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Small Frame of Chen Style Taijiquan

by Jian Ge

The article originally published in "Shaolin Yu Taiji", 9/2002; translated from Chinese and edited by Jarek Szymanski ? J.Szymanski 2002-2004
Chen Style Taijiquan has its origins in Chenjiagou village in Wen County, Henan Province. It was created by Chen Wangting, ninth generation descendant of Chen clan at the end of Ming dynasty and beginning of Qing dynasty, on the basis of the old martial art that had been passed within the family. Chen Wangting perfected the art and created five sets of Taijiquan, five sets of fist boxing (Wu Tao Chui), Thirteen Postures (Shi San Shi) as well as Canon Boxing (Pao Chui) , weapons sets (spear, broadsword, straight sword, stick, maces, whip, etc) and especially unique methods of Pushing Hands (Tui Shou) and Sticky Spears (Zhan Qiang). In this way a very complete martial art system was created. In the process of evolution lasting over three hundreds years Yang, Wu (Jianquan), Wu (Yuxiang), Sun, Zhaobao and other styles have derived from Chen style Taijiquan.

Within the system of Chen style Taijiquan, "Small Frame" (Xiao Jia) is the most traditional practice method.

Chen Ziming, Chen Xin's disciple, demonstrates movements of Small Frame of Chen style Taijiquan (1932)


The practice of Chen style Taijiquan emphasizes reducing the circles from large into small, and then from small into "no circles" - the peak of perfection in the art. Historically Chen style Taijiquan was not divided into "Large Frame" and "Small Frame"; however, as far as the practice method is concerned, the teacher, in order to help the student learn the rudiments of the art faster, would enlarge the movements of the routine, so that the student would start learning from large, external circles. After a period of period of practice, when the student already learnt to move in the circular, round way, large circles were gradually reduced to small ones, external circles to internal ones, forming spiral silk reeling strength (Chan Si Jin) transferred along the strength paths (Jin Lu) on the torso, arms and legs; in this way the high level of skill would be achieved - the circles would not be expressed outside. Along with the development of Taijiquan, these different methods of practice were called "Large Frame" and "Small Frame" ("Large Circles" and "Small Circles"). The practitioners of Large Frame also emphasize reducing the circles from large to small gradually, while in Small Frame practice the circles are first enlarged; the practice processes of Large Frame and Small Frame are basically very similar, and for this reason it is said that "Large Frame is not large, Small Frame is not small".

Large Frame of Chen style Taijiquan began to spread to the outside world because of later generations of Chen clan working as caravan escorts or doing business outside the village; especially when Chen Fake (17th generation descendant of Chen clan) and Chen Zhaopei (18th generation descendant of Chen clan) were officially invited to teach martial arts in Beijing and Nanjing, Large Frame had spread and became known by common people. Since Small Frame has been passed only within the clan and because of the very strict requirements concerning relations between teacher and students, it still remains almost unknown. However nowadays Chen style "Small Frame" exponents have already begun to teach the style to outsiders, but since they got off to a late start, the style has not spread very much.

Punch of Hitting Crotch (Zhi Dang Chui)
Punch of Draping Over Body (Pi Shen Chui) also called Punch of Protecting Body (Bi Shen Chui)

The contemporary representatives of Chen style "Small Frame" Taijiquan are: Chen Kezhong, Chen Boxiang (both 18th generation descendants of Chen clan), Chen Liqing, Chen Lixian, Chen Boxian (19th generation descendants of Chen clan), etc.




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