banner in person

Chen Zhaokui and Traditional Chen Shi Taijiquan 

By Chen Yu's oral dictation to Hou Zhiyang

In 1928, Mr. Chen Fake was invited by Xu Yusheng and other scholars to teach boxing in Beijing. He had a multitude of practitioners and what he taught was known as dà jìa大架 (big frame). Mr. Chen Zhaokui was the youngest son of CFK. He was born in Chenjiagou on January 24, 1928. He began to learn quan at the age of seven and obtained the family tradition of low-stance quan taught by his father. This particular frame, the movements are extremely delicate, the difficulty is relatively high requiring a lot of gongfu, but it is a body method that is sure to take and is suitable for young people to practice. CFK strictly urged CZK to do his utmost to attain true transmission. When Mr Zhaokui was in his twenties, his gongfu was already outstanding. After the death of his father, Zhaokui became the sole representative and practiced with such diligence that his level of gongfu was like a stove fire turning green (allusion to taoist alchemy) and reached the point of perfection. In fact, Zhaokui did not teach much outside, and many people in the world had never known about it, so much so some people say that the Chen family gongfu had already been lost.

Mr Zhaokui’s qinna technique is one of the best in the world. It is gentle, fierce, entirely unpredictable so much so it was impossible for his opponents to guard against. His tuishou gongfu was superb, reaching the acme of perfection; transforming jin quick with skill, ingenious, cold and crisp fajin, powerful and fierce.

At that time, there was a weightlifter who practiced quan with CZK. He was rather large in size and weighed more than 100 kilograms. During a tuishou practice, CZK instructed him to grab both his arms and push with all his strength. CZK sank and trembled his arms lightly, the weightlifter was lifted off the ground several feet and crashed landed on a bed several meters behind, breaking the bed frame into pieces. It was clear to see the profound level of gongfu CZK had attained.

Later, he left to Shanghai and other places to teach quan, and his true skill of taiji impressed and won over many challengers. His gongfu was respected by the world, and his reputation grew, without false rumors or gossip.

The boxing frame mastered by CZK was the low stance boxing frame inherited from Chen Changxing’s bloodline. It was 家传拳架 jīa chúan qúan jìa,a frame that belonged to the family lineage which was not spread to the outside at that time, so it has been rarely known to the world. This boxing frame is the same with the traditional dàjìa (large boxing frame), but in terms of hand method 手法 and 身法 body method,it possesses far richer details and finesse.

Chen Zhaokui Chen Taijiquan inheritor 18th generationSince as a child, CZK had diligently practiced this frame, smart and thoughtful, his daily practice reaching 30 times a day, never taking a respite. He inherited the lineage and made innovations, thus gradually transforming it to his own style. In terms of appearance, it is ingenious and compact, with rigidity abiding in softness, and timely opening and closing. In terms of neijin, it emphasizes the inner rotation of the dantian while the external shape emphasizes 胸腰折叠 xiong yao zhe die (folding of the chest and waist); all the while focusing on the spiral silk reeling movements, agile and steadfast. The whole taolu is rigorous in structure, with a majestic disposition, clear cut rhythm, quiet as a maiden, explosive like thunder, zhe die (folding) back and forth like billowing waves, an agility without stagnation. Practicing this frane requires very high physical quality of practitioners, with great difficulty and intensity. In the early 1970s, CZK was invited back to his hometown in Henan to transmit quan. His fellow villagers in his hometown Chenjiagou did not understand this frame, nor had they seen such a training method, so they termed it 新架 "xinjia" (new frame. Note: CZK did not approve of this term.)

