Tim and Zhao Bao taijiquan

Tim's Discussion Board: Tai Ji Quan : Tim and Zhao Bao taijiquan
   By Tom on Friday, April 12, 2002 - 07:10 pm: Edit Post


Do you teach Zhao Bao style taijiquan? If you do, did you learn it in PRC or Taiwan?

What are some of the differences you see between Zhao Bao and Chen shi Lao Jia taijiquan, i.e., depth of stances, chan si jin, applications, etc.? How similar is Zhaobao to Chen style "Xiao Jia" (small-frame) taijiquan?

Does Zhaobao have distinctive jibengong or warmup practices? Could you describe some of those?

Any information is much appreciated. Thanks.

   By Felipe Bido on Friday, April 12, 2002 - 08:43 pm: Edit Post

Hi Tim:

I also read you know a story of one of your students who used Zhao Bao Taiji in a fight. Can you tell us more about that?

   By Bob #2 on Friday, April 12, 2002 - 08:51 pm: Edit Post


I've gotta make some popcorn for this!

I'll be ready by your next post!!!

   By Tim on Saturday, April 13, 2002 - 03:40 am: Edit Post

I teach Zhao Bao Tai Ji Quan. Actually, I have only had one student in the seven years I have been back teaching in the States that has actually learned the entire form, it has proven too physically difficult for the rest of the students that have tried to learn it. There is a basic set of conditioning exercises that students learn at first, my teacher's standard was 36 repetitions of each exercise before learning the form. Only one student has been up to this standard so far (they range from difficult to extremely difficult). I do have a couple other student that are working on it now. After the general set of basics, students can begin learning the form. I do teach some of the body method and Fa Jing exercises to students as supplementary training, without requiring them to learn the entire system.

I learned the form in Taiwan, there is only one lineage of the system on the Island, and it is not widely practiced. The form follows the same basic sequence as the Lao Jia (at least in names of postures). Practitioners of the other Chen styles would recognize many of the movements, a good number of others are almost completely different from the other Chen styles. The stances are narrower and a little higher on average, but there are a great number of movements in which you drop your rear and inside leg onto the ground, so there is alot of low squatting then springing up. The method of generating power is quite different than the Lao Jia, instead of the reliance on horizontal rotation prevalent in the other Chen styles, the Zhao Bao form generates force by contracting into the center, then 'exploding' outward in all directions equally (often with a shift of weight in the direction of attack). The movements are relatively small and extremely soft in appearance. In application, there are a great number of throwing techniques as in the other Tai Ji Quan styles, but the Zhao Bao technique most often involves very close body contact and attacking high and low at the same time, often with the upper and lower body moving in opposing circles. The result is the uproot and throw don't require much overt force (because the opponent's base and upper body are suddenly moved in opposite directions). The striking method (blows with the arms and legs) are powered by the same inward contraction/ outward explosion, and are done in a whiplike manner. Force is always generated from the opening and closing of the hips (together or alternately).

Felipe, aren't you in China? How did you hear about my students fight? Boy, news sure gets around. Here's the story (in a nutshell).
The student that got into the fight (we'll call him Ron), had a rather extensive martial arts background, but had only been working on the power training exercises from the Zhao Bao form for the previous few weeks. I had been impressed and somewhat surprised how much his power had increased in such a short time. Anyway, Ron was driving along when an irate driver (who believed Ron had cut him off in traffic) literally went ballistic and began chasing Ron in his car (he even drove down the wrong side of the street to pass Ron, then cut him off in the middle of the street). The driver (a man much bigger than Ron by the way) jumped out of his car screaming mad. Ron was blocked in by traffic and couldn't drive away. Ron got out of his car and the driver swung at his head with one punch and then the other. Ron used the 'inside roll-back,' a basic defensive covering technique from the Zhao Bao form and deflected the punches, then he hit the attacker across the jaw with the basic backhand whipping strike of the style. The strike broke the attackers jaw and knocked him unconscious, the attacker fell straight down and landed on his knee, the force broke his patella in half, then he fell forward onto the pavement and hit his head, causing a concussion. The police arrived, called an ambulance (the guy was still unconscious) and took Ron to jail. When the police saw the injuries, they though Ron had used excessive force. Fortunately, witnesses told the police that Ron had been defending himself, and actually only struck the attacker once. Ron successfully defended himself with the Zhao Bao Tai Ji Quan, and the a$$hole that attacked him got what he deserved.

   By Wai on Saturday, April 13, 2002 - 10:28 am: Edit Post

Tim, could you please tell me more about the Zhao Bao conditioning exercises? Why/how are they so demanding physically, what are the characteristics? Are they Neigong-like exercises?



   By Tom on Saturday, April 13, 2002 - 05:57 pm: Edit Post

Thanks for your detailed response, Tim. Glad Ron survived the encounter with the irate driver.

It's good to hear you received fairly complete training in the Zhaobao jibengong and basics. A lot of Chen style (Lao Jia and Xinjia both)taught in the U.S. seems to lack this critical element. Students just dive into and are taught to obsess about the form without basic conditioning and power training. You're fortunate to have had the teacher you did (and I'm sure you worked damned hard at it too).

