Why are there differences among taiji masters?

by admin on 2011/10/03

Porridge Monk of Longshan Mountain: There are many outstanding masters among Grandmaster Chen Fake’s disciples. His form is called 83-form today. From the same style Hong’s and Zhang Zhijun are different. And the later generation master Chen Yu is different again. Why? Ma Hong and Zhang Zhijun are closer to each other. Any masters who can help answer this questions?

 

{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

CantonCannon October 3, 2011 at 8:59 pm

Very good question, I would love to follow this discussion. I would like to know what would be a good answer for potential students.

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rgb October 3, 2011 at 10:35 pm

I am only a student of Taiji, but if I were to hazard a guess, I would think that what is important is how well the principles manifest themselves in the movements/techniques. If the principles are applied correctly, then the form is “correct” no matter how it may look or “evolve”. Or is this wrong?

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Michael Winkler October 4, 2011 at 4:59 am

Hi every’body,
I also think that is a very good question. Before I decided to concentrate on “Practical Method” only I did practice Chen Taijiquan from the lineage Chen Fake – Xiao Qinglin – Xiao Jimin. You can see an old video of me with my previous teacher Xiao Jimin here and on the YouTube Channel there are more clips with Yilu and Erlu from that lineage:
http://www.youtube.com/TaijiShiatsu#p/u/24/bZqna3_tzZo

I think, that is one of the “very different looking” forms coming from Chen Fake and after having practiced them for some years I have to mention that there are fundamental differences. We did never talk about “center never moves”, “in with the elbow and out with the hand” or the “separation of Yin and Yang”. After getting in touch with the lineage Hong Junsheng – Chen Zhonghua I think, that these principles are very helpful for creating something with the practice of taolu. Before this “something” for me was much more unclear and more difficult to find.

BUT I would not say that the things mentioned should not be there in theses other looking forms, at least they were not explained and pointed out – which probably is a question of teaching skill and method mainly … what do you think ? ….

Nevertheless the question above for me still is not answered. “In with the elbow and out with the hand” for instance I heard is very crucial according to Hong’s teachings. I never met another Taiji-school emphasising this and in most Chen Styles I saw it reversed to opposite.

Only after some discussions with my students I have an idea how this could have been happening: very often it seems to be very difficult to see weather the move was out with the hand or with the elbow. Even when watching Master Chen’s form I think we need to develop the ability to see that more and more – and probably that is always like that in Taiji. So what about the usual way to learn without or with very few explanations, only by copying what we can see … ?

And there is another question I have according to this: what was the form of Chen Fake like? He was supposed to come up with changes, and what about Hong Junsheng? As far as I know his intention was to keep practicality and usability of the form, but did he “change” some moves for that or did Chen Fake “change” some moves to simplify them for students ? Or did only Hong Junsheng keep the original and all the others did “change” moves …? – And when thinking about that we probably need to define the word “change” before …

Or better go to train as long as our idea of the practice is clear … ? … :-)
Looking forward to your opinions,
Michael

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Carlos Hanson October 4, 2011 at 6:31 am

The thing that I have found interesting, since I started learning Chen Style, is how much each version starts to look alike. My first teacher was very similar to Ma Hong when I started learning from him, so I focused on trying to perform like Ma Hong. Then I saw Chen Yu and tried to incorporate some of what I saw there. When I saw a YouTube clip of Six Sealing Four Closing by Chen Zhonghua, I tried to work that in as well.

I watched a lot of YouTube videos of different teachers. So many teachers look so different. Over time, however, as I practiced more, I found that I saw more similarities than differences.

I think the Practical Method looks very different from what I thought I was learning before, but I think it fills in the gap that I was missing. It makes all the pieces of my body fit together better. I like that it is taught from principles that we can apply everywhere. I like seeing positive and negative circles everywhere. I feel very unified with my practice of the Practical Method.

