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Monday, October 24, 2011

Silk Reeling: The Chen Family Way

Qi Magazine | Issue 48
By Glenn Gossling

Chan Si Gong or Silk Reeling exercises, as they are called in the West, are the foundation of Chen style taiji. These profoundly simple movements show how Qi circulates during the practice of taijiquan.

Once the principle of these moves is understood it is easy to bring clarity to the many thousands of moves that make up the taiji system, whereas without them one could easily learn many thousand moves without ever attaining a high level of skill or clarity. During his recent visit to the UK Sigong Chen Xiaowang elucidated the fundamental principle of taiji. He stated that the taiji principle is composed of one posture combined with two movements. The posture is based on the Zhan Zhuang meditation stance and the two movements refer to the two directions that the Dantien is rotated during taiji. The basic Zhan Zhuang posture provides the framework for these two movements of the Dantien to direct the Qi about the body. In the Zhan Zhuang stance the spine is upright with the head, shoulders, Dantien and feet in vertical alignment. All the joints are slightly bent and loose. It is vital that the whole body is still and relaxed. This does not mean that the body is allowed to collapse, it means that good posture is maintained but without any tension. With the body relaxed, the movement of the Dantien is able to spiral out from the centre to the periphery of the body in a logical way. The silk reeling energy spirals from the Dantien to the shoulder, to the elbow to the wrist and finally the fingers. The rotation of the Dantien takes the body from a neutral relaxed posture into a state where the body becomes yin then yang, or yang and then yin. In a sense the movement of the Dantien can only take place because of the way that stillness is able to culminate in the Zhan Zhuang posture. Therefore when movement culminates it returns to stillness. This is why taijiquan always begins by preparing posture and consciousness before starting any movements. The breath is sunk to the Dantien. By maintaining the centre of the Dantien it is possible to become still while in movement and in movement while still. This paradox is at the heart of taiji and is what gives taiji its unique spirit.