   By SysOp on Saturday, April 13, 2002 - 07:28 pm: Edit Post

Thank you, Tom. It was the absolute most harrowing experience I ever had and I wish it on no one. I would recommend to anybody to stay in the car until police arrive. This person cut in front of me several times as I was coming off brief red lights in a Chevy Suburban (Why do these A$$holes always have these thing?). When I was blocked off I knew the man was irate enough to break my windows to get at me and I would be defenseless with seatbelts and harnesses. This is the reason I stepped out.
- Ron

   By Felipe Bido on Saturday, April 13, 2002 - 09:41 pm: Edit Post

Hey, Tim, thank you so much for your reply. Great information, as usual.

And I'm not in China. I am in the Dominican Republic. I asked the same question about Zhao Bao in another forum and someone told me to ask you about the story. Man..that backhand worked pretty good!. Thanks for sharing. :)

   By SysOp on Saturday, April 13, 2002 - 10:10 pm: Edit Post

Would you please tell me what forum?

   By Tim on Saturday, April 13, 2002 - 11:35 pm: Edit Post

It is a little difficult to explain the basic Zhao Bao exercises in words alone, but I'll try and give a few examples.

Twisting, Alternate Knee Drop Squats: Stand in a low 'horse' stance with the feet parallel and about shoulder width and your thighs parallel with the ground. Your arms hang at your sides and your back is straight. Twist your hips to the left and 'close' the right hip toward the left hip as you drop your right knee to touch the ground lightly (your left thigh remains parallel with the ground). As you turn left, your right shoulder also 'closes' and your right arm twists inward. Then you turn back through the center position, lifting your right knee then repeat dropping the left knee to the mat as you twist to the right. You need to stay in a full squat (thighs parallel to the ground) as you transition left to right. Work up to the minimum number of reps, 36 on each side.

A more exotic looking Basic exercise is to sit in the common 'butterfly' stretch position (bend your knees and put the soles of the feet together in front of your crotch). Then lift the body up so you are balanced on the outside edges of your feet only (soles of the feet pressed together). Then, keeping the soles of the feet pressed together, straighten your legs until your legs are straight (the soles of your feet must remain pressed together, you balance on the outside edges of the feet only. Be careful, there is a great stretch on the outside ankle). Squat up and down in this fashion, balancing on the outside edsges of the feet with the soles pressed together.

Postural alignment and remaining as relaxed as possible are also emphasized, as well as coordinating movement around the hips.

There are also exercises that emphasize breath control, and stance holding, as well as dynamic stretches on the ground.

   By Felipe Bido on Sunday, April 14, 2002 - 01:56 am: Edit Post

Sys Op:

The Internal Forum at Kungfuonline. Check my thread on Zhao Bao Taiji

   By Wai on Sunday, April 14, 2002 - 04:52 am: Edit Post

Tim, thanks for the response! Jesus, just tried the two exercised you described... doing that för minimum 36 reps? How many basic exercises are there?



   By Tim on Monday, April 15, 2002 - 12:10 am: Edit Post

There are eight in the basic set, including one stance holding exercise.

   By Wai on Monday, April 15, 2002 - 03:48 am: Edit Post

Ok, thanks for the info Tim! Very interesting stuff.

   By Will Tarken on Monday, April 15, 2002 - 11:15 pm: Edit Post

Hi Tim:

I was wondering about your comment that the Chen style develops power with "a reliance on horizontal rotation prevalent in the other Chen styles" and "the Zhao Bao form generates force by contracting into the center, then 'exploding' outward in all directions equally". That's not the way I understand Chen style at all. I've been to a number of Chen Xiao Wang's workshops and trained with other teachers also in the Chen style (I think it supplements my understanding of Xingyi. You should see Chen Xiao Wang do some of the 5 element fists!! It will blow you away). But anyway the point I was getting at is that the Chen style seems to use the dan tian in all sorts of different direction, not the hips. And horizontal wouldn't power a lot of things, but I'd like to hear your views on things. Thanks.

   By Jason on Tuesday, April 16, 2002 - 12:28 pm: Edit Post

You stated "the Chen style seems to use the dan tian in all sorts of different direction, not the hips."

I'd rather be hit by someone's dan tian than their hip. The dan tian is 2 inches or so inside
the torso. The hips are connected to the skeleton.
... How can an area inside the torso be used in a
different area? The hips move the body, not the dantien.

Good Training,

   By Tom on Tuesday, April 16, 2002 - 02:45 pm: Edit Post

I'd like to hear Tim weigh in on this.

It may just be a matter of semantics, Jason. I've seen the term "dan tien" used to mean a number of different things, ranging from a specific point in the lower abdomen used in Daoist meditation, to the lower abdomen generally as a "basin" for accumulating "qi" in qigong, to a general term for the deeper musculature connecting the legs and torso (this last reference includes the "kua";).

Chen style does train to condition and train this deeper musculature, at times almost "isolating" it in drills using heavy spheres and some of the spear training. Of course it's connected to the thighs and legs and upper torso, but the training aims to make the practitioner more able to consciously use the connection running through the lower torso/lower back area.

