Chen Style TaiJi systematic training is broken down to 6 stages. They are learning the form, correcting the form, fine-tuning the form, Shun the form, analyse the form and fixing the form. Through these 6 stages of training, you can systematically master the authentic Chen Style TaiJi Quan. During practice, you must clearly understand at which stage you must master what content, what problems to correct, know yourself at which stage what are your objectives. Through this step by step training, you can then systematically master each special features, rules, applications, to provide a firm foundation for higher and further level.
1. Learning the form (Understand the rule, being very familiar with the form)
Learning the form is the beginners’ stage. At this stage, you must master the basic foundations. This basic foundations includes fixed step silk reeling and later co-ordinate with moving steps training. Through this basic foundations, you can understand Chen Style TaiJi Quan’s requirements in the hand movement, steps movement, shape of hand, stance. Understand Chen Style’s special features and characteristics.
After learning the rules, understanding the special features and characteristics, the learning of the entire form will be easier. At the beginning, do not hasten the learning, make sure you fully understand each and every move. After knowing the basic requirements of each move, knowing each position, angle and exchange of centre of gravity. This will allow a good start at learning the form, providing a good foundatiom. “Easy to learn, hard to correct”. If you pick up bad movement at the beginning, it will be very difficult to correct in future. Might even discourage you from learning, and become arkward and finally give up. Ancient saying “haste makes waste”. Learning quan is like learning to write at primary school. Have to learn to write each stroke. At beginning must follow the rules, after learning the characters, then learn the sentences and caligraphy. Thus learning quan is the same, learn each move after move, do not make haste.
After a period of training, complete learning the form, then you have to train repeatably to force into memory. After that, you can then train with relaxation and softness, to be natural, remove all the stiffness. At the end, you will acheive good mastery of the art and that completes stage 1.
2. Correcting the form (Learn the requirements, bring forward the characteristics)
At stage 1 where each movement is learned and after a period of repetition training, you can proceed to correcting the form stage. Most of the problem at this stage are body not upright, buldge chest, shoulders lifted up and elbows pointing upwards, slanted waist etc. How to correct these problems? You have to start by relaxing. The objective of relaxation is to rid off stiffness, so movements are balanced. And then increase the stability of the legs. If the legs are not strong, it will create a lot of problems like picked shoulder and clamped elbow, bent waist and extended buttocks, floating and stiffness, not able to relax.
There is a direct relationship between the common problems and the functions. A part with wrong position will cause problem wrong positions in other parts. Thus we have to master each parts’ balanced relationship and degree. Example, relax, to what degree? What is its relationship with hollow the chest and collasping the waist. Each requirement we have to master accordingly, we cannot focus on one aspect and lose the other. Over focus on one aspect will also cause errors. Example, too relax will cause lost of force, hollow the chest too much will cause hunch back.
Further more, you need to correctly understand each moves’ centre and empty and solid, transitions, directions and angles, co-ordination between up and down. Extend along the structure of the feet, connect every part to relax naturally, correct basic movement, coordinate the internal energy, breathe naturally, increase the lung capacity, all the previous problems mentioned will go away. Also to present Chen Style TaiJi Quan’s basic characteristics, co-existence of hard and soft, fast and slow, relax and fajin, spiral silk reeling etc. Allow oneself to display all these characteristics in the form and this completes the stage of correcting the form.
3. Fine-tuning/Detailing the form (Fine tune the position, correct and full)
Detailing the form is to make every stance or fix positions in the form to comply to Chen Style TaiJi Quan requirement. And every moves comply accurately without error. Example, “empty neck and poke the top”, “hollow the chest, collaspe the waist”, “relax the shoulder, sink the elbow”, “bent at the knee, relax at the kua”, all must be complied fully.
At this stage, you have to achieve at every move to have the stretch, body straight and not crooked, centre of gravity and hand movement to be accurate. Fine-tune each movement in detail, like machinery detailing. Accurate to the smallest detail. To infuse the theory into each move, “Hand and leg harmony, edlbow and knee harmony, shoulder and kua harmony… three harmonies”. Every move must compared with fixed stance to test if each part of the body is accurate. Using intention to channel the force through the limbs, and through this non-movement, train the power in the legs, to make lower stance stronger and solid.
