Taijiquan in Berlin and online

Chen Family Gongfu

What is gongfu?

Thanks to internet, you can find tutorials about pretty much anything. In earlier times such records of everything were not available. You had to build skills on your own, or with the help of people around you who had learned them before. Craftsmen’s skills were often transmitted within the family and often over several generations. That’s how families could become specialised in, say, baking, carpentry, or forging. Such a set of skills, when acquired and mastered through many years of hard labour, is called gongfu in Chinese, a term best known with the alternative spelling kungfu which is in fact not originally specific to martial arts.

left: Chen Xiaowang, Chen Zhaokui, young Chen Yu, Chen Zhenglei, right: Chen Zhaokui and Chen Zhenglei

Chen Family Gongfu

The set of skills displayed in the Chen family entails a similar craftsmanship. The population in rural villages had to defend against banditry while still being able to work on the fields. A discipline had to be devised in order to teach some self defense while training the body in a sustainable way. Taijiquan, along with other Chinese martial arts, slowly emerged by combining many things together: a Chinese Daoist alchemy fostering body-spirit cultivation, a centuries-old tradition in medicine, meditative practice and gymnastic exercise, as well as ancient warfare concepts and strategies. These different teachings constitute a system that has been built up, passed down, cared for and improved upon over many generations and has reached a very sophisticated level.

Chen Fake (1887-1957) is the one who first taught Chen-style taijiquan outside of the Chen village when he went to live in Beijing in 1928. There he soon gained a reputation and taught many students. He transmitted all his knowledge to his only son Chen Zhaokui (1928-1981) who trained hard to develop gongfu and went in many cities of China to teach and pass on his family's taijiquan skills. Among his students were famous figures like Chen Xiaowang, Chen Zhenglei or Wang Xian. He taught his only son Chen Yu (1962) who very early on accompanied and assisted him on his trips to teach taiji. Nabil Ranné (1975) has been learning from him as his direct disciple since 2007, he co-founded the Chen Taiji Network Deutschland (CTND). I have been learning from him and the CTND "family" since 2011.

Traditionally this lineage does not belong to schools like laojia (old form) or xinjia (new form). Instead we speak of gongfujia (gongfu form) - Chen Yu mentions that neither his father or grandfather spoke of different "jia", those different terms were not used before 1980. Learning the gongfujia means eventually putting a meaning and the appropriate force behind every tiny single movement, filling each posture with power at all times.

If you want to learn more about our training, head over here.