'Chen Style Taijiquan' - book review

by Feng Zhiqiang, Feng Dabiao and Chen Xiao Wang, introduction by Gu Liuxin

Hai Feng Publishing, 1984, ISBN 962-238-016-6

Chen style taijiquan book cover


For anyone who has been studying Chen style taijiquan since before the turn of the millennium, chances are this is a favorite. For a long time it was just about the only book in English and it really whetted the appetite. Its main fault is that it doesn't cover anywhere near as much as you might want, but compared to the many books on the subject since, this small volume is a gem. It includes:
  • just over 10 pages on the history and development of Chen tai chi by Gu Liuxin
  • 65 pages on the applications of the Laojia yi lu form by Grandmaster Feng
  • 54 pages on the applications of the Laojia er lu form by Grandmaster Feng
  • 75 pages of a step by step guide to the 38 step form by a young Grandmaster Chen Xiao Wang
  • Biographical notes on Chen Fake, Feng Zhiqiang and Chen Xiao Wang
The pictures are many and the text is of a difficult terse variety that was common in that era of translation. Technical terminology is not provided in pinyin but translated to approximate English. There are many typographic errors. At times it is almost impenetrable, as in this example:

"The fist manual puts, 'Lead to coming to nothing and out comes closing.' In this time, A suddenly hits with his shoulder while drawing B to come to nothing and having closed himself, so B falls outward like getting an electric shock."

There are no two ways about it, the text is simply hard work, but this still has my vote as a great book. The reason for this is simple - the pictures. You have Grandmaster Feng demonstrating applications and Grandmaster Chen Xiao Wang demonstrating a short form. These are tow of the most important practitioners of Chen style tai chi chuan from the twentieth century.

Grandmaster Feng shows fighting applications for the two main forms - this is in itself a rarity. Many tai chi teachers either don't show the applications or don't know them, but here they are very much to the fore.

Grandmaster Chen demonstrates his 38 step form and as ever is immaculate. As clear an example of good posture as you will ever see - completely archetypal - a model to emulate.

G. Gossling 2011

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