Dr. Yang Yang's Chen Style 48 Demostration
The form is demonstrated by Yang Yang, and is shown in both front and back views. Select postures/movements are also shown from side angles.
Taijiquan is exercise of yi (heart/mind/intention) and qi. It is said that the yi leads the qi, and the body follows. Yi is primary.
With a relaxed body and emphasis on yi (as opposed to stiff or tense force), the practitioner will gradually develop and understand the mechanics of internal power. To practice with yi, it is of course absolutely essential that the beginning practitioner know the primary intention of every form. (The primary intention of any martial art form movement, of course, is to move in a certain direction(s) over a certain distance, and to express the force that is the product of this movement with a certain part of the body. Over time with dedicated and correct practice, the taiji form ultimately teaches one to express a force in any direction, over any distance, with any part of the body, and with any desired degree of softness or hardness.) Without clear understanding of the primary intention of the form movement, one cannot practice with yi and one cannot possibly achieve the level of understanding and coordinating yin and yang in the form. The constant interaction and flow of yin and yang, in turn, is the rhythm of taiji movement. * To do the form correctly one must understand the various manifestations and coordination of yin and yang in the movements.
The Chen style form contains many ancillary silk reeling movements (chan si jin) that are secondary to the primary intention of a particular form movement. By themselves they have practical martial applications and are excellent practice of taiji movement (or, perhaps more correctly, they are manifestations of correct taiji movement...). However, in Yang Yang's experience in teaching the Chen style (first at both the Beijing and Shanghai Chen Style Research Associations and for the last twenty years in America), many of the ancillary silk reeling movements confuse the beginning practitioner and obscure the primary intention of the form movement. In truth, many of the ancillary silk reeling motions can only be performed by sufficiently advanced players that have learned to generate force from the dantian and coordinate the spiraling force throughout the body. This is no small achievement.
So to allow the beginning practitioner to clearly understand the primary intention of each movement, Yang Yang has omitted several of the ancillary silk reeling motions. This is what is meant by "Essential Movements". The Essential Movement form allows students to correctly practice yi, to gradually understand and coordinate yin and yang in the movements, and to begin to catch the feeling of silk reeling. The silk reeling force is integral to all taiji form practice and is of course still present in the Essential Movement form. An observant student will see the silk reeling force manifested as subtle but constant spiraling rotations in Yang Yang's arms and as the opening and closing of the chest and torso. (An understanding of the silk reeling force can also be developed parallel to form practice through the practice of individual silk reeling exercises.)
Those that have truly learned the Chen style are well aware of the difficulty in teaching all aspects of the form. Beginning students cannot hope to realize the coordinated silk reeling force any more than one could expect a baby to run before it crawls. Different teachers have adopted different ways of leading the students to learn the mechanics of taiji movement (and Yang Laoshi, incidently, is not the first to drop some of the complicated silk reeling motions for the instruction of beginners). For example some teachers may initially keep all silk reeling circles in the choreographed form but, for the beginner, make them very large and flowing (therefore easier to do so that the practitioner may remain relaxed). As one progresses, one then can tighten and refine the movements (while still retaining all principles of taiji movement).
In Yang Yang's opinion practice of the essential movements (along with the essential wuij practices) is the most efficient way for the beginning student to truly learn and understand taiji movement. After a foundation of skill is built, the ancillary silk reeling movements are easily reincorporated into the form, which Yang Laoshi refers to as the "Refined Form". If the student understands and can do the essential movements well, he or she will ultimately be able to do the refined movements as well also. If one does not understand and cannot do the essential movements well, all other forms will be just as lacking.
* Stages of development in taijiquan practice are outlined and explained in Yang Laoshi's book.
The video was originally created for students of Yang Yang. It is intended as a secondary tool for home practice, and instruction is not provided beyond demonstration. Those looking for a detailed home instructional video should consider Dr. Yang's newer Evidence-Based Taiji (EBT) Program video.