Curriculum: Zungu Laojia
The core of my Zungu Laojia Chen Family Taijiquan curriculum is the Laojia (Old Frame) hand forms and weapon forms as passed down through Grandmaster Chen Qingzhou’s Zungu (reverence to the ancient) lineage. Like my teacher, however, I do take an eclectic approach and incorporate forms and exercises from other schools of Chen Style Taijiquan, such as Silk-Reeling Exercises, Xinjia (New Frame) hand forms, and Hunyuan Qigong. This is to provide an array of options to accommodate students with diverse movement backgrounds, body/health conditions, fitness/wellness goals, and different learning styles. All of these forms and exercises can be practiced at different levels of difficulty and intensity according to the individual student’s needs at particular times.
In all levels class, students work on a shorter version of the Silk-Reeling Exercises together, and learn and practice the Laojia Yilu form in their respective level group. (See descriptions of Silk-Reeling Exercises and Laojia Yilu form below.)
The beginner class does not require any prior experience with Taijiquan or other martial art. If fact, while some experience in other styles of Taiji or martial art may be helpful, you may be asked (most often implicitly) to “empty your cup of tea.” This is because while some of the skills and body conditions are transferrable, the underlying movement principles may be quite different. The less we take for granted, the quicker we learn.
The beginner class is designed to be *drop-in friendly* so that students can get a taste of Taijiquan’s movement principles and enjoy both immediate stress relief and cumulative health benefits.
In class, students learn basic elements of Chen Taiji by following instructor-lead Silk-Reeling Exercises (see descriptions below) and other fundamentals such as Qigong, footwork and eight-energy drills. These small chunks of Taiji movements help build a foundation through frequent repetitions, and prepare students for the form sequence if they decide to pursuit that in the intermediate class.
Silk-Reeling Exercises (SRE), or “Chansi Gong” (缠丝功), are a series of short repetitions of movements to cultivate spiral energy which is essential to Chen Style Taijiquan. It opens up the major joints of the body and builds the foundation for the forms and push-hands. The SREs emphasize building good ground connections and initiating movements with Dantian rotation. The SRE routine is a more recent development in the Chen Taijiquan system. When practiced alone, it provides health benefits by developing basic strengths, alignment, coordination, muscle relaxation and flexibility, and martial benefits by focusing on specific areas of movements and applications.
Wuji Qigong (无极气功), a form of standing meditation, is not unique to Chen Style Taijiquan, but is the core of Taiji Qigong and also one of the most effective self-healing systems. Through natural breathing and proper alignment of the body, this standing meditation exercise focuses on nurturing the prenatal “qi” (vital energy) in Dantian. Benefits of consistent and regular practice of Wuji Qigong include, among many others: better focus, enhanced immune system, and increased awareness and internal balance.
Prerequisite: 8 sessions of Beginner Class within a 3-month period.
In the intermediate class, students will learn and continue to work on Laojia Yilu, the 75-posture hand form. Regular attendance and practice outside of class is key to steady progress in the form. The entire form sequence usually takes a year to complete for those who attend weely classes on a regular basis.
In addition, students will learn and practice push-hand patterns, and review Silk-Reeling Exercises and Eight-Energy Drills.
Laojia Yilu (老架一路), or Old Frame First Routine, is the foundation of Chen Style Taijiquan, and consists of 75 postures in continuous flow. It helps develop lower body strength, balance, coordination, mindfulness, and understanding of basic Taiji principles. While most of the movements are soft and slow, there are occasional fast, explosive releases of power (e.g., stomps and punches), which is one of the distinctive characteristics of Chen style Taijiquan compared to other styles. This form can be practiced at different levels and paces depending on the student’s health and physical conditions.
Yan’s demo of Laojia Yilu can be found on the Demonstrations page.
Push-hand (推手) is a two-person sparring exercise that is unique to Taiji. The beginning class will teach basic Chen Style push-hand patterns where students learn sensing and neutralizing energy in slow movements.
Prerequisite: 6 months of Intermediate Class or instructor’s permission.
Students in advanced class will learn one of the following at a time:
Laojia Weapon Forms:
- Dao (刀), or (Single) Broadsword
- Qiang (枪), or “Pear Blossom Spear with White Ape Staff” (梨花枪夹白猿棍）
- Jian (剑), or (Single) Straightsword
Laijia Erlu (Paochui), or Old Frame Second Routine (Cannon Fist)
Xinjia (New Frame) Hand Forms:
- Xinjia Yilu, or New Frame First Routine
- Xinjia Erlu (Paochui), or New Frame Second Routine (Cannon Fist)