William CC Chen seminar notes: 5/23/2010
Yesterday’s event was a great eye opener in several areas for myself. We first started the seminar with form instruction. Since everyone there was already familiar with the form, it was more of a discussion on details. Master Chen’s experience and learning through long period of study with Master Cheng Man Ching led him to many insights in which he discussed how his form had changed through time.
The first point of discussion we talked and experienced for ourselves was internal relaxation and sinking. He discussed the importance of really knowing this internal relaxation and use of the hands. He said that the hands had yin and yang. The yin fingers are the ring and pinky while the yang fingers are the thumb, index and middle. For instance- when you open a door your ring fingers touch the door knob, but your yang fingers do the work by twisting the knob.
When beginning the form and raising the arms, the attention moves to the yin fingers while you should experience the internal organs relaxing and naturally sinking while you bend and sink into kua. At this point the shoulders lightly float and open the same way a bird sinks its weight in legs and opens wings and pushes before flight. The body might lean a bit forward but the spine is still straight. This is done unconsciously in many sports as Master Chen demonstrated a tennis player or baseball player unconsciously sink and compress ‘chi’ before striking a ball. The yin fingers help the body to sink and relax (especially in inner thighs) in many of the transitional postures he showed as we went through the form.
Using these point of awareness we went through the form and focuses on points of transitions that use the ‘yin’ parts of palm and the sinking and relaxing feeling and understanding the yang aspects. This was combined with the second part of form discussion on using the big toe and inner thigh muscles when stepping. He discussed not turning the waist but stepping and shifting into the lead leg and allowing the fingers to lead the movement of the body. This stepping with concentration on the big toe and inner thigh created power and compression of ‘chi’ along with a burning in the legs. William Chen said that he didn’t know, but “Tony knows” ….that is- ‘Toe, knee, nose’ all move in coordination. After a studying these stepping and transitions up to the ‘wave hands like clouds’ we began the application portion of the seminar.
William CC Chen discussed his form and the additions of postures from the Yang Long form that were excluded in the more common 37 Yang Short Form. These were Needle at Sea Bottom, Fan Through back, Hit Tiger and Double punch ears. He also showed us a step back and push that Cheng Man Ching would do when he ran out of space practicing form in his living room. William CC Chen included that stepping change in his form instruction.
Here in the application portion we worked with a boxers jab, cross, hook, and upper cut. He teaches the jab by using the weight already transferred into the lead leg and a slight push upward with the lead leg thigh and big toe. The arm is relaxed and extends like handing someone a cup of tea. The yang fingers clinch on impact. He had me hit his hand in a jab and while my arm was relaxed and tensed on contact, the line of power was firm from foot through entire body out to the fist. The mental aspect of punching was based on William saying “ I kill you or I knock you out” when punching. He had us working a stepping forward foot work with this slight raising of weight with the front leg while rear leg almost comes off the ground. We worked this striking on a heavy bag with gloves using jab and straight right punches. The lead leg and big toe had a slightly more inward detail when using Tai chi for punching. He showed the same power connection with the hook punch and showed a combination upper cut-hook from the form with ‘step up to seven stars and ride tiger’; this was a rear upper cut, rear hook application in a quick 1-2 combo. There was a second interesting drill he showed with two people holding gloves up- he quickly hit both of them several times with a whipping motion same as the opening and closing of ‘playing the pipa’. Lastly he showed the yin fingers in use for sinking/ level change or ‘ducking’ to avoid a hook punch faster than mentally trying to bend knees.
Next was the push hands portion of the seminar where we concentrated on 3 main techniques. The first technique was centered around a short but power motion of the elbow slightly lifting up when a partner has his hand sticking to your wrist and arm. The second was if an opponent was using a very strong ‘taiji resistance’ to a push and you simply grab and turn the partners shoulder and waist guiding them toward you and easily tossing them. “Oops I push you” he would say when walking around and showing it to each person effortlessly. The last technique was similar to the expanded ‘embrace posture’ you often see in holding postures in zhaun zhuang and yiquan and it is simply expanding out the arms and not pushing in the sense of pushing we are all too familiar with like a horizontal push for opening a door. He had a phase for this pushing ‘you smell bad get away’ kind of push.
Lastly was the sword portion of the seminar. We went through the entire form section by section using the same stepping drill as we did in empty hand set with the stepping details with sword fingers as leader to turning body and turning over of the sword. After 4 hours of not sitting and th stepping work I really felt a lot of deep muscle work done in the legs.
About Master William CC Chen:
At age 75 he trained in Tai Chi Chuan at a young age with Master Cheng Man Ching in Taiwan China.
He competed Taiwan full contact between 1954 and 1958.
His daughter Tiffany and son Max are both US San Shou team fighters and National champions as well.
more info: Master William CC Chen