Importance of Silk Reeling

Importance of Tai Chi Silk Reeling

Importance of Silk Reeling

Silk reeling is at the centre of Chen style Tai Chi training, helping the student to develop strength, internal energy, co-ordination, body awareness, unity in movement, relaxation and grounding. Also known as Chan Si Gong; Chan (pulling), Si (silk) and Gong (skill achieved through applied effort). Silk reeling is a set of repetitive spiralling movements that include; whole body relaxation, Dantian rotation, soft opening and closing of the Kua, expand and compress, smooth weight shifting, appropriate body alignment, relaxed waist involvement with coiling limbs, a rooted lower body and diaphragm breath work.

Chan Si Jin = A spiralling and coiling quality / cultivated skill within the physical structure.
Chan Si Gong = The silk reeling drills and exercises.

The coiling action of silk reeling creates a spiralling internal force, used for power in Tai Chi Chuan. What sits at the heart of an effective coiling action is relaxation (fang song) of the upper and lower body; shoulders, elbows, chest, hips, kua, sacrum, tail bone and knees, expansion and compression of the joints, with the perineum moving in a backward figure 8 movement.

The whole body moves as one continual spiralling unit driven from the waist/Dantian area. At any level of training Chen style Tai Chi, silk reeling drills are of great importance. How you move in silk reeling is how you move in the Tai Chi form, both are interdependent on each other.  Training silk reeling drills is a life long commitment to improving your Tai Chi form.

Silk Reeling - Key Principles

Principle Focus
Peng Jin Expanded, rebounding, resilient, spiralling, balloon-like structure and motion. Lengthening and stretching the connective tissue, tendons, sinews, fascia with elastic expansion, compression and coiling.
Fang Song Active relaxation, release of physical tension and loosening of the joints.
Chen 1 Grounding and rooting in the lower body.
Chen 2 Ground path. A heaviness of the lower body pressing into the ground through the feet, paired with an opposing elastic expanding connection to the opposing hand, wrist, elbows or shoulder.
Chan Si Jin The silk reeling principle. A spiralling and coiling quality within the physical structure. This includes the principles Ni Chan and Shun Chan, yin yang directional spiralling in the limbs and torso.
Hou Hu The backward arc in the silk reeling lower body movement, which establishes the figure 8 motion.
Yi Intention. A deliberate and focused mind.

Silk Reeling - Drills

  • Single palm front silk reeling - positive circle - side bow stance.
  • Double palm front silk reeling - positive circle - horse stance.
  • Single palm front silk reeling with side stepping - positive circle.
  • Double palm front silk reeling with side stepping - positive circle  (Yan Shou / cloud hands).
  • Single palm forwards / deflecting silk reeling - negative circle - side bow stance.
  • Double palm forwards / deflecting silk reeling - negative circle - horse stance.
  • Peng Lu - positive & negative circle - forwards bow stance.
  • Peng Lu with side stepping - positive & negative circle - side bow stance.
  • Peng Lu forwards / advancing stepping - positive & negative circle - forwards bow stance.
  • Side single palm silk reeling - positive circle - side bow stance.
  • Side double palm silk reeling - positive circle - horse stance.
  • Forwards / advancing stepping - negative circle - forwards bow stance.
  • Backwards / retreating stepping - negative circle - forwards bow stance.
  • Peng Lu Ji An - positive & negative circle - forwards bow stance.
Chen Style Tai Chi Student Practice

Silk Reeling - Alignment & Other Principles

Principle Focus
Feet Full connection to the ground through the foot. Toes and heels stay planted on the ground. Arch is maintained. The feet are aligned to transfer the body weight to achieve ground path.
Legs (Dang) Rounded, open, arched, relaxed groin and thighs, including knee alignment.
Legs (Yin Yang) Yin yang quality in the weight shifting, from empty to full.
Waist (Yao) The waist loosening and turning in the movements. Song yao is applying active relaxation to the waist.
Kua The outer hip crease, internal hip socket, part of the buttock and lower back. Relaxing and loosening the kua area with an opening and closing motion in the silk reeling movements.
Dantian Rotation of the dantian through the movements.
Lower Back Open the lower back by relaxing and lengthening the lumbar and sacrum. Bring dantian towards mingmen to fill the lower back to protect your spine.
Spine (Ding) Body upright, spine, neck, head. An upward lengthening elastic motion in the spine, paired with opposing 'Chen' force.
Chest (Han Xiong) The chest is hollow / empty. The heart centre and opposite heart centre areas are both kept open. Non protrusion of the chest puffed out, and non slumping of the chest inwardly.
Elbows (Chui Zhou) Ground the elbows through the body. Place a gently relaxed expanding weight in the elbows to create space in the joint. Keep a slight bend in the elbows. In wuji stance the elbows are slightly away from the body.
Arms The arms travel through negative and positive circular movements across all planes within the alignment. Wrists not passing the centre line, nor extending further than 45 degrees from the centre line. Limbs not hyper-extending to a locked position.
Shoulders (Chen Jian) Root the arms into the shoulders. Avoid the shoulder crests protruding forwards or the shoulder blades closed together at the back. Relax and drop the shoulder blades down with gentle weight. Avoid having your trap muscles hunched up by your ears. Align the shoulders in profile as close to the line between the crown, ear, central shoulder joint and hip joint. Shoulders carry a lot of tension, align correctly and work to release and relax.
Empty / full (Fen Xu Shi) The difference between empty and full when shifting weight onto each leg. Training single leg balancing drills, empty stances and 70% - 30% weight shifting.
Live Online Chen Tai Chi Classes

Instructor Nicola is passionate about sharing Chen style Tai Chi with her students. Following the forms of Grand Master Chen Zhenglei she provides live online private tuition using video call.

Learn traditional Chen style silk reeling movements in your own home and join Nicola's community of students on a journey to improved health and wellbeing. Discover how to combine body mechanics with applied relaxation and deep breathing.

Group Livestream Chen Tai Chi Classes

For students who want momentum to their Tai Chi practice, join our weekly Sunday foundations livestream, with in-depth instruction via webcam and personalised feedback during the class. Instructor Nicola shares her experience of Chen Tai Chi silk reeling exercises, from loosening, and left and right handed drills to developing silk reeling within the movements of the form. To study the Chen Tai Chi form, the livestream subscription gives instant access to the Chen 5 elements and 15 form on Vimeo.


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