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What’s in a name?

Copied from a post by Jim Criscimagna on Facebook.

The following article is based on the eyewitness account of his Shigong Hong Junsheng of what actually went on and what was actually said by Chen Fake when Wu Tunan questioned his family’s martial art. This article is from one of Shifu Chen Zhonghua’s older webpages:

“What Is In A Name.”

“At one of the first government sponsored traditional martial art competitions in Beijing, in 1952, Chen Fake was invited to attend, as one of the judges.

The famed Wu Tunan (also known as the Northern Star of Taijiquan) was in charge. A discussion came up, with regards to categorization of styles,leading to a great deal of controversy as to where Chen Style Taijiquan belonged. Some suggested that it belonged to the External Division. At the time, the slow and gentle nature of Yang style Taijiquan was considered the standard of Taijiquan. What Chen Fake practiced certainly did not fall fall into this category.

Others countered that it is, after all, called Chen Style Taijiquan, so it should be included as part of the Internal Division. Master Wu Tunan did not concur. He felt that Chen Style should be treated as an external style, similar to Shaolin. Someone turned to Chen Fake, Master Chen, you are the standard bearer of the Chen Family, is it external or internal?

Chen Fake answered, “If the revered master Wu thinks it is external, then it is external! We did not have this distinction at home.” (Later on, in a remarkable reversal of logic, this statement was actually quoted by some as proof that Chen Style Taijiquan is not the original source of Taijiquan, since family member Chen Fake did not even acknowledge it as an internal style.)

Hong Junsheng, a disciple of Chen Fake, was understandably upset about this treatment of Chen Style. He began his Taiji studies with Wu style, and later switched to Chen Style. For him, Chen and Wu were both authentic Taijiquan styles, and both were internal.

He begged his teacher for an explanation. Master Chen’s answer had nothing to do with either Chen or Wu styles: “My ancestors invented it. My great grandfather practiced it [translator’s note: This refers to Chen Changxing, who taught Yang Luchan, the creator of Yang Style]. My father practiced it. I practice it now. We do not call it Taiji. We do not have a name for it. You can call it anything you want, I will still practice it the same way I was taught. I don’t care what they put in the name!”

Chen Fake was certainly not a philosopher. However one might appreciate the profound depth of his perspective. He saw the name as nothing more than a shallow symbol of the object. What Chen Fake learned and taught was Chen Style Taijiquan. The change of the name by others or the views of others will never affect what it is.

Is Chen Style Taijiquan the original source of Taijiquan? Is Chen Style internal? State whatever opinion you have and present all your research papers. You might even patent the name, and forbid the Chen Village masters and direct lineage holders from using the name. But can you change the fact that it is their art and what they do is the right way? You will never change its essential nature. It is what it is.”