Taiji History - Chen v Yang? (Zhaobao?)

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Re: Taiji History - Chen v Yang? (Zhaobao?)

Postby Steve James on Mon May 10, 2021 5:41 am

In another thread, it was asked whether Chinese martial arts evolve. Well, is Yang style an evolution of Chen style, which itself was an evolution of whatever martial art preceded it? I.e., an historian might argue that there must have been an original cma. There's also the saying "All Chinese martial arts are children of the same mother."

That's a matter of simple chronological history. However, ime, I've heard people argue that Yang tjq is not the original or real tjq. But, then there's evidence that it was a Yang performer's demonstration that was first described as "taiji." So Yang style can have its own origin precisely because it was an evolution. Um, that doesn't imply that the myth of Chang San Feng is presented, any more than the legend of Jiang Fa.

I think the Chen v Yang debate is more political than historical. I agree with Doc that it's meaningless afa anyone's personal practice. Though, it may be what a practitioner chooses to study, and therefore affect the market. This started 40 years ago when the PRC began opening up, and Yang and Wu were the most well known tjq styles. It's a bit ironic that the PRC came out with tjq routines that seemed based on Yang style. Maybe the 24 is an evolution, too.
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Re: Taiji History - Chen v Yang? (Zhaobao?)

Postby Bao on Mon May 10, 2021 6:32 am

The problem with both of Yang and Chen styles is that when we speak about these styles, we speak about two recent inventions, both invented and popularized in the early 20th century. When we think about Yang style, we associate to a box or a package that Yang Chengfu was responsible for. When we think about Chen style, we associate to a box or a package that Chen Fake was responsible for.

If we go further back in time, no one spoke about styles and no one cared about what the different masters made different in their forms. All those style differences started to become emphasized first in the 20th century just for the sake of branding. So what was first was neither Chen or Yang style, it was something else.
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Re: Taiji History - Chen v Yang? (Zhaobao?)

Postby Finny on Mon May 10, 2021 7:01 am

Interesting

Steve James wrote:I've heard people argue that Yang tjq is not the original or real tjq. But, then there's evidence that it was a Yang performer's demonstration that was first described as "taiji." So Yang style can have its own origin precisely because it was an evolution. Um, that doesn't imply that the myth of Chang San Feng is presented, any more than the legend of Jiang Fa.


This seems to accord with the little I know of it.

Bao wrote:The problem with both of Yang and Chen styles is that when we speak about these styles, we speak about two recent inventions, both invented and popularized in the early 20th century. When we think about Yang style, we associate to a box or a package that Yang Chengfu was responsible for. When we think about Chen style, we associate to a box or a package that Chen Fake was responsible for.

If we go further back in time, no one spoke about styles and no one cared about what the different masters made different in their forms. All those style differences started to become emphasized first in the 20th century just for the sake of branding. So what was first was neither Chen or Yang style, it was something else.


Absolutely - but when Chen Fake (and his predecessor - I forget the name, guy that went to Nanjing?) came to Beijing was what they were doing the same Taijiquan that YLC had popularised? Were they reeling silk while Yang pulled silk?
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Re: Taiji History - Chen v Yang? (Zhaobao?)

Postby Steve James on Mon May 10, 2021 7:52 am

Well, technically, there are several "Yang" family styles, and several Wu famly styles. I'm not sure that the Chen people needed to label their art "Chen style." Other people called what the Chens did "Chen style." Now, the point at which others start to call what the Chens did tjq is a separate issue, as is the issue of when the Chens started calling their art taijiquan. (Of course, the question "does tjq exist if it isn't called tjq?" arises.
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Re: Taiji History - Chen v Yang? (Zhaobao?)

Postby Bao on Mon May 10, 2021 8:19 am

Finny wrote:Were they reeling silk while Yang pulled silk?


Chen Fake standardised the expression of body mechanics of Chen style."Silk reeling" is originally the name of a Shaolin set of exercises originating in Buddhist rites to please the "Silk God". The "silk reeling" today is a name of simplified exercises aimed toward beginners that was created by Chen Xiaowang by the request of the communists.

"Silk pulling" though is an older concept as far as we speak about Tai Chi Chuan.

