Hal Mosher sent me the following announcement:
Chen Yun ching seminar In September 6th - 10th at Fort Mason SF son of Chen pan ling. The Chen Pan-ling T’ai Chi Ch’uan Form is a synthesis of the pre-World War II era styles of Yang, Wu, and Chen, as well as influences from the miscellaneous family styles existing at the time. The unique beauty and practicality of the Chen Pan-ling T'ai Chi Ch'uan Form makes it stand out in the field of synthetic or combination Forms created in the last century.
If Tai Chi Ch'uan is one of China's Treasures, then the Chen Pan-ling Form is one of T'ai Chi Ch’uan's treasures. As Robert W. Smith said (in his foreword to the 1998 English version of Chen Pan-ling’s T’ai Chi Ch’uan Textbook) ”though eclectic, it is grounded in the traditional forms and brimming with the ancient spirit.”
The Form was based on the knowledge Chen Pan-ling gained from being chairman of a committee, formed in 1941 in Chungking by the Chinese Nationalist government’s Departments of Education and Military Training, and his extensive training in the Chinese martial arts of his time. The team of Martial Artists that contributed to the eventual creation of this rare but increasingly more well known form, was headed by probably one of the most knowledgeable kuo shu practitioners of 20th century China. The committee was composed of many distinguished martial artists and specialists formed to develop curriculum for kuo shu texts and to standardize martial arts. Three years later more than 50 different kinds of standardized textbooks were written, along with 40 wall posters and illustrations. The material they collected was lost during the eventual Communist takeover of the mainland. Master Chen Pan-ling certainly had some of the best credentials one could have, learning from some of the most well known Masters of the time, with his reputation following him from the mainland to Taiwan.
Chen Pan-ling, born in 1891, was trained by his father, in the Shaolin arts, when he was young. Later some of the best martial artists of the day trained him in T’ai Chi Ch’uan, Pakua, and Hsing-i. His T’ai Chi Ch’uan teachers were Yang Shao-hou, Wu Chien-chuan, Hsu Yu-sheng, and Chi Tzu-hsiu. He also traveled to the Chen family village to study the Chen style in 1927- 28. He was vice-president (founder of Henan Province school) of the famous Central Martial Arts Academy of Nanking, and later Chung King. Master Chen was also one of the main coaches of the Chinese demonstration team at the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin. On Taiwan he was head of the Chinese Boxing Association from 1959 until his death in 1967. During those years he taught and published books on the Chinese martial arts, including Shaolin,T’ai Chi Ch’uan, Pakua, and Hsing-i. He published his T’ai Chi Ch’uan Textbook in 1963 in the Chinese language and asked his senior student, Y. W. Chang to translate it into English. This was accomplished in 1998 with his co-translator Ann Carruthers and help from many others, as noted in the Introduction to the Translation. A quote from that introduction the essence lies in the journey, not at the destination defines the spirit of the T’ai Chi Ch’uan Form presented in the textbook.
The Form itself follows the large frame sequence of the Old Yang style, before any of the changes that eventually came about when it became much more widespread in the rest of the world. The performance of the postures looks to be more obviously martial than some of the modified forms that have been created in recent years for health purposes. They are detailed with many possible applications and techniques that include parrying, punching, kicking, striking, and throwing, as well as chin na grasps and releases, close quarters grappling, and twisting. The strikes and kicks may be performed with vigorous execution compared to the soft movements, but not to the degree as those from the original Chen style. The old Wu style is represented well in this form, using modified versions of the postures "lift hand", "turn around and cast down with fist and palm", "left and right striking tiger", "dodge and kick", "turn around and kick", "press face with palm", "brush knee and punch at underbelly", "left and right separate instep kicks", "turn around and press face with palm", "bend bow to shoot tiger", "step back and repulse monkey", and "step back and ride tiger". Many of these postures are shared by the Old Yang style, showing how closely linked the old styles of Yang and Wu really were in the early 20th century. Some postures also use a slight forward incline with a rounded back, not always a plumb erect stance. The old Chen style's influence is evident throughout the form in the characteristic low twisting postures, and use of "corkscrew" strength and "silk reeling" energy. Power is issued by twisting of the waist and sinking of weight into legs, coordinating with the rest of the body. The open palm formation of the hand, or "tile palm", is also adapted from the Chen system as well as the direction of the "press" being in a downward vector.
There seems to be influences from Hsing-i and Bagua in some of the footwork, as in "step circularly" near the end of the form and also in the "3-legged" stance of the posture "step forward and deflecting shove". One interesting feature of the Chen Pan-ling Form is the pivoting of the rear foot, done on the ball of the foot rather than the heel, as in the Yang style. This adjusts the weight distribution to a 60%/40% in the legs and therefore gives more stability to the forward stances, and is also easier on the knees. The breathing is done in the "natural" way with breathing out on the execution of a technique, contracting the tan tien. When preparing to strike or withdrawing from one, the tan tien expands with the breath sinking down.
The Form can be performed in the slow manner in which many Yang styles are, and also with some speed, maybe double time, and can be performed as fast as you can, while maintaining proper T'ai Chi Principles and execution of the forms. This gives your practice versatility, keeps it interesting, and adds to your training capability. When one performs the Chen Pan-ling Form with the proper spirit, it takes on a unique flavor all its own.