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What is Chen Taijiquan Gongfu?

Chen Gongfu


8 JIN of Tai Ji Quan

Here I make an attempt to verbalize some of the methods in Taijiquan. Be advised that I will probably edit this writing online as I go along. This explanation is mainly out of interest and for my own students, but of course anyone is welcome to read it. The subject I think has been well covered online already, so I write this based on my own experience and practical understanding. This is not intended to be a definition set in stone, but rather a work in progress. Perhaps later on we will post a bunch of video clips exemplifying these actions to go with the writing... who knows?

In short, go forward with the understanding that although it is interesting, in my view I am trying to write here, what can best be shown and felt. I did not learn these methods from discussion, I mainly understand them in the realm of action.


Taijiquan has eight historically recorded "powers" or methods. This word, powers, is a poor translation of the original word in Mandarin, "JIN" which has many meanings of course, some of which relate especially to martial arts. In the martial arts, JIN means basically, power. It can also mean simply strength as in someone has a lot of strength. In the case of internal arts the meaning of "Jin" that we specifically use is that of a trained or cultivated strength or power. This refers to the power (or even utility) that manifests in a practitioner due to training, or simply in a specialized manner. For example, we can say that a blacksmith who spent years making horseshoes and feild tools has developed a special type of JIN that is used in his hammer swing, that someone who has never worked with such a hammer and iron will not have. This refers to either a trained power, or an uncommon specialized power.

I noted in opening that there are eight historically recorded JIN, which is to say, these eight are what can be found in the really sparce number of texts that actually have any historic relationship to the taijiquan of antiquity. I am not negating the importance of these 8 recorded powers, but while these 8 are interesting to discuss and very useful, they do not encompasse the entirety of the Taijiquan methods.
With even a cursory look into training and methods of use, it is clear that there are many other methods empoyed outside the 8 here. Other systems of martial arts attributed terms and explanations for them, while Taijiquan of the Chen family at least, was not known for recording their methods in texts. It does not seem likely that they wanted to preserve their methods in written form, but rather in the physical facility of their offspring. More discussion of the other functioning methods may follow later, but for now, on to the 8 recorded JIN.

Before exploring the 8 jin, it is important to understand that these explanation of "JIN" refer to three occurances in most cases;
1) an essential internal movement method of the practitioner relating to specific shenfa (body methods particular to the system) of that JIN,
2) a strategic method of engagement to external action or force,
3) a variety of tangible application methods that can be named as "X" type of JIN methods.

These are different facets of the meanings of these JIN, this difference should be noted as is can be a bit confusing. Besides this, the skills of the 8 JIN (and all other methods in Chen Taijiquan) in application and strategy ideally must be acquired on three levels; high, medium and low.. we can get deeply into numerology here, maybe later.


1) PENG JIN (pronounced in English as something like [p'hung])

Peng jin is the mother of Taijiquan JIN because without it, nothing else works. All applications and manifestations of other JIN necessarily include the existence of PENG to occur. This power is most easily described in the example of a rubber ball fillled with air. This ball has a somwhat flexible or resilient exterior though is anchored to a particular location (or even a mobile location) at its center in the case of taijiquan by its frame illlustrated in the legs' connection to the earth.

Peng Jin, like a rubber ball, has a resilent and only slightly yeilding exterior that naturally rolls when pressed in any location. Resilience in response to outward pressure and neutral rolling in any direction are its actions.

Peng as an isolated principle is Neutral, (non aggressive, non yeilding). Its consistent intent is to maintains its integrity as a resilient roundness with no attachment except to its anchor; Peng is not spatially nor structurally yeilding, in those facets it is neutral, yet it is directionally unfixed and yeilding.

In terms of actual applicable methods, Peng may show as upward or outward rolling. In action it is not necessarily neutral as it, like all the other JIN does not manifest in action in any isolated way, but only exists as compound methods.

2) LU JIN (pronounced something like [leeu]

Lu jin, like all other jin has peng as its foundation, but can be said to be more active and less neutral. Lu can be well described in the action of a swinging door, this one swings all kinds of ways and there is nothing but an empty hole behind it with probably a bunch of awkward unsafe objects to stumble over.

While Peng maintains integrity and rolls incoming force around it, Lu, on the other hand gets out of the way of force, disappears. This is the commonly referred to "leading to emptiness" in Tai Chi. Lu is not neutral, it is receptive, inviting. It manifests in practical action as "yeilding" to incoming force, though can even exist as a certain type of pulling.

3) JI JIN (pronounced [jee])

Ji jin means crowding power. It is not neutral in any way, it can be said to be the outwardly aggressive direct mutation of peng jin. We can say that this crowding power is the deliberate attempt to compress an opponents Peng jin or spatial/structural integrity. This basically means an effort to pop or flatten the opponents rubber ball.

Ji jin relies in diagonal method or "crossing". For example; if one is facing a the outside of a square two dimensionally, to collapse it is best acheived by folding it to a parallelogram. Practically one way this shows up is as crossing any of the opponents actions over his/her own center and compressing them. In essence it is just pure crowding (compression) of the opponent's structure.

4) AN JIN (pronounced something like[ahn])

An, is often said to refer to downward pressing, which is not inaccurate, yet it is a bit deeper than that.. An is like pressure, or pushing that is powered by weight. In useage this weight power may show up as (but is not limited to) the ability to move an opponent by placing the hands lightly on them without any visible pushing, as the weight or mass of the body is being employed as the power.

AN JIN is basically heaviness. This is to say that it may feel heavy to the opponent, and that it's potential derives from the skillful harnessing of the practitioners own mass. This JIN often appears passive as it show up simply as a reconfiguration of the practitioners current structure. AN appears when the practitioner wants to affect their mass=weight to the opponent via their structure, or simply make advantageous use of gravity.

This one, or maybe just today, is very hard to describe in words. The power is downward but the applied direction is not necessarily.


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