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Ming October 4, 2011 at 7:10 am

This issue was addressed in Grandmaster Hong’s book (as translated by Master Chen Zhonghua). Grandmaster Hong Junsheng acknowledged the apparent variations in his form, and that of his master and his master’s student. His conclusion was as follows:

“In summary, the measure for any form should be according to the principle that Master Chen Fake repeatedly emphasis “This set of Taijiquan does not have one technique which is useless. Everything was carefully designed for a purpose.” (“这套拳没有一个动作是空的, 都是有用的”) The best way to test correctness of a technique is to apply it in Taijiquan push hands and see its effectiveness.” (Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method, p. 2. )

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pingwei October 4, 2011 at 7:49 am

The underline of the question is about who is right, who is wrong. If two are different, one must be better than the other. Absolutely.
Master Chen (Zhonghua) said many times before that martial art doesn’t have internal nor external, only training methods are different.
Karate has its own training method which emphasizes on using the fists. Tae Kwon Do’s training method is to focus on kicking. When I started to study Tai Chi 30 years ago in China, the training method was “relaxing.” That’s why Tai Chi is so elusive, because you cannot measure “relaxing” and the idea of “relaxing” causes so much confusing among Tai Chi people. (While in karate, you punch as hard as you can; in TKD you kick as hard as you can.)
So, what’s the training method in Tai Chi. It’s not about how many routines (套路)(such as short routine, long routine, slow set, fast set) you can do, it’s about training the energy lines on your body and how you are going to use them. (Read Master Sun Zhonghua’s recent article) Master Chen has been leading us toward that ultimate goal, and his training methods are within this website, open to any one who is interested in. He is a true modern day legend, and approachable.

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rgb October 4, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Please forgive me if I’m misinterpreting what you’ve written but in your first paragraph, if you’re saying that if X and Y are different then one must be better than the other, then I would have to disagree.

While there are certainly “good” and “bad” teachers, good and bad students, good and bad technique, and there are clearly differences between martial art styles etc. I don’t feel it’s correct to conclude that any style (be it Chen, Yang, Wu, Sun or Taiji, Karate, Tae Kwon Do) is better than another. If done properly and correctly, I think any style is just as good as another….. though perhaps that’s not a good way of phrasing it…. It might be better to say that there is no need to compare any style over another. Comparison is irrelevant. A style is a style, there is no good or bad. Comparing different styles would be like comparing oil painting to water colors. The techniques are different but they are both good, legitimate art forms. You might prefer one over the other but neither is better or worse.

What the art means and what the art “is”, is up to the practitioner and it is ultimately all about the practitioner. Practicing an art is a private thing, a private matter between the student and teacher, the student and the art and the student and himself.

I would also like to clarify a few points regarding Karate and TKD. I’ve been told that the emphasis in kicking in TKD is because the legs produce greater power then the arms and in a life or death situation, you want to have the greatest chance of incapacitating the opponent as quickly as possible. In Karate, punching and kicking “should” be practiced equally. There are some styles of Karate which have become known for their “one hit kill” punches but it is a misconception that Karate emphasizes the fists. Also, with some exception, the mental and physical state of the Karate practitioner is to be alert but “relaxed.” Though I could be wrong, I don’t think it would be much different then a Taiji practitioner would be in a combat scenario or performing a form quickly. However, there are other Taiji concepts which are foreign or at least, not emphasized (or only learned indirectly) in Karate and TKD such as sticking and yielding and recognizing/using different energies etc.

I do think that finding a first rate teacher is very difficult in any discipline from the martial arts to music, math and science. Though I think it might be particularly difficult in the case of Taiji, especially here in the West. Partly because much of the “secrets” have been so very closely guarded until only recently and is therefore poorly understood by most “teachers”, if at all. Partly also, because Taiji has taken on a new existence as an exercise routine and as a “performance art” and has therefore further confused people as to what Taiji is. Master CZH is indeed very rare in his depth of understanding and his willingness to share all he knows.

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Anonymous October 4, 2011 at 9:21 pm

As popular as it is to say it’s not the art it’s the artist.. that is misleading. Some styles ARE better than others and more suited to certain situations. So lets say certain arts are better suited for certain things depending on your goals. TKD is not something to learn if your goal is learning to compete in wrestling. And wrestling is not the art to learn if your goal is being a boxing champ. Honestly as great as Taiji is. I would in no way recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning it as a 2 week course in quick self defense against muggers. I would suggest something like Krav Maga, American Kempo, or jujitsu. An art that leverages the human animals natural instincts instead of trying to shape them into a different way of movement patterns. If you know your goal in your practice then you will find what is the “best” for you.

