The 81 Stops

I’ve mapped out a tentative map of the shape of the tour:

osborne park wa to osborne park, western australia 6017 – google maps

It’s roughly three sections:

  1. Perth to Alice Springs via the Great Central Road
  2. South from Alice Springs to Port Lincoln via the Oodnadatta Track 
  3. Return to Perth via the Great Australian Bight

Having done some preliminary research, I have some concerns about the Crime in Alice Springs, particularly the bit in the Alice Springs Wikipedia entry where it says:

Youth crime is a serious problem in Alice Springs, especially at night when large numbers of youths wander the streets of the town unsupervised, committing assaults and burglaries, vandalising property and throwing rocks at moving vehicles.

But I figure we’ll need to pick up some supplies after travelling the Larapinta Drive. Let’s just hope that Wikipedia is totally inaccurate/out of date on that score.

The 81 moves

My reference for these is the Practical Method web site, specifically: http://practicalmethod.com/2008/02/chen-style-taijiquan-practical-method-81-form-names/

Interestingly, I also read here that:

Chen Zhonghua learned this form from Hong Junsheng in 1979. It took him till 1983 to finish learning it.

So four or five years to learn a form is quite OK.

The 81 are divided into 6 sections. The first section is widely known as “The First Thirteen”. It’s harder to name the other sections; you can’t call the second section “The Second Fifteen” or “The Next Fifteen” because you haven’t done the first fifteen yet!

Anyway, here is the list of these 81 moves: form names. I’ve added a couple of other tabs with some other general principles and sayings from a book I recently acquired, “Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method Volume One: Theory” by Hong Junsheng.

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Fascinating reading, as is the Wikipedia article, especially when you consider what was going on in China last century. One sentence summary as I understand it: The Chen family version of Taijiquan was created in the undocumented past and only came to be well known when Yang Luchan, a disciple of 14th generation Grandmaster Chen Changxing, started teaching in Beijing; Chen Changxing’s great-grandson, Chen Fake, was Hong Junsheng’s teacher; Hong Junsheng’s taijiquan “is a true copy of Grandmaster Chen Fake’s”, however he modified the style so that every move has practical application. OK, so I cheated the one sentence limitation with semi-colons, but I hope I’ve managed to capture some of the traditional Chinese “semi-paradoxes” there. The other cloudy feature here is the family name Chen which is an extremely common family name. I hope you have a couple of questions by now, at least one of which should be: Do you have to have the family name Chen to be a Grandmaster in Chen Family Taijiquan?

Anyway, the style I am learning is Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method. The Grandmaster of this style would then be Hong Junsheng himself, according to the above statement that he modified the “authentic” Chen Family Taijiquan; but on the other hand if you accept that he is in the Chen Family Taijiquan lineage, he was I believe the 18th generation Grandmaster. Probably enough on that.

Of course you can’t actually learn taijiquan from a list of moves or a book of theory. You have to do it, and for that I have the assistance of my Si Fu Gawain Siu and his son Jhung Siu, both disciples of Chen Zhonghua, the translator of the above-pictured book and the current world standard bearer for Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method. Incidentally, although Chen Zhonghua also learned from another disciple of Chen Fake, Feng Zhiqiang, and (according to the Wikipedia article), “Through practicing with Feng, Chen experienced a different interpretation of Chen t’ai chi ch’uan”. As far as historical authenticity goes, I will never know exactly how Chen Fake did his taijiquan, and as far as I know there are only still photos of Hong Junsheng in action, but I do have a video of Chen Zhonghua, who visits Perth annually for workshops.

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Preparation Form

Late last year I finally managed to bumble my way solo through the whole Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method 81-Form Yilu for the first time. In case that doesn’t mean anything to you, Taijiquan (or more simply, tai chi) is a form of Chinese martial art; these Chinese martial arts are sometimes collectively known as Chinese Boxing. I was first introduced to this form in a workshop in 2013. Five years to learn 81 moves! Prior to this I had started learning a different version of Chen Style Taijiquan around 1995, but at the time I started Practical Method, I had still not made it to the end of that one! Now at such a slow learning rate, how can I hope to ever get any better? I pondered.

Anyway, this year I’ve got long service leave. In the Western Australian Public Service, that means I’ve been working for seven years, and I get 60 days’ leave. I’ve been formulating a plan to drive around the interior of Australia, with some ideas for particular places I’d like to visit, e.g. Kata Tjuta in NT, Wilpena Pound in SA, and Peak Charles in WA. I’ve even gone so far as to purchase a Subaru Outback for the purpose – the Boxer diesel variety.

2011 Subaru Outback

However, this trip has to coincide with UWA’s 2019 mid-year vacation – students start holidays on Monday 17 June and go back on Monday 29 July – so my daughter Phoebe can go too. Six weeks.

So what’s the connection? Six weeks, 42 days, approximately half of 81. Of course: an Outback Boxer tour.