Steve James wrote: I'm not sure that the Chen people needed to label their art "Chen style." Other people called what the Chens did "Chen style." Now, the point at which others start to call what the Chens did tjq is a separate issue, as is the issue of when the Chens started calling their art taijiquan.


Ma Yueliang amongst others claim that the Chen style that Yang Luchan learned was lost and that the Chen style today was created upon something called "Chenquan" which was a variant of local Shaolin. I tend to believe this version. Some people say that Chen style is Yang style mixed with Shaolin. But probably it was the other way around, that the new Chen style that Chen Fake introduced was originally Chenquan Shaolin infused with Yang Tai Chi.

And all of the Chen style practitioners and Chen Wangting believers will probably hate me now for stating such a politically incorrect thing. But there are just as much proofs that points to this version as that Yang Luchan would have modified his "Chen style" into Yang.

Personally I don't care where the truth lies, on either side or in between, I am not a proponent for any of the camps. But what Yang Luchan learned was neither the Chen or Yang style commonly seen today. Both of them were created to please the masses as well as the government as a "health exercise" which would make the people strong.

But still, this doesn't mean that "all" Yang or "all" Chen should have been lost. There are still things preserved, scattered all around and in circulation, from others than Yang Cheng Fu and Chen Fake, also infused in different ways in many of the modern schools. But you won't find all of the older principles and methods collected into one single system.
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Re: Taiji History - Chen v Yang? (Zhaobao?)

Postby D_Glenn on Mon May 10, 2021 8:54 am

I don’t think any debate or conversation about Yang and Chen Taiji should happen without first linking and watching this video of them being performed side by side. A picture is worth a thousand words.



https://youtu.be/-HRaAIdkqiY

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Re: Taiji History - Chen v Yang? (Zhaobao?)

Postby Ian C. Kuzushi on Mon May 10, 2021 11:20 am

D_Glenn wrote:I don’t think any debate or conversation about Yang and Chen Taiji should happen without first linking and watching this video of them being performed side by side. A picture is worth a thousand words.



https://youtu.be/-HRaAIdkqiY

.


That's the best comparison video of the two forms I have seen. Thanks so much for sharing. It filled in a few places where I had trouble connecting the two.
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Re: Taiji History - Chen v Yang? (Zhaobao?)

Postby GrahamB on Mon May 10, 2021 11:24 am

I think that video slows down the Yang form to sync it to the Chen form, but it's a great comparrison. However, it sheds no further light on the central issue of which form was copying which.
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Re: Taiji History - Chen v Yang? (Zhaobao?)

Postby D_Glenn on Mon May 10, 2021 12:14 pm

According to the verbal accounts of old Chinese Martial Arts masters, they would practice for 2 hours and only go through the form 1 time. So both forms have been sped up.

Generally copies of something degrade, small fragments and details are lost with each copy, not added to or the quality and subtleties increased.

You could then argue that superfluous movements were added to a very basic stiff form. But if the added movements are practical and effective martial applications then the “superfluous” aspect doesn’t hold up. And then the copies were actually added to by martial artists who were better fighters than the original performer.

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Re: Taiji History - Chen v Yang? (Zhaobao?)

Postby Bill on Mon May 10, 2021 12:40 pm

D_Glenn wrote:According to the verbal accounts of old Chinese Martial Arts masters, they would practice for 2 hours and only go through the form 1 time. So both forms have been sped up..


I would think this means they spent most of their time training techniques and strength and left the forms training for the last 15 minutes of training time. 1:45 for strength and technique plus 0:15 for forms equals 2 hours of practice.
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Re: Taiji History - Chen v Yang? (Zhaobao?)

Postby Bao on Mon May 10, 2021 12:55 pm

"According to the verbal accounts of old Chinese Martial Arts masters, they would practice for 2 hours and only go through the form 1 time."


According to what verbal account from what master have you heard this? ??? There are many different ways and different speeds you can do a long form for different reasons. There is not one single standard and it has never been so. Neither in Yang nor in Chen.

The Yang form is performed by Yang Jun and is a version originally from YCF, and standardised by Yang Zhenduo and Yang Jun for their mutual brand "Yang Family Tai Chi." His performance is a standardised version to teach modern students in a modern way so as many people today as possible can follow the instruction and so as many people as possible today can practice it at home. "Yang Family Tai Chi" does not demand that you will spend 2 hours doing the form one time. This practice is modernised for modern people.