As far as the topic goes.. why the different flavors of Chen Tai Chi.. I think it could have to do with the way Taiji used to be transmitted in the old days. Not everything was spelled out clearly and many times students have to figure out for themselves what the teacher means when he instructs. Often times students have backgrounds from different arts that they bring with them when they learn tai chi, and would probably tend to integrate some of the other methods into the tai chi practice so you get lots of variation and preferences for power generation. Practical method as a style is very “pure” one principle wise, in that everything must conform to the concept of rotation. The other styles don’t seem to emphasize this to the same extent if at all. Maybe if certain principles weren’t emphasized very explicitly by the old masters the students were left to fill in the blanks so to speak with other methods. Just my 2 cents.

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rgb October 5, 2011 at 11:17 am

Hello.

The general adage “it’s the artist not the art” is a proper one and is said often with good reason (though I much prefer the term “practitioner” vs “artist”). I do agree however, that it can be misleading. I think it is an important enough point to deserve some clarification and give it more attention then it gets. I’d like to make a few points at the risk of turning this into a political discussion and going off topic (apologies Master CZH, CantonCannon and others).

Certainly Krav Maga is better suited for someone who just moved to a dangerous neighborhood and is looking for a quick course in self defense. There’s anecdotal evidence supporting it’s effectiveness in that regard. And I agree, you’re not going to learn anything about wresting in traditional (vs MMA hybrid schools) TKD. And physical or other limitations may factor in as to what you do.

But that’s missing the point of the statement. The Art is simply “out there” for anyone to learn or ignore. LIke learning to play the guitar or painting. There are any number of arts that you can choose to do or not do. But once you have made a choice and have decided to “stick with it” and be serious about it, then I think that’s when the “it’s the artist not the art” statement becomes relevant. That statement really isn’t meant to be applied in situations where people are still choosing the art they want to learn (which I can understand is why it can be misleading).

In any learning endeavor, be it learning math, science, philosophy, art, sports etc there are several factors that are going to greatly affect the progress of the student. A good teacher will most definitely have a big influence. Having proper equipment or a positive learning environment or having a lot of money may be others. But ultimately, it’s up to the student as to how far and how fast he will progress. You can go to piano lesson classes and pay attention to the teacher and do all the assignments he gives out, and one day, you might become a competent pianist. That’s all fine. But if you’ve made the decision to dedicate a portion of your limited and precious time on earth to learn about playing the piano, then it should be understood that the “art” goes far beyond the school environment and the 1 or 2 hours you might spend in class. It is up to the student, not the school, not the teacher, not the parents or friends etc, to find and explore that world and work hard to learn about and discover it for yourself. If all you do is go to class and do what is required, at best, you will only be “satisfactory”/”proficient” at worst, you will have wasted your time.

Does this mean that if you “put in the time” that you will become best in the world achieve some other form of recognition, or even achieve any level of mastery? Certainly not. There are many factors that would determine that. But that too would be missing the point of “it’s the artist not the art”. The Art itself has nothing to do with being best in the world or being “better than another person/style” etc. The Art is simply “there”. Similarly, the concept of “Artist” (again, I prefer the term practitioner) has nothing to do with best in the world or competing (although competition does serve a purpose) or beating another person/style or any other such superficial goals. The concept of “the artist” is about the person and the art and putting in the dedication and sweat and effort etc and nothing more. If you want to become the best in the world or beat XYZ or gain recognition or whatever, that’s fine. But that has nothing to do with the Art or even, being an artist. You can be an artist who has such goals or not. People who become the best in the world are almost always “artists” in one form or another simply because they put in the time and effort and go above and beyond just doing the basic requirements, but nevertheless, they are separate things.

The art is what you make of it and how you grow as a practitioner. That’s why comparing one art or one style or one practitioner over another is meaningless in the context of “the art” and “being a practitioner”. If you need a particular skill set for a particular purpose or if you have certain preset requirements then sure, compare away. You make your judgments based on your needs and feelings etc. You can certainly identify differences and merits between different arts. But while your choice may be good for you and your purpose and your definitions, it does not mean X is better than Y. X is X and Y is Y. This is essentially the point I was trying to make with pingwei.

