Between Yang, Chen and Sun Styles

Dr Paul Lam
Analyzing various movements from different styles helps us make the connections between the styles and clarifies the intrinsic meaning of those movements.
Some Commonalities between Yang, Chen and Sun Styles

Historically, Chen style was the original style and Yang and Sun, in different ways, were derived from it. Sometimes, looking at Yang style, you may not be able to find a strong link to the original Chen style. But these internal links are a lot stronger than they look.

Stroking the Bird’s Tail, Yang Style

This movement represents the four components of push hands, i.e. ward-off, roll back, press and push. After you press, you push, and you transfer your weight forward to push forward and upward with the coordinated force from your whole body. The force originates from the foot, travels from the knee to the hip, waist, then to the trunk and is expressed through the hands. That itself is a powerful force.

Analysing this carefully, you transfer your weight forward, positioning the knee in a convex arc outward along the lower limb toward the right foot. This makes the kneecap move outward (and therefore more in line with the foot) and in the case of left Stroking the Bird’s Tail, it will generate an arching motion of the crutch from the right leg. In another words, it opens up the hip joint. As you transfer your weight forward to issue the force, and by opening up the hip joint and the knee cap, the movement becomes spiral in a very gentle upward slope. The force would then not just be straight forward and uplifting but also a three-dimensional turning spiral. That makes it much more powerful, and thus much harder for your opponent to counter. The spiral force is the foundational force in Chen style. For more details of spiral force, please read my article “Spiral Force” on this website.

Fair Lady Working at the Shuttles, Yang and Sun style

In the 24 Forms (Yang style), to get to the Shuttle, you bring both hands in front as though you’re carrying a ball. Then the left hand rotates palm out and upwards to protect your head and the right palm pushes forward to push your opponent’s chest. At the same time, you transfer your weight forward so that the force comes from the leg through the knee to the hip and is expressed through the hands. In this case, the left hand is in front of your forehead, effectively protecting your head. But it can leave your armpit (and therefore the rib area next to it) open for attack.

The Sun style’s Shuttle solves that problem. Instead of simply turning the left upper arm to protect your head, you sink your elbow, keep your arm a little closer to the armpit, depress the shoulder and then rotate and turn the upper arm at the same time. That forms a spiral force extending upward, and because it’s closer to the head and closer to the body, it doesn’t open up your armpit for attack. In addition, the spiral force is much more powerful because it shields you from an incoming force, as your forearm rotates the incoming force slip sideway. Here we have economy of movement that amazingly generates more power.

Step Forward To Deliver Force, Sun and Yang Style

Sun style is typified by one foot following the other when stepping forward. For example, Brush Knee and Twisted Step Left Side, when the left foot steps forward toward the left and the left hand brushes passed the knee the right foot follows the left foot half a step. When the ball of the right foot touches the ground, it pushes down toward the ground and at the same time loosens or opens up the hip which allows the qi to sink. At the same time that pushing force allows your hip to turn in a very subtle spiral and to generate a new spiral force through the hands.

In comparison, with the same movement in Yang Style, you step forward with the left foot but the right foot stays put. Then when you push your right hand forward, you’re in a full bow stance, and in that almost fully extended position, your opponent need only take a small step backward to avoid your force. With Sun style, the opponent doesn’t have it so easy, because your half step forward enables you to be closer to your opponent, and you can reach out further without jeopardizing your own balance. At the same time, you have the added force regenerated from the forward stepping foot. This motion originates from Chen style’s Double Canon Punch in which the same spiral force is generated from the half step forward.

Analyzing various movements from different styles helps us make the connections between the styles and clarifies the intrinsic meaning of those movements.