And I have never seen or heard anything similar about the Chen form. The Chen forms, as what I know at least, should alternate between slow and fast, and keep up a certain pace and myth,.
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Re: Taiji History - Chen v Yang? (Zhaobao?)

Postby D_Glenn on Mon May 10, 2021 1:07 pm

They would spend more than 2 hours a day practicing. The Form is/ was just a Xing Zhuang (moving meditation) and a 2 hour continuous block of time is required in order to get the full benefits of a Xing Zhuang.

Although CTH [correction] CXW told me that they adhere to the saying “I teach you the right [side of the form] but it’s up to you to learn the left [side of the form)”. So every class, teaching, public demonstration etc is only showing the form done the one way. So I believe they would do the form one one side for an hour, and than immediately do the mirror of the form. But that’s still pretty slow. The key though, for it to be a Xing Zhuang, is that you have to know the form by heart. You can’t be thinking about which movement comes next or anything. That’s why Dong Haichuan used Circle Walking for the Xing Zhuang and said “In Baguazhang, we only have to learn 2 steps, Bai and Kou, unlike Taijiquan where you have to first learn 108 steps.”


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Re: Taiji History - Chen v Yang? (Zhaobao?)

Postby GrahamB on Mon May 10, 2021 1:15 pm

No, I meant, that the Yang Jun form performance in the video is being sped up, then slowed down, so it syncs up with the Chen performance. They've had to do this to show exactly where the correspondences are.

There's a rule of thumb I tend to agree with, which is that forms get more complicated over time. They tend to start of fairly simple, (line dirlls maybe) then over the generations flourishes and 'stuff' is added, and they get more complicated.

On that basis then Chen material in the video is "older" than the Yang material, which would make sense - Chen had a martial reputation for generations before "tai chi chuan", working as bodyguards and militia trainers. However, it's still entirely possible that the Chen material is older 'stuff' that's been modified to fit a sequence developed by Yang in Beijing, because that was were the money was, and they needed to prove that theirs was the original. Who can say.
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Re: Taiji History - Chen v Yang? (Zhaobao?)

Postby Steve James on Mon May 10, 2021 1:17 pm

But if the added movements are practical and effective martial applications then the “superfluous” aspect doesn’t hold up. And the copies were actually added by martial artists who were better fighters than the original performer.


I dunno. More movement doesn't equate to better fighting, imo. If the original worked, there wouldn't be a need to change. Besides, I don't think I've ever seen anyone "fighting" the way their "form" is practiced. Of course, we've all seen demonstrations of applications. For ex, take the difference between Chen and Yang (or Wu) Single Whip. Would anyone use the entire form or would they use a single part.

I wish there were a film of a Chen fight from 100 years ago. But, all we really have are the stories of people who weren't alive when it happened.
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Re: Taiji History - Chen v Yang? (Zhaobao?)

Postby Bao on Mon May 10, 2021 1:29 pm

D_Glenn wrote:They would spend more than 2 hours a day practicing. The Form is/ was just a Xing Zhuang (moving meditation) and a 2 hour continuous block of time is required in order to get the full benefits of a Xing Zhuang.
....
only showing the form done the one way. So I believe they would do the form one one side for an hour, and than immediately do the mirror of the form.


1. Again, these performances were performed in a modern context for modern people. None of the two people in the video spent two hours moving through the form.

2. None of the older instructional Tai Chi literary texts mention that the form should be mirrored on the left side.

3. In fact, if so were the case, it would completely contradict the principles that the traditional forms follow.

The Tai Chi form, as well as many classical Shaolin forms, are created on the formula 3-3-2, which comes from the fine arts. In Chinese arts, you can draw 3 or 5 flowers or animals, you never draw 4 or 6 which is not considered beautiful as nothing in nature is considered even. There are 8 different basic strokes in Chinese calligraphy. They are all different and uneven. When you draw Chinese characters, strokes are drawn so that they are balanced, but they are never drawn perfectly even.

Tai Chi follow the principle "ziran", "natural" means natural as in "nature." In Chinese arts, nature is never structured "evenly." That is why you don't do an equal amount of movements on each side. Tai chi recognises and accepts that our bodies are not evenly distributed and that we are not equally good on both sides.
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