Much has been written of Chen Family Taijiquan, especially the Chen family’s old frame and new frames or routines, but very little of the Chen Family Taijiquan small frame or Xiao Jia of the Chen Xin’s Taijiquan.
The first routine of Chen Family Taijiquan small frame has been very recently brought forth by a student of Chen Jinao (Chen Xin’s grand nephew), and grandson of Chen Yao (Chen Xin’s oldest and highly skilled brother).
ZhiRu Lei’s book written in Chinese, is a welcome introduction to an entire system of Taijiquan with some photos of his teacher Chen Jinao, and some photos of himself as well.
The form consists of 64 sections, and although it resembles the more familiar Chen forms in sequence, the postures for the most part are totally different. The “Dao Of Taijiquan” by Jou Tsung Hwa is an excellent guide with The 1st and 2nd routines being illustrated in the book.
Brush Knee, and Fan Through The Back postures for instance, both use the left-handed inverted or upward facing “Crane’s Beak”. The 1st Tying The Coat posture begins with a left-handed “Crane’s Beak”, and a right handed fist to finally arrive at the familiar “Tying The Coat” position, followed by double “Crane’s Beaks” before moving both hands leftward.
Some obvious applications depicted are a left-handed backfist to the face, a spinning elbow, backfist and kick on one leg, a swinging punch to the groin, a right fist uppercut, elbow strikes to the body, and an overland downward left-hand knife hand strike with a simultaneous backward low swinging right hand backfist standing on one leg.
According to the author’s book, his listed subjects of study were the 1st and 2nd routines, sword, and spear.
In a lineage chart at the back of the book (which dates from 1600), Chen Jinao has 15 students that are listed. He is listed as being the student of Chen Yao and Chen Xin, Chen Yao being an extremely accomplished boxer, and both being the sons of the famous Chen Zhongshen.
Drawings are used along with arrows to indicate directions of the movements, sometimes using multiple illustrations for 1 posture.
The Illustrated Canon of Chen Family Taijiquan is over 700 pages in English and represents over a decade of writing by him to produce. Any significant continuation of this system of Taijiquan is worthy of study.
Learning a form entirely from a book written in Chinese can be a challenge for a practitioner reading very little Chinese, but on the other hand, it can be quite exciting. The directions can at times be tricky, but with a strong background and determination, significant progress can be made. To learn a form hardly seen in the western hemisphere is even more exciting.
We can hopefully look forward to additional books and DVD’s in the future on the 2nd routine (Cannon Fist), sword, and spear of the small frame system of Chen family’s boxing, by the author and or his students and other qualified authors. The full spectrum of this Chen Family Taijiquan has hardly been exhausted.
I would like to give special mentions to Jay Dunbar, an original student of Jou Tsung Hwa at Piscataway New Jersey and Taiji Farm Newsletter editor, and also to Ralph Rodriguez and PaiDiaz from the Taiji Farm. Two very good martial artists.
You can email Alan Sims at alan.sims35 (at) yahoo.com.