The better Chen style teachers, including Chen Xiaowang, can show movements and demonstrate power "using" the dan tien. You can feel the movement ripple through. Forrest Chang (who helped host Chen Xiaowang for a seminar)reported that Chen Xiaowang can sit in a chair and generate enough power with his "dan tien" to slip a bearhug hold from behind. The implication was that Chen didn't engage his thighs, but I'm not sure.

In any event, this kind of focused training to strengthen and gain conscious control over the deeper musculature of the lower back/torso/abdomen is part of xingyiquan/xingyiquan as well. Li Tai Liang teaches "Squatting Monkey" neigong exercises borrowed from Dai Family xinyiquan to improve the power in his 5 Element/Phase Fist forms. The variations train not only the primarily vertical circle shown in Pi Quan, but also the horizontal/diagonal circles in Heng Quan and the other wuxing forms. The focus is on "storing" power in the curves of the spine through use of the dan tien musculature, then releasing in connection with the stepping. "Reverse" breathing is integrated in these exercises to augment the power.

Technically "the hips" are just the joints between the femur and pelvic girdle. By themselves they don't generate power, only help direct/channel it (through the "kua";). The musculature helping connect the lower back/pelvis with the thighs (for example, the psoas)play a more direct role in generating and directing the power.

   By Tom on Tuesday, April 16, 2002 - 04:23 pm: Edit Post

Why the hell the winking icon showed up I don't know . . . my mistake hitting the keys. Sorry.

   By Will Tarken on Wednesday, April 17, 2002 - 07:15 am: Edit Post

Jason, it might be worth your while to go to a seminar by Chen Xiao Wang or someone of his caliber. When you see it, I think you'll reverse the order of what you'd rather get hit by. And Li Tai Liang pretty much says that all the real experts in Tai Chi, Xingyi, and Bagua will 'hit with the dantien' like this.

   By Tom on Wednesday, April 17, 2002 - 11:31 am: Edit Post


Does the Zhaobao style you learned include an "Er Lu" (2nd routine) as well as Yi Lu? Chenjiagou taijiquan has the long Yi Lu/First Routine, then the shorter and more explosive Er Lu/2nd Routine, also known as Pao Chui. Does Zhaobao make that same distinction?

I've always wondered why Chen style makes that distinction between Yi Lu and Er Lu. One justification I've heard is that the longer Yi Lu is performed more slowly to train more precise alignment and balance, and for conditioning. The Er Lu is taught after the student has put in a number of years of hard training (and in the U.S., a number of years of hard-earned dollars paid to the teacher) in Yi Lu. The other justification I've heard is that Er Lu's movements train the more advanced skills of fa-jing and dealing with multiple opponents.

Then I heard that Chen Quanzhong, a noted Chen family taijiquan teacher from Xian, PRC, basically minimizes the importance of Er Lu and says that Yi Lu contains the essence of Chen style taijiquan. He said that when he was growing up and learning Chen taijiquan, people put most effort into the Yi Lu. Chen Quanzhong performs Yi Lu at slow and fairly quick paces, in different frames.

So why have two distinct forms in Chen style?

Your thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks.

   By Tim on Wednesday, April 17, 2002 - 03:07 pm: Edit Post

The Zhao Bao style I learned has only one long form, it is not divided into Yi and Er Lu.

As to your question about why two forms, I can only tell you what my teachers said. First off, there were originally a greater number of boxing forms practiced in Chen Jia Gou. Some of these forms were lost and others combined over time, until only two remained. The Yi Lu places an emphasis on ward off, roll back, press and push, and the body leads the hands. The Er Lu places an emphasis on pluck, split, elbow and shoulder and the hands lead the body. This is the 'standard' explanation you read and hear in the Chinese literature on the Chen style.

   By Tom on Wednesday, April 17, 2002 - 03:44 pm: Edit Post

Thanks, Tim. Your teachers' explanation is interesting . . . I hadn't heard of the division of Yi Lu and Er Lu on the basis of the 8 techniques and whether the hands or body are leading. Thinking about it, there may be something to that explanation.

Just to clarify: does your Zhaobao form combine Yi Lu and Er Lu into one form? That is, do some of its movements resemble Chen style Er Lu?

At least some Zhaobao is performed at a somewhat quicker pace than, say, the uniform slow movements of Yang Cheng-fu's long form. Did you train to perform the Zhaobao form at different speeds? I'm just curious because Chen Xiaojia's Yi Lu, which seems to be related to Zhaobao, can be trained at different speeds (slow, medium, fast tempos)without changing the frame or the movements (this is according to Daniel Blacklock).

The only Zhaobao form from Taiwan I've seen is from an old videotape that Marina Saul Lew made back in the 1990s. She learned from her late husband, who learned in Taiwan.

   By Anvar on Wednesday, April 17, 2002 - 04:07 pm: Edit Post


Could you elucidate the concept of "the body leading the hands/the hands leading the body"?

It's not the first time I here about it, so I'm just curious what does it mean?

   By Walter T. Joyce Sr. on Wednesday, April 17, 2002 - 04:18 pm: Edit Post

Yes, Luo mentioned it in relation to palm changes also.

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