When you hear masters who have spent many decades learning an art, talk about still having a lot to learn or you hear people (usually for arts with a philosophical connection) talk about being on “a path” this is all about being an artist and learning an art.

Just my opinion though. Feel free to disagree and put me in my place. Sorry again for going off topic. I hope though that people found some relevance to practicing taiji.

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Chen Zhonghua October 5, 2011 at 12:11 pm

RGB,
No need to apologize to me. All comments are welcome. They all contribute to the cause one way or another.

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Anonymous October 5, 2011 at 12:26 pm

In the context of practicing one art and not in deciding which art to practice some of the things you say about being an artist is valid. But to loop this back to the original discussion however and your statement that no style of Tai Chi is better than the other or X is X and Y is Y so we should not claim one superior to another when referring to styles of martial arts. I would say well.. that depends.

If the essence of Tai Chi skill is to produce attributes of (X, Y, and Z) results and you study a different Tai Chi style that produces results (A,B, and C) or a style that produces skills of (X, Y, and A), or (A, B, and Y) instead. Is what you’re studying a really Tai Chi? I guess it’s all in how you can define what is true Tai Chi to begin with.. If it is understood that real Tai Chi is supposed to produce a certain set of skills and you have different Styles that don’t produce those skills in their practitioners something is wrong. And if you cannot or will not define what is Tai Chi skill, then you can say everything is Tai Chi and in that sense you will be right. X is no better than Y.

But if you define that tai chi should not “toss” because “tossing” will not bring out certain attributes and you study another style that utilizes “tossing” as a method then what are you really doing? Tai Chi or something else? If your goal is to learn X in which X is comprised of (1,2,3) and instead you study Y where Y is composed of (4,5,6) that’s not going to work.

Some beginner can study Kenpo, and Shuai Chiao, and do Tai Chi for a year and then go off and start his own style calling it KenShui style Tai Chi.. and in your definition that would be no better or worse than any other schools of Tai Chi, and I’m going to come right out and say it.. that’s bull.. You may have a student of this school that can fight good, and you may even beat other people from orthodox styles of Tai Chi but that’s besides the point, and it would be very dishonest to say since you call it Tai Chi, that it’s Tai Chi that you’ve learned. IMO this is a huge reason for the countless fakers out there saying they’re doing Tai Chi all over the world. There are no standards or agreements of what Tai Chi should be so everyone is a master of it. As an outsider and not a student of CZH, I will be a bit bold and say Tai Chi as an umbrella term and style has a cancer in it that has been growing for a very very long time, and ideas such as yours that every style is okay and valid, as long as you practice it enough is dangerous like a toxic carcinogen. From my observations, Practical Method as taught by CZH is like a scalpel that can cut away at this cancer.

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Niko October 4, 2011 at 10:40 am

“Porridge Monk”. Ha ha ha – dreimal laut gelacht !

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晨行 October 4, 2011 at 12:43 pm

本来发科公的拳架就是讲究内涵,实际上其拳架很难看根本不像今天常见的太极拳。门徒各有所得,当然发展的支派风格各异。
陈瑜再起祖父 和父亲的基础上有所创新,或则说标新立异以求同陈氏其他传人的不同特色。

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CantonCannon October 4, 2011 at 9:00 pm

For some reason, the direction of this topic is heading towards political correctness as opposed to answering the questions:

Porridge Monk of Longshan Mountain: There are many outstanding masters among Grandmaster Chen Fake’s disciples. His form is called 83-form today. From the same style Hong’s and Zhang Zhijun are different. And the later generation master Chen Yu is different again. Why? Ma Hong and Zhang Zhijun are closer to each other. Any masters who can help answer this questions?

Personally, I have studied other styles of Taiji prior to Master Chen. The key is that it is the differences (noticeable differences even on a video, specifically for me the one with Michael Calendra – whom I might add was already a 7th degree black belt, not to mention a pretty stocky dude) that got me hooked and keeps me hooked.

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pingwei October 5, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Thank you, Anonymous. You said something I always wanted to say but afraid of saying it (in order to avoid controversy).

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rgb October 5, 2011 at 8:57 pm

Hello Anonymous.

I am composing a response but it will take some time and I’m in the middle of juggling a few things at the moment. Hopefully by sometime tomorrow if I can finish up these other things.

