By: J. Parker
Just getting away a bit from Forms and Exercises, I think we can take a look at some of the Modern Master and what they have done with the original T’ai Chi Ch’uan style and how it has evolved.
Of the most notable is Chen Fake, born into the original Chen family in Chenjiagou, China in 1887. (Chenjiagou simply means “Chen Family Village) The Chen village area was known as a center for Martial Arts going back to the date 1374. Fake’s great grandfather, Ch’en Chang-hsing, (Chen Changxing, 1771-1853), was an Armed Profession Escort, or what we today would call a “Bodyguard”, so his Martial Arts skills had to be top notch.
Not being born until his father was in his sixties, and his older brothers having already passed in life, Fake was not in any competition to follow along in his families Martial Arts practices. (He was also a sickly child and as such remained in bed or indoors most of his childhood) It should be noted that Chen Fake was by NO MEANS a Scholar so what is known of him has been gleaned from his sons and students. What is known is that Fake’s father went to Shangdong Province around 1900 to teach the family of Yuan Shikai martial arts. As this trip meant that Fake’s father would be away for an extended period and as such, asked his relatives to look after his family and Fake. One evening, while his father was away, Fake happened to hear his relatives talking about how he, Fake, had not lived up to the Chen family tradition of Martial Arts. This upset him deeply and he vowed to prove them wrong. He vowed that he would master the martial arts and for the next three years, after having completed the days chores, and while all the rest of the family relaxed and rested, Fake studied every form of the families Chen style T’ai Chi Ch’uan. Fake decided that he would one day master every form of T’ai Chi Ch’uan and if he was lost, or did not understand a certain exercise or form, he would seek out those in the Chen village that could help him. In so doing, within three years, Fake was considered one of the best practitioners of T’ai Chi Ch’uan in the whole village.
Around 1930, a relative of Fake, Chen Zhaopei, was teaching T’ai Chi Ch’uan in Beijing and was asked to teach the Ch’uan method in the city of Nanjing. Not wanting to leave his students without a Master so that they could continue their studies, Zhaopei suggested that they ask Chen Fake to take his place. So, it was through this that Chen Fake moved from his humble family village and moved to the bustling city of Beijing.
What happened next…, well you’ll find out within the next few days..