Chen-Style Cannon Fist Tai Chi (Old Frame No. 2 Routine), also called Chen Shi Taiji Quan Lao Jia Er Lu Pao Chui, is also called Big Frame (Da Jia). Pao Chui means Cannon Fist, Lao Jia Er Lu was created by the 14th generation Chen village's Grandmaster Chen Chang Xing (1771—1853). It emphasizes silk reeling power, also called spiraling power or coiling power, and power emission movements with the techniques of Springing Whipping Energy.

Using the Chen-Style First Form as its basis, Cannon Fist focuses on how to turn the softness and roundness of the movements into a burst of power emission (fajing) movements. The most distinctive characteristics of Lao Jia Er Lu are the explosiveness of movements, the much faster pace accompanied with jumping, kicking, sweeping and bursts of fajing movements. First Form has more soft movements and less explosive movements, while Cannon Fist has more explosive movements and less soft movements.

Thirteen Principles

All styles of Tai chi share the same theories and principles. For example, they all use thirteen principles as their foundations. The thirteen principles refer to eight energies or techniques plus five directions.

The Eight Energies are:

  • Peng (Ward off) - An outward expanding kind of energy
  • Lu (Roll back) - This energy is to neutralize the attack and redirect to other direction)
  • Ji (Press) – Squeezing
  • An (Push)
  • Cai (Pulling downward)
  • Lie (Split) - Using energy going in opposite directions to attack
  • Zhou (Elbow strike)
  • Kao (Body leaning strike) - Using shoulders, chest, upper back, legs or hips to strike

The Five Directions are:  Advancing Forward, Retrieving Backward, Gazing or stepping to the left, Looking or stepping to the right, and Stay centered.

In Lao Jia Er Lu routine, Cai, Lie, Zhou, Kao, are used as primary techniques and Peng, Lu, Ji, An are used as assisting techniques. Movements in Er Lu routine tend to be more complex comparing to Yi Lu. It is important that students have a good foundation and understanding of Yi Lu's training prior to the learning of Er Lu.

There are 42 movements with four sections in the Cannon Fist No. 2 Er Lu routine.

Chen Style Lao Jia Er Lu

Chen Style Lao Jia Er Lu is a more complex and advanced level routine that is characterized with burst of power emission movements and more martial applications. Understanding how to utilize softness, gentleness, coiling and silk reeling into a burst of power emission and martial application would be the main focus in learning this form. In order to achieve good power emission, students should first understand how to relax, and sink qi to dan tian. Therefore, it is always recommended to start with No. 1 routine before proceeding to No. 2 routine.

To be able to relax more, first you must have strong roots which is strong legs strength. When your legs are weak, your breath will be shallow. All your mind will be focusing on your shaking legs, and that leads to stiff movements, nervous mind and tense muscle. If your legs are strong, your stances will be solid. And when you no longer need to be concerned with the strength and stamina of your legs, your breath will naturally become deeper, your shoulder will be better sunk, your elbow will be naturally dropped, and your mind will become more clear and pure, and you will be more focused on the softness, roundness, and silk reeling in each movement. Thus your fajing will be improved. And your form will be more fluid and graceful.

Please remember, your upper body should be light, middle body should be flexible and lower body should be solid and heavy. Movements are rooted on the ground, initiated in the legs, directed by the waist and manifested through the hands.

Chen Tai Chi Guidelines:

  1. You should always keep your body centered and upright.
  2. Sink shoulders and drop elbows
  3. Arc your chest and round your back
  4. Lead the qi or energy to the top of the head. 
  5. Loosen the waist and hips)
  6. Upper body and Lower body follow each other.
  7. Sink the Qi or energy down to Dantian.  The Dantian is the place where we store our energy. It is located two to three inches below your navel inside the lower abdomen. It's one of the main energy centers in our body.

As you practice you will gradually come to understand the unique energies characterized by Chen style tai chi, for example, the folding, coiling and springing whipping energy.

Before emitting power, your whole body including your muscles and joints need to be relaxed first, then spring and shaking energy is used to emit power. Another way of saying this is "Restore and build up energy like pulling a bow, and emit power like releasing the string and shooting out the arrow."

Chen style tai chi is characterized by a very unique flavor. If you have learned the First Form, it usually takes about eight months to complete learning the second form in our school. And it takes years of practice to be good at burst of power emission movements. To master it, it will take a lifetime of training.

Remember, tai chi will increase your circulation, resulting in improved vitality and longevity and it will develop your mind's alertness, awareness and concentration.  Most importantly, as you practice pay attention to the feeling within the movements so you may appreciate the profound essence of tai chi chuan.

I wish everyone happy training and enjoy tai chi.

The above is an original article by Chenhan Yang.  He is the author of the DVD, Chen Tai Chi Cannon Fist, Published by YMAA Publication Center, April 2020, ISBN: 9781594397608