. Most Chen Tai Chi schools now are using the wrong weapons, modernized sports application, kungfu pugilistic/ duelistic strategy- inaccurately presenting the methods of elite military officials in a Kungfu vs MMA context. Feudal research is to preserve historical artifact, and there are other lineages worthy of preservation around the world- though most prefer to continue the post-opera interpretation of internal kungfu history, otherwise, their websites and videos should look more like the ones here, raw, medieval. Another primary distinction of our organization, we cross-train Wutan Bajiquan as well. Feudal Bajiquan from Li Shuwen (Liu Yun Qiao line) is originally a part of Chen Longfist (before it was labeled Taijiquan). The training of both systems is in fact, complementary, for a more accurate understanding of the ancient methods- as intended… Military science and factual historical data can prove the lineage is exactly what it says it is. Modern Chen Tai Chi can run, but it cannot hide from its factual history.
What are specifics about Tai Chi training? Do I have to wear armor and spar like the HEMA people? How is the Chen Tai Chi program here different from other Chen schools? Any closing thoughts?
It is worth noting, a multitude of scholars in China believe General Qi Jiguang to be the Grand Founding Father of Chen Tai Chi Chuan. To be blunt, his philosophy generally states, the practical is not pretty and the pretty is not practical…unarmed fighting is unsuitable for war- it is a supplement only. So there goes the majority of mainstream Tai Chi instruction today, which main focus is modern push hands sport or mind-body development… According to Chinese scholars- most of the Chen Tai Chi Chuan Lao Jia postures are taken directly from Qi Jiguang military treatise. Modern Chen Tai Chi instruction is conflicting with the founders of the system- no matter how entertaining and beneficial modern Tai Chi is today, there is no evidence Qi Jiguang or Chen Wangting earned their reputation by today’s context of training… Granted the reason Tai Chi is popular nowadays, is because there is no armor and battlefield, but instead, gratuitous silk reeling sensitive, and scholarly push-hands, with supplemental Peking Opera swords with tassel training. Ming Dynasty military arts or Tai Chi before it was called Tai Chi, is similar to medieval knights such as King Arthur movies. The system shifted in strategy during the non-armor Qing era, however, currently, there are many inaccuracies. Again, we are research-driven to provide the context of the ancient era- this is a major difference in our program. The practitioner chooses which method of training, whether of solo framework developing historical dantian body methods or in a more modern/medieval fighting sense. Fortunately, well-preserved feudal systems retain elite biomechanics, honed through battles of ancient dynasties. The sophisticated and scientific body mechanics are still practical for all walks of life. Additional thoughts… we are nuanced on factual documentation of history and context. Our organization consists of feudal scholars, so there are many interesting facts not commonly discussed in mainstream Tai Chi culture. Some examples: Modern Tai Chi schools favor the post-Peking Opera/China government “fitness reform version” intended to boost the nation’s “soft power” overseas. ACT understands this is what people expect from real Tai Chi. Most are unaware the current Internal/ External division of kungfu is standardized by the Chinese government around 1928. However, feudal Chen Tai Chi has a distinct context, with a strong foundation in Shaolin military/ weapons- inherent in the First and Second Routines. To note, there is an interesting fascination with “Fajin”/power release with high-frequency vibrations, in modern Chen culture. Many today are unaware, the start and stop Fajin emphasis descends from weapons training in the ancient military. Feudal Chen Taijiquan’s empty-hand training is more agile and fluid- flowing the power similar to pro boxers today. Another observation, much of Chen Tai Chi armed routines in popular instruction are a new creation using weapons which did not exist in the Ming era. There are oddities- such as postures in Cannonfist lost in translation, which many have forgotten are Shaolin staff/spear transitions. The schools now often rotate the hands in a different angle so that the spear is improperly aligned, and there are some unproductive discussions as to which empty-hand application they were in origin, as those are direct from Ming Shaolin armed treatise. Another distinction of our program vs mainstream- we are a Chinese Martial Studies organization. The researchers here are scholarly, peaceful, and passionate in the effort to restore artifact in ancient Chen Taijiquan. Feudal research can solve misunderstandings, and restore a more precise empty-hand framework in the 21st century- for those who do not like to train with polearms, or sword with a shield.