The key points are the same as the original Chen Style Taijiquan methods. Here I will discuss just a few of these points.
- State clearly the “Guidelines” of Taijiquan. A saying goes “If there are no guidelines a circle and a square will not form”. In the martial arts world the main problem is that there are no clear guidelines. In this way, the teacher’s forms can change back and forth. The students can only guess back and forth what is right and what is wrong, while following blindly the teacher with any guidelines. To an even worse degree, under these circumstances, following mistakes can even become “A Secret”. Master Hong followed Chen Fake’s teachings and summarized the rules of Taijiquan into clear categories. Hong’s students had a solid and unchangeable method to follow as they learned. Japanese students used to say “We study with master Hong for many years. Yet looking at video tapes from years later, it seem as if the master’s form has remained exactly the same. Even his foot lands on the same spot it did years ago”. Even though this statement seems exaggerated, it does encompass truly the spirit of master Hong’s teaching. Here I would like to bring some examples of Master Hong’s guidelines: 1. The foundation of Taijiquan is positive and negative circles. When a student begins his learning, he first must learn well these two circles. These two circles resemble the building bricks of a house. If there are no bricks a house can not be built. If these two circles are learnt wrong, the building that was built will end up collapsing. 2. When you stretch your hand out the hand leads the elbow, and when you withdraw your hand the elbow leads the hand. Taijiquan circles, already know Master Hong’s guidelines to the bigger part. There are some principles though, that are unknown to outer circles. The importance is not in the contents. It is rather in the ability to carry out the theory into practice.
- Strengthening the practical applications of the movements, and not “Empty Talk” about things like essence, Qi and Spirit. Things that there is no way to prove right or wrong.
- Realizing the concept of “Revolution and Self Rotation”.
- Solving the problem of “Double Weight”.
- Differentiating the Yin and Yang relationship of the eyes.
- Yin and Yang contain each other. This is the main point that differentiate Taijiquan from other martial arts. Different schools all have different views about the issue of Yin and Yang. Some say first Yin then Yang, some say 1 part Yin and 9 parts Yang, while others say when the Yin is exhausted then the Yang comes, or even some explain the it is half Yin and half Yang. For people who have pushed hands with master Hong it was easy to understand that the above explanations, if they were good or bad, right or wrong all didn’t have any significance. When you have met master Hong, to the first touch you felt you had no way out. That feeling was not Yin and it was not Yang, yet at the same time it felt like Yin and it did feel like Yang. Absolutely there is no way to describe it clearly.
- Sink down and expand outwards, coming in is letting go, and letting go is coming in. Chen style practitioners from ancestral times already knew “Sinking Down and Expanding Outwards”. Yet this wasn’t meant as dropping down and floating upwards and not pushing outwards. Looking from outside at it, it looks like a conflict, yet measuring from the inside it makes sense. This is exactly the clever point. Master Hong’s art has embodied this point of the Chen style Taijiquan in every move. This point of seemingly conflict is for the disciples of the Chen style Taijiquan the basic foundation in the learning of the art.
- Spiraling Silk Reeling. The idea of this method is to increase length and increase power. It is absolutely not a movement of back and forth spiraling and turning, as if in a mysterious way. You can not pull, separate or break. If you know that you understand the true theory. If you do not know that, then you know a theory. Spiraling has very fixed rules. The center doesn’t move, not leaning sideways, up or down, exert power at the feet, and the body is spiraling by itself. If it is not in this way, the body can only float, swing and swindle.
- Courageously straight forwards. As soon as you move, it is a spiraling reeling rolling forwards. One move is one gain. You can not gain and then lose again. This is the essence of silk reeling.
- Follow the opportunity with no inclinations. This is like a lever scales. Its secret of success is entirely in its sliding weight. It does not matter if the item is heavy or light, big or small the key for balancing the weight is the distance short or long (of the sliding weight on the scale).
- Striving for path and changing axis. This is the essence of Chen style Taijiquan martial applications. One of Chen style requirements is “I am smooth and the opponent adverse”. How can my path of power be smooth then? The key for that is to catch the opponent’s path as soon as I move, hindering him from getting to a correct posture and to its power. When you pushed hands with master Hong, to the touch there was a feeling as if your hands and feet were not agile, as if the floor was slanting, the shoes were not right or there was not power and other similar feelings. When I started learning with master Hong I disliked pushing hands with him, because of all of the above mentioned reasons. In Chinese history there is a saying that described this special ability “In a conflict, to the touch you will know if the opponent has it or not”.
In Chen style Taijiquan there is a beautiful saying “When the clever hand is empty, even the spirits will not know about it”. How to have such a clever hand it is only described with two words “Changing Axis” (Zhuan Guan). Well understanding “Changing Axis” and not understanding it, where is the difference? Pushing hands with master Hong “Changing Axis” was there at all times. We students experienced it on a very deep and profound level. Every time when we felt that we were in full control of the situation and tried to exert power, all of a sudden realized that it was too late. His center and power path was already changed to a different direction aiming at our weakest spot. We were startled by this odd skill and so very often were breaking in cold sweats.
(From Interview by Yaron Seidman of Chen Zhonghua)