CZK studied in Beijing Zhicheng Middle School in his early years. After graduation, he was unable to continue his studies due to his family’s financial situation. After the liberation of China (Communist takeover in 1949) he entered the Beijing No. 5 Construction Company to work. While practising hard, he helped his father CFK with teaching boxing. Having inherited the family tradition since he was a child, CZK watched keenly and heard deeply, and possessed a deep understanding of the boxing theory of his ancestors. As he had the benefit of being educated in the capital, he was open-minded able to use modern scientific knowledge to analyze and understand the boxing, thereby making outstanding contributions to the inheritance and development of Chen Shi Taijiquan methods and theories. Since the 1960s, CZK not only traveled north and south to spread the family boxing, but also wrote a large number of training manuscripts according to his years of experience in practice and teaching, leaving behind a wealth of information concerning boxing strategies and illustrated drawings of tuishou technique for later generations. During the 20 years after the passing of his father CFK, Mr Zhaokui continued his father's footsteps to spread and popularize Chen Shi Taijiquan, travelling in Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Shijiazhuang, Zhengzhou, Jiaozuo, etc, cultivating a large number of talented practitioners from the early 70s in his hometown of Henan, until his passing in the early 80s, during which this period his career reached its peak.

In 1961, at the invitation of Gu Liuxin, he resigned and went south to Shanghai to spread boxing. He participated in the publishing of the manual Chen Shi Taijiquan by People's Sports Publishing House, with Shen Jiazhen and Gu Liuxin; and at the request of students from all over the country, he wrote down the lecture notes for the Yilu and Erlu routines of Chen Shi Taijiquan, which were well received by everyone. In order to enable further understanding of the characteristics of Taijiquan, CZK and Chao Zhenmin co-wrote the article "A Brief Talk on Chen Shi Taijiquan boxing method and Tuishou training method", and in this book it was written that it had been CZK’s lifelong wish to transmit the essence of Chen Shi Taijiquan, but this wish was destroyed by ten years of turmoil (the Cultural Revolution).

In 1980, at the request by People's Sports Publishing House, he had plans to publish a new book on Chen Shi Taijiquan. However, due to years of extreme hardship and fatigue, he eventually succumbed to illness and died in Jiaozuo, Henan Province on May 7, 1981. What is a consolation and most gratifying is that his apprentice Ma Hong compiled and published the book "The Complete Book of Chen Style Taijiquan Physical Usage" based on Mr. Chen Zhaokui's lectures and copius volume of notes. Through this, his wish was accomplished and thus rest in peace .

In 1973, at the invitation of his hometown elders, CZK began to teach boxing in Chenjiagou, Zhengzhou and other places in Wen County. His nephew Chen Xiaowang, Chen Zhenglei and fellow villagers Wang Xi’an, Zhu Tiancai had trained with Zhaokui’s cousin Chen Zhaopi. Zhaopi had passed away the year before, accordingly, Zhaokui returned to the village to continue training the four of them in the so-called “new frame”.

Mr. Zhu Tiancai, one of the "four outstanding persons", once said with emotion when talking about Mr. Zhaokui:

"The routine taught by Chen Zhaokui is the boxing frame taught by his father. It has more hand techniques, fierce fajin and more obvious fighting methods than the Laojia frame we practiced in the past. After practicing this boxing frame, we have a deeper understanding of Chen Shi Taijiquan and a more comprehensive technique."

Disciples from Shijiazhuang, Shanghai and other places have successively established Chen Style Taijiquan Research Associations, which have made contributions to inheriting the legacy of Mr. Chen and promoting the development of Chen Style Taijiquan.

Mr. Chen Zhaokui, as the representative of the eighteenth generation of Chen Shi Taijiquan, has left us, but his legacy and development of the essence of Chen Shi Taijiquan, along with his superb boxing skills and principles are admired and popular among Chen Style Taijiquan fans. Today, the state advocates and develops the heritage and culture of the nation, as such Taijiquan has also received due attention. In order to commemorate Mr. Chen Zhaokui's achievements and to inspire future generations, the people of his hometown erected a monument in Chenjiagou on April 5 this year to show their memory. More than 200 disciples of Mr. Chen and overseas friends gathered in Chenjiagou and expressed the desire to cherish the legacy of the master, and work hard for the development and promotion of Chen Shi Taijiquan.

From Chen Yu, »Taiji Rensheng«, Mingjia Shuhua Chubanshe (2011), p 90.91

Add to List