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Part 3: The Development Of Chen Taijiquan




The Chen Family Cannon Pounding Art (Pao Chui)


The Chen family assimilated all the arts they practiced and created their own version of the predominant art which they practiced, Cannnon Pounding (Pao Chui), derived from the original Shaolin Cannon Pounding art. Sung Tai Zhu Chang Chuan formed a major part of this new art and there were elements from Shaolin Red Fist in it.


What resulted is five routines of Chen family Pao Chui and one routine of `Short Hitting' (duan da) and the song formula stated a total of a 108 postures consisting the art. There is much confusion over this particular song formula but on closer examination the correct name should be 'Boxing Canon Complete Formula' and is only found in the later Liang Yi Tang Ben manual. By the time the Wen Xiu Tang Ben Chen family martial arts manual was written it was noted that the `second and third routines are lost'. The Wen Xiu Tang Ben makes no reference to an art called Taijiquan or '13 postures' or 13 anything for that matter. So it is an early reference to the state of the Chen family arts before the advent of the Taijiquan of the Chen family that we know today.


The Chen family was famous for the Cannon Pounding art for several generations and gained the beautiful name of `Cannon Pounding Chen Family' (Pao Chui Chen Jia) in the region around the Chen village.


The Simplification Of Chen Routines


Somewhere along the line the Chen Pao Chui art was simplified to just two routines. We have no evidence to indicated who was the one responsible for this simplification. The furthest that we can trace it back is to Chen Chang Xin, Yang Lu Chan's teacher. But even the Chen family geneology book does not indicate that he was responsible for this momentous change, only indicating that he was a boxing teacher with a nickname `Ancestral Tablet'.


We know for certain that two of the routines were already lost by that time and so only the 3 remaining could account for the final two routines. Whether there was an integration or that another routine was lost through time resulting in the final two is not certain at all.


The Advent Of Internal Boxing In The Chen Arts


When did the Chen arts become a form of internal boxing as opposed to to their parental arts which were external boxing?


Most of the Taijiquan lineages regard Jiang Fa as the one providing the input that transformed the art from the external Cannon Pounding to the softer internal art. Some have also credited his input as the reason why the transformed art was called Taijiquan, a name reflecting a Taoist origin and also the classification of the art as an internal one. The name, however, was not widely used for the art until Yang Lu Chan popularised it in the capital city of Beijing. From the early writings, we know that the form was originally called the '13 postures' and by that time the name Taijiquan was already in use as evidenced by the Taijiquan Classic of Wang Tsung Yueh and the Ten Important Discourses Of Chen Chang Xin1.


The classification of martial arts into external and internal came about because of the new method of combat devised by Chang San Feng, a Taoist which resided in the Wu Dang Mountains. It stressed overcoming external techniques using calmness and appropriate action and from external form this martial art often looked weak in comparison with external styles but could defeat them easily.


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