Tuesday, 13 May 2014

It’s all in the circle…

I was interested to read an article by Yang Taijiquan descendent Yang Jun promoting the upcoming Taijiquan Symposium scheduled for July in Louisville, Kentucky in which leading figures from each of the five main styles will present their take on Taijiquan – Chen Zhenglei representing Chen style. During the article Yang spoke about the unique characteristics of the different styles and suggested that each could learn from the others. On Chen style he had the following to say:

“For example, when we are taking about the Chen style, they use the method they call "silk reeling". We don't use the term silk reeling. If you look at the way thread is made from the fibers, you have to twist and you have to pull evenly or the silk will tear. The Chen style explains that you must unify straight movements with circular movements to create spiralling movements. They have a more detailed way to talk about when to have this kind of coordination through the waist, through the back, through the arm rotating, which angle is inside, which angle is outside, and the balance of the positions throughout the movement. They have clearly defined this. For the rest of us, we have a simpler idea. We don't talk about when and where, but actually, we are doing something very similar. By studying this method with the Chen family, you can gain a deeper understanding of where this exists in other forms. Our rotating and circling is similar to theirs in theory, but we do it differently. In the end, you will find out that even though we don't have a name for it, we are working with the same idea”.

Look for the circle in every movement...
Chen Xin's diagram of Jin Gang Dao Zhui
This idea of silk reeling energy is central to the practice of Chen style Taijiquan. So much so that it has been said that an individual cannot claim to be practising Taijiquan without understanding silk reeling. Chen Zhaopi baldly stated that "Playing Taijiquan is training neijin (internal strength) and neijin is silk reeling energy". How can we recognise silk reeling energy in a practical way? It  can be described simply as a stage where there is no flat surface, no straight lines, and the whole body becomes a circle from top to bottom. 

In the Essence of Taijiquan we wrote: "the jin (trained energy) in Taijiquan is executed from a circle and expressed in spirals and arcs. Moving in this circular manner ensures that the Taijiquan exponent's actions are unbroken and dynamic. Consequently, by eliminating any straight lines, level surfaces, kinks and breaks in movements and always seeking to make every position and action round an individual will be on the correct path".