- TAI CHI MASTER PROFILES -
The rich history of Chen Family Tai Chi includes numerous names of highly accomplished tai chi masters. Through generations of Chens, many have risen to lofty plateaus of achievement, although few hold the level of respect and esteem of the late 9th generation grandmaster, Chen Fa-Ké.
Born in the Chen Village (Chen Jia Gou) in 1887, Chen Fa-Ké was the great-grandson of Chen Changxing (1771-1853), the famous teacher of renowned Yang Style tai chi founder, Yang Lu Chan. Fa-Ké's own father, Chen Yanxi (1820-1901?) had earned an impressive reputation for his martial skills and worked as an armed security escort. Fa-Ké was born late in his father's life, and, because his two older brothers had died, he was treated like an only child and was somewhat over-protected during his childhood. He was also prone to illness, a condition which limited his development of tai chi skills.
At the age of 14, Fa-Ké once secretly overheard his father's relatives criticizing his lack of strength and fighting ability. He was a disappointment to his famous martial arts family and his illustrious ancestors. Hearing this, he was deeply ashamed and devoted the following three years to intense training. He spent all of his free time doing forms and other practice and sought out tai chi knowledge from everyone around him. With the passage of those years, he not only vastly improved his tai chi but also rose above his peers to become one of the finest martial artists of Chen Village.
By the time of the collapse of the Qing Empire (1912), the Yang and Wu Families had spread the fame of tai chi chuan through much of China. But Chen Style tai chi was still little known due to the relative isolation of Chen Village in Henan Province. To change this situation, in 1928 Chen Zhaopei (1893-1972) went to the Beijing, the capital, in order to extend the reach of the Chen Family art. Chen Zhaopei's efforts were quite successful, so much so that in 1930 he was invited to teach in the city of Nanjing. Not wanting to lose what he had started and abandon his Beijing students, Zhaopei recommended Chen Fa-Ké to his students as a worthy replacement.
Fa-Ké accepted the offer, leaving his family's small village in the country for the big city at the heart of China. At that time, since tai chi promotion had been done almost exclusively by the Yang and Wu families, the public held a rather limited definition of tai chi chuan. To most it was an art of practicing slow, smooth, soft movements in its forms. Chen Style, of course, did not adhere to that format, featuring different-looking forms that were punctuated with sudden, powerful explosions of speed and force.
In spite of its appearance, there were many who wondered about Chen Tai Chi's martial effectiveness. Thus Chen Fa-Ké, soon after arriving, started receiving numerous polite challenges from the Beijing martial arts society at large. These challenges were held without rules or restrictions, making them quite risky. But the offers to demonstrate his skills resulted in Chen very comfortably and quickly dispatching any and all challengers who wished to test his talent. His well-mannered acceptance of challengers continued for the next 30 years without Fa-Ké losing a single martial confrontation. And, in keeping with his ethics, he never criticized or spoke badly of a single opponent.
Chen Fa-Ké's many contributions to his family's legacy include his demonstration that hard work and dedication yield positive results. He is also important for passing on his family's art to so many students who became highly respected masters in their own right. Today Chen Fa-Ké is remembered for his great skill, modesty, politeness and lack of criticism and for setting an example of true martial mastery for many generations to come. - TCJ
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