Best.

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rgb October 6, 2011 at 11:53 am

Hello.

You raise some good points which I will try to address. Though this “communication via message board” format of discussion is a very awkward and difficult means of communicating some very complicated concepts and opinions. I will do my best though.

And by the way, just as a point of reference, like yourself, I’m not a student of Master CZH either.

To begin…. I do state that a style is a style and that there is no good and bad. There is just “The Art”. I still stand by that but I realize that it requires clarification. And I apologize, I can not always be so thorough in my explanations.

So, I think the first point that needs to be addressed is “what is a (Martial) Art?”.

Anyone who has been around MA for a while has seen, heard about or even met the young, “14th Degree, Supreme Grandmaster” of some style he invented seemingly over a pint of beer. Can we consider his style an “Art” (big ‘A’ implying significant/worthy)? It may actually qualify as a martial art (small ‘a’) in strict technical terms but the chances of it being an “Art” (big ‘A’) are somewhere around 0.000%. So yes, going back to my comment about X being X and Y being Y etc, if we add these other fly-by-night “arts” then not all “arts” are the same but I was talking about Martial Arts (big ‘A’), not meaningless, made up, phony martial arts (small ‘a’).

Which brings us to the next question, what is a legitimate ” Martial Art”?

That’s a bit of a nebulous concept and it’s one of those things where it’s far more efficient to say, “I’ll know if it’s an Art if I see it with my own eyes”. But for the sake of this discussion, in my opinion (and I’m struggling to define it, so please allow some leeway) an Art must have or produce value in the category in which it belongs. It must require techniques to create/perform the Art. It must produce an aesthetic quality. It must not be something “trivial”. It must stand up to scrutiny. It must also – at least some point in time – have practitioners and teachers who stand up to scrutiny. And the people who judge these things should be the consensus from a number of recognized “experts” from long established Arts in the same category (“Martial Arts” being the category here).

I realize this may not fit everyone’s definition and that in the real world, the Martial Arts communities can be full of egos and politics etc but at least on a conceptual level I think this definition will work.

Now, going back to Taiji. I mentioned in an earlier post that Taiji has “evolved” into things such as a “performance art” and as an exercise routine. Are these “Taiji”? The answer in my opinion, is no. What is being practiced by many people here in the West (I can not speak about China as I’ve never been there) is not “Taiji”. They are physical activities based on Taiji but they are not practiced as a martial art and the practitioners do not exhibit martial skills and would not hold up to scrutiny from experts from other martial arts.

Before I go on, as a side note, I just want to note that while they may not be taiji, I do think they have a legitimate purpose and place in this world… but I won’t get into that now.

So what of other taiji styles like Yang, Wu and Sun? Are they legitimate Martial Arts? I would say yes. I think they all hold up to the criteria I set above. Then if Yang, Wu and Sun are Martial Arts, are they “Taiji” Arts?

As I’ve said before, I am only a student so I’m hardly an authority on the subject and therefore unqualified to answer with any legitimacy and I’ve actually thought quite a while about whether I should continue this point. But I can’t really proceed with this discussion without some foundation and definition of terms so, I’m going to state what I think. And I hope someone better suited, will chime in and add or correct me.

The way I see it, Taiji (broadly speaking) is first and foremost a Martial Art. As a MA, I would expect it to have techniques that enable one to attack and defend oneself. And indeed – regardless of whether or not they are actually practiced as a MA today – all styles of taiji have techniques for attacking and defending. By the way, this is why it is important to separate out and define the concept of “The Art” and “The Artist/Practitioner”. The Art has techniques for attacking and defending. The issue that most practitioners don’t practice taiji in a way that reflects it’s innate martial qualities is an entirely different matter.

Narrowing down “what taiji is” further, there are things that make Taiji “unique” unto itself. Taiji (as I understand it) is an Art that at it’s very foundation/core has a sophisticated set of philosophies/principles/rules that guide all of it’s physical movements (though I don’t if all are explicitly stated). These include concepts regarding posture, center, energies/ force etc. To my knowledge all styles of taiji follow these same basic principles. In my opinion, these are “the taiji skills”. Again though, whether or not they are practiced that way is a separate issue.

