The primary method of qi-cultivation I teach is Zheng-style Taijiquan (郑子太極) as taught by Master Chen Qu Kuan (commonly "CK Chen") (陳取寬師父) of Ruyu Taiji School (如魚太極学院) in Chia-yi City, Taiwan.
Qi-cultivation has been practiced throughout Asia for thousands of years. In recent times, the term “Qigong” ("chee-gong", 氣功), meaning "energy practice", has come to represent a diverse array of qi-cultivation systems.
Perhaps the most subtle and sophisticated system of Qigong ever developed is the internal martial art Taijiquan (“tai-ji-chuan”, 太極拳), commonly known in the West as Tai Chi, a slow-moving, martial meditation.
The legendary genesis of Taijiquan occurred when a 13th-century Daoist hermit named Zhang San Feng witnessed a bird attacking a snake and noticed how the soft, fluid movement of the snake prevailed over the hard, jerky attacks of the bird.
Historical records indicate that Taijiquan was developed in the Chen-family village in 16th-century China. In the early 19th-century it was transmitted outside the family and modified as Yang style. In the mid 20th-century, the renowned Zheng Man Qing modified the form to make it more upright and relaxed.
In the late 20th-century, Master Chen Qu Kuan (no relation to Chen-family village) modified Zheng's form to make it even more upright and relaxed. What inspired Master Chen to develop his style was a thorough study of the Dao De Jing and closely attending to the feeling in his body. While he considers his Taiji to be Zheng-style, due to his modifications it has widely come to be known by the name of his school, Ruyu Taiji.
Master Chen's Taijiquan was brought to America by a few key gringo practitioners in the 1990's, including Sam Edwards and Frank Broadhead of Redwood Coast Internal Arts and Kyle Plagan. Master Chen's son, Chen Kuan Chong - "Median Chen" - recently emigrated to America and is carrying on his father's tradition at the Tai Chi Acupuncture & Wellness Center outside Boston. See at Median's website for a more detailed biography of Master Chen and his Taiji school.
According to Master Chen, Taijiquan is a Qigong, a martial art, and a living embodiment of Dao. As such, he feels it is important for the Taiji adept to understand the philosophy and principles that serve as the basis of the art. These principles are found in Laozi's Dao De Jing.
The Dao De Jing says that we must mix yin and yang to create harmony. It also says that if we enact non-action (wuwei, 無為), everything rectifies itself (zheng ziran, 正自然). In the context of Taiji practice, this means that we do not need to actively control our qi, we just need to relax our body and release our mind. Then qi flows freely and yin and yang mix together of themselves.
Ruyu Taiji therefore emphasizes relaxation and natural movement perhaps more than any other Taiji style. The emphasis is to release the tension in the body and to let the mind become empty, so that we become again like babies, soft and supple, so qi can flow freely, without hindrance.
The Ruyu system of Zheng-style Taiji focuses a great deal on basics. As Master Chen says, "the fundamentals are few, but they run very deep." These practices require a great deal of personal instruction, but I have videos online to help. They include:
Releases tension throughout the body, especially the spine.
Trains body alignment and circulates the qi.
Trains relaxed stepping and moving the whole body from the foot.
The solo open-hand form is the heart of Taijiquan practice. It consists of 37 postures strung together in a series of smooth, choreographed movement. The Ruyu form uses the same series as traditional Zheng style, but the quality of movement is somewhat different. See Resources page for instructional photographs and videos.
Sword form is more advanced and is only taught after practitioners become very comfortable with the solo open hand form.
Partner-practice provides a feedback mechanism for the qi-quality of our Taijiquan practice. It also is the martial application of Taijiquan. The foundational principle of Taijiquan martial art is that "the soft and weak conquers the hard and strong" (DDJ Chapter 36).
My partner-practice includes the basics of yielding, rooting, and moving, and later develops into a free-style moving-step "Push-Hands" (Tui-Shou, 推手), where we try to push one another around, always staying true to the fundamentals.
My emphasis is always on establishing a ground of trust, safety, and cooperation. Once comfort is established, then cooperative training can gradually develop into competitive sparring.
Ruyu Taiji School Logo
Master Chen Qu Kuan demonstrates his ultra-relaxed, ultra-charged "Ward-off"
Ruyu means "like fish". The taiji symbol is sometimes called the double-fish, symbolizing a free flow of energy between two poles (yin & yang).
Calligraphy presented to Jake in 2006. Includes the seal of Ruyu Taiji School and Master Chen's personal seal.
Jake - Golden Rooster Stands on One Leg