Cheung Kuen Se Ying (Long Fist Snake Form)

Powerfully Direct And Subtlety Deflective...



In recent years there has been a flurry of interest in the Snake form - perhaps because of the elevated perception of what it can offer. It does have the potential to empower the Tai Chi practitioner to consolidate and mature on many levels. Yet without detailed insight and understanding into the principles and concepts behind the Snake Form, it is no more than a hollow shell with little substance. The Snake form then, shares a common approach with the forms before it and is an extension of the same methodology. Regardless of form type, all forms are used as tools to understand Tai Chi Chuan better.
The Snake form owes its creation to Grandmaster Ip Tai Tak - an extraordinary man whose single minded pursuit of excellence led him to be accepted as the first disciple of Yang Sau Chung, fourth generation of Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan. Through years of close and uncompromising Gau Sau (or exchange of hands) with his mentor, Grandmaster Ip Tai Tak gained vast practical and theoretical experience - rare knowledge and understanding of the traditional method that could only be achieved with a lifetime of disciplined and devoted practice.

After the death of his master, he remained faithful to the study, practice and development of Tai Chi Chuan. Like those in the tradition before him, he continued to explore and thus to expand the boundaries of Tai Chi Chuan.


Grandmaster Ip Tai Tak was a loyal traditionalist but was also a pragmatic innovator. He maintained throughout his life that the Traditional Long Form must remain faithful to its origins. This approach would ensure that lineage holders would pass on true historical transmissions from one generation to the next. However far from just didactic preservationof subject matter, Grandmaster Ip held a firm belief that Tai Chi Chuan had no boundaries and as such he would devote himself to “yin gau” 研究 (to investigate or research) it’s full potential.

This ideology meant that the shorter form known as the Cheung Kuen was chosen to be developed further. The Cheung Kuen was to become the platform from which evolution and hence progression could occur. Merging the traditional knowledge that had been passed to him through hands-on application together with the growing body of deeper and refined concepts led to changes in the emphasis and application of the Cheung Kuen. Movements from the Yang Ban Hau lineage were reintroduced back into the form, as well as introducing newer concepts such as the Tai Chi Circle and Lin Chee Bu (Cantonese).

The result of repeated refinement gave rise to a form that may appear simple to the onlooker, yet hidden within is an unforgiving, complex and profound practical and theoretical system that will allow the practitioner to develop and mature on many levels. Those who learnt the form, very quickly realized its characteristically uncompromising and tortuous nature, and soon after it became known as ‘Cheung Kuen Se Ying’ – literally translated as the Long Fist Snake Shape/Form.

Cheung Kuen Se Ying is a form that is as powerful as it is subtle. True to the perception of the snake’s attributes, externally the form is carried out entirely in a low stance, with smooth yet full transition between substantial and insubstantial weighting. Postures are based on a triangular arrangement, with the two feet representing two points of the triangle and the leading hand, being angular, representing the third. Its postures are also compact with close hand movements that work synergistically with the movements of the Tai Chi Circle. Internally the mind is focussed (意 yi) but quiet (靜 jing) facilitating the mental intent that is required for Chi to circulate more effectively –Yi Dou Hei Dou 意到氣到. Both the physical and mental processes allow the Chi energy to gather into the bones, making them stronger and heavier and thus develop the practitioner’s internal power.

Like the Traditional Long Form before it, each movement of the Snake Form contains within it an abundant breadth of potent combat application. Having the privilege to access the higher aspects of internal training through the correct use of the principles and concepts behind the Snake Form coupled with the traditional transmission of regular exchange of hands, the practitioner has the potential to translate his practice into powerful and deadly martial application. Both powerfully direct and subtlety deflective, Cheung Kuen Se Ying is ideally placed for nurturing the martial aspects of the art.

Cheung Kuen Se Ying then, is a form that has the potential to deliver some of the higher aspects of Tai Chi Chuan. However one must be mindful of the fact that this can only be achieved once certain prerequisites have been met. Like the roof top at the pinnacle of any tall construction, to be stable, it must first be borne of solid foundations. This is no different in Tai Chi Chuan. Therefore there must be sound comprehension of the triad consisting of the Traditional Long Form, Chi Kung and Pushing Hands, before the practitioner can begin to appreciate, understand and then absorb the Snake Form’s transmissions. Much like learning the Traditional Long Form, the Snake form is not simply the act of learning sequences of movement. It is not a form that can just be learnt superficially and archived with a library of other forms. Instead, like the Long Form, an able Sifu must first show its movements to the student and then guide him to realize the many hidden and unseen subtleties. It must then be practiced, used and reused to unlock its deeper qualities.

As has been said before, all forms, including the Snake Form, are learnt and used as tools because they enable us to substantiate our understanding of Tai Chi Chuan principles and concepts. High level Tai Chi Chuan then, is the translation of those ideals into situations beyond the structural bounds of form practice. Ultimately pure Tai Chi Chuan has no need for a form – it is simply applied concepts.


Related Links :