After correcting the form, moves become stretched, harmony within the body, “close” within “open”, “open” within “close”, movement is full, energy travels around the body, force reaches the 4 limbs, upper body is light, lower body is firm, that completes the stage of fine-tuning and detailing the form.
4. Smoothening the form (smooth and natural, highlight the characteristic)
It is to, base on a accurate form, connect each move like “flowing cloud and water, without interruptions”. During the detail of form, we have accurate movements according to “Force from foot, travel through leg, control by waist, up through shoulder and elbow, reach fingers” requirements and connect them together. Allow each move to sink naturally and fully. As the moves through “relax the shoulder”, “sink the elbow”, “sit on the wrist” and relaxing the whole body, energy flows through the whole body, force reaches the extremities. And they are all connected like a ring, linked chains, be carefull not to have disconnection. Even if you cannot master it fully, at least your intention must not be disconnected, lead with intention.
At this stage, the demo should reach “fast but not haste, slow but not slack, sink and not stiff”; complying to “harmony of top and bottom, wholeness of entire body, waist as main pillar, steadily througout the body” theory. Achieve hand, eye, body, feet coordination, full in energy and force.
Through smoothening the form, the external move harmonises with internal breathe, causes “internal energy do not move, external body will not move, internal energy starts to move, external will follow”. During demo, the intention will lead the internal energy, likewise leading the external moves, causing the moves to flow like cloud and water, without interruptions, movement open and close, move up and down with rotation, everymove is natural.
5. Analyse the form (accurately understand the applications, able to use it at will)
Through the above 4 stages, learn, correct, detailing, smoothening, the form will reach a certain standard. You should achieve “one move will start whole body move, one stop and whole body will stop”, with intention will lead body, hand and steps. Full of internal power, energy will reach all joints, each moves are fully mastered.
At this stage, you can proceed to analysing stage. After your form is established, each move has reached the standard specification, groundwork is solid and firm, we start to break down each move and proceed to “autopsy”. It means we need to know the cause and effect. Know each moves original design, its offense and defense and variations during different conditions, and also how to resolve each method. In fact, it is to determine the practical value of TaiJi Quan. To allow a deeper understanding of TaiJi Quan. Include proceeding into push hand and combat training.
At this stage, after understanding applications of each move, have to proceed to interactive training. Beginning with push hand training, during which, one has to help the other and counter-act. To allow one to fully master what they have analyse. After, you have to extract some of the applications and train specifically. This will increase oneself’s combat level. As a result, you can capitalise on your strength, defend and attack, change accordingly and defeat your opponents.
6. Fixing the form (fixing the form and success through long training)
After the above various stages of training, you would have systematically master the TaiJi form. Next is to proceed tobthe stage of fixing the form. This stage is to combine all that you have mastered and formulate them. Each standard move has to be conceptualised in the mind. Allowing the entire form to comply to the requirements of Chen Style TaiJi Quan, to be completed without hesitation. To combine intention, breathing and execution. After a period of training, you basically master the external and internal requirement of Chen Style Taiji Quan and the rule of execution and fixing the form. At this point, you have the ability to self-correct. During training, if there is any doubt, you can follow the guideline : “whenever there is error, not right, body is scattered, deviation, problem lies with the waist and legs. Correct the waist and legs, so execution will be natural.
After fixing the form, you have to out in lots of hard work to increase your power, have to include supplementary training. Example, train with the long pole, “fajin” with single move, train with weapon and also train interactive push hand, to examine the form, internal energy and “fajin”, and also the quality of deviating incoming force. From the previous training of external three harmony to internal three harmony, mind and intention harmony, energy and force harmony, ligament and skeletal harmony, and at the end, harmony throughout the whole body. These would create “Attack and not lose your defense, hit and not scattered, upper body lead the lower body, lower body move with upper body leading, upper and lower body move and middle react accordingly, middle move with upper and lower body harmonizes within a systematic movement”. Through long and hard training, you will reach success.