History of Chen Tai Chi
A veil of mystery partially covers the story of the origins and development of the Chinese martial arts of Taijiquan. Because of that, some level of controversy or difference of opinion and knowledge will probably forever be linked to this subject.
The known historical facts point us to the Chen family of Chen village in northern Henan County, in central China and to the middle of the 17th Century as the earliest recorded evidence for the creation and development of the arts that we know today as Taijiquan. The 9th generation patriarch, Chen Wanting, is credited with marrying various boxing styles of the day with other mind and body concepts such as the concentrated exertion of inner force and with deep breathing exercises. Ultimately he formulated and developed a series of form sequences ranging in complexity and difficulty which when practiced would develop the practitioner’s martial abilities as well as positively impact his health.
By the 14th generation of the family, at the beginning of the 19th Century, two particular progenitors of the family arts, Chen Changxing and Chen Youbeng stand out as having further synthesized and organized these forms into two specific routines of practice. Changxing’s forms came to be known as the Old Style or Old Frame and Youbeng’s forms came to be known as the New Frame, and ultimately a branch of the New Frame developed into what we know today as Small Frame Chen. Basically, all taiji forms we know today are thought to derive from either of these two branches of styles within the Chen family.
The Old Frame Chen style shadowboxing in general is characterized by a fairly wide stance, by both slow and vigorous actions such as stamping, leaping and dodging, twining or reeling, arcing, deep extension, and the explosive internal energy release action known as fajing. The first routine (Yi Lu) maintains less of the exuberant methods and the second routine (Er Lu, or also Paocui for Canon Fist) more of them, and therefore exhibits a marked difference from other subsequent forms of taijiquan.
In general, it could be said that all of the subsequent newer styles and variations of taiji derive originally from these two Old Frame forms, slower forms more directly linked to the first routine, and faster, more explosive forms to the second routine. Different as each of the newer styles are, they maintain a similarity in structure and order of routine to the original Chen, thus showing a marked process of evolution. It can therefore be noted that one of the most outstanding features of taiji or shadowboxing is its great adaptability.