Chen Zhaokui's silk reeling manuscript
(posthumously published script by Chen Zhaokui, revised by Chen Yu, translated by Stefan Gätzner and by Nabil Ranné)1
The reeling force 缠劲 is also called silk reeling force 缠丝劲 and it is one of the main contents of Chen-Style Taijiquan.
Simply said it describes the itinerary 路线 of applied force and a method of applying force. It means that all movements in the whole body (from top to bottom) follow a curved line. Moreover, every part, part by part, is connected and closely coordinated with one another. Movements are continuous and uninterrupted – i.e. that what people refer to as: “the intention 意 yi is unbroken”, “the body 身 shen (which refers to 身法 shenfa) is unbroken”, “the force 劲 jin is (which means 力 li power) unbroken”, “the spirit 神 shen is unbroken”, “The expansive force 膨 peng is unbroken”, “the closing 合 he force heli is unbroken” and “the opening 开 kai force is unbroken”. Also all movements take the waist as the central axis and all movements are being coordinated. Internally the silk reeling takes place, outwardly we make round movements. In this way a force path takes place which almost resembles a spiral and which results from a variety of curved lines with different amounts of curvature. The two characters for the term “silk reeling” as in “silk reeling force” are just meant as descriptions. There is no a [extra] “force”2 劲 jin which winds and spirals around the torso and the limbs.
The silk reeling energy can be used for attacks as well as for defensive actions. Also a movement can be an attack and a defence at the same time. During attack your own "force point" follows the opponents movements and changes accordingly. During defence you adapt to the touch of the opponent's "force point" and change to lead him into emptiness 空 kong. E.g. I attack with the arm and use pengjin3. My hand is blocked by my opponent from the side and he leads it away from his own body (assuming that the region of force transmittal is in my hand). As a result I release the force in my hand and change to an elbow technique (that is I change the point of force transmission). If my attack is blocked again I release tension in my upper arm and use a shoulder technique… etc. until the use of the hip or the back of the elbow (i.e. the other elbow attacks from behind [with a turn of the whole body]). Just from this movement alone every point on this line from hand to shoulder, from back to hips can become the point of force transmission. Not only can the aforementioned course of variations be executed, they can also be combined. At the moment where you release tension in shoulder and elbow you just use hand and forearm to win. To sum up the whole matter you adapt to the movements of the opponent’s actions and thus act according to changing situations. For defence the matter is the same.
Analogous to the example above: While my opponent is attacking me, I will catch his hand and arm (I go against his arm from the side with my hand on the same side). With the waist as an axis I turn in tune with the attack of my opponent (at the same time my weight changes to the back). I use expansive force pengjin to divert the opponent’s attack downwards and at the same time turn it outwards to divert his point of force transmission. If the opponent follows my movement and changes his point of force transmission I adapt to the situation and continue to divert his point of force transmission. If the situation allows – e.g. the opponent gets close while following me – you can also divert him to the opposite direction, which would unexpected for him, so that he runs into emptiness on the other side. For this technique alone there are numerous variations. I will not mention all of those here so the matter will not get too complex. By the way, when using the curved force (i.e. the chansijin), the part of the body which has been diverted by the opponent, as aforementioned by turning hand and elbow, does not lose its capability, assuming that your own force was not broken. Not only can it adapt to the situation, but it can also use force to control the opponent. I.e. as long as there has been no new adaptation to the situation it still has a defence function which allows him to prevent the opponents actions from the very beginning. If this works or not depends decisively on the fact if your own force stays unbroken or not. This is to be elaborated according on the aforementioned explanations.
In Chen Taijiquan every technique and the movements of every limb are executed according to this Chansijin, there are no exceptions (though this especially refers to the upper part of the body). It should be stressed that the movements of the whole body must be coordinated accordingly. Using silk reeling (chansijin) does not mean that the movements have to be exceptionally large. Sometimes if chansijin is being utilized or not using can hardly be perceived from the outside. If you use it appropriately 适当 it is right. Needless waggling and twisting actions, however, are definitely disadvantageous.