This sort of brings me back to the very first comment I posted in this discussion in response to Porridge Monk’s question (dated October 3rd above). From my perspective and understanding, even if the physical movements “seem” different, from person to person and from style to style you can tell how good someone’s Taiji is by how well he incorporates/exhibits these principles in his techniques. In Chen style you might have the palm facing out, where as in Yang the palm faces in. In Wu, you might have a lean in your stance. The “outward” appearance is different but the actions are governed and executed using the same basic principles.

When you state above:

“If the essence of Tai Chi skill is to produce attributes of (X, Y, and Z) results and you study a different Tai Chi style that produces results (A,B, and C) or a style that produces skills of (X, Y, and A), or (A, B, and Y) instead”

I’m not entirely sure I understand your point here. The way I’ve defined it, you practice Chen and Yang and Wu movements in compliance with the principles of maintaining proper posture, generating power from the foot and extending it to the hand etc, etc. I’m not certain what “attributes of results X, Y, Z and A, B, C” would be.

Regarding your tossing comment.

Excerpt from M. CZH’s post dated Nov 2, 2010 from the “Tossing Online Video Trailer”
http://practicalmethod.com/2010/11/tossing-online-video-trailer/

“To the average person, if you don’t toss, you cannot move; if you move, you are guaranteed to toss. That is to say, the average person can not MOVE. He can only TOSS. Understanding of this human deficiency is key to Chen Style Taijiquan training. It was said that Chen Fake realized after dozens of years of teaching in Bejing that students could not follow this principle of not tossing. Therefore you see today’s new frame. But the best thing is to take a look at traditional masters such as Fu Zhongwen, Ma Yueliang, Hong Junsheng, Yang Zhenduo and Feng Zhiqiang. They REAL masters don’t toss when they perform their taiji. ”

And excerpt from M. CZH’s (or I think it’s M. CZH, though the post is from “Admin”) post dated March 11, 2011 from the “Don’t Toss!” post.
http://practicalmethod.com/2010/03/dont-toss/

“We are not going to list and give examples of tossing, instead, take a look at the following Grandmasters of each style below (**rgb’s note: in case you haven’t gone to the link, the videos include Masters from Chen, Wu, Yang, Sun and Hao styles and are the masters listed above).. You will notice that these people do not toss when they practice the routines or push hands. Partially it is because they were already acknowledged masters that they did not need to impress people, partial because they knew that true taiji does not involve “tossing“.

So from this, I take that “tossing” does not exist in any of the “pure” styles of Taiji. And it is clear that getting students to not toss is a very, very difficult thing to do. When you see other people perform taiji and you see them toss, it is therefore not because tossing is inherent in other styles of taiji, rather it is likely because these people have either been taught incorrectly or they do not have the skills to move without tossing. Again, it is necessary to separate the Art/style from the people who practice it. It would be like concluding that Mozart or classical music is bad because you heard someone sing a Mozart Aria who happens to be tone deaf.

Now, we know that there are several rules specific to the Practical Method such as the right hand does not cross over to the left side (I hope I have this right?). But does this mean that any Martial Art where the right hand crosses over to the left, that that particular Martial Art is bad? The answer is no. In Karate for example, all blocks are performed with the hand first crossing over to the opposite side. In part this is to help cover up the body before you execute the block but it is also used to generate power using Karate’s body mechanics. The block in Karate is actually an offensive weapon as the block is really a strike to the limb. The intent is not only to deflect but to break or incapacitate the limb you are blocking. The arm crossing to the opposite side is very important here.

Rules are designed to work within the confines of a particular system. Take the rule out of the system and it loses it’s meaning. You can have the same rule in different systems but the absence of one rule in another system doesn’t necessarily make that system bad.

I have seen no evidence leading me to believe that any of the other Taiji styles are bad or illegitimate. The style is simply the style. Chen is Chen. Yang is Yang. X is X, Y is Y. The differences between them do not make one superior over another. The Art is the Art. The issue that you have is with the practitioners.

Which brings me to your next point. regarding as you state, “all the countless fakers saying they’re doing Taiji.” I agree that this is a problem. And I think part of the problem is because taiji is a very difficult Art to teach. The concepts are very broad and deep and they can not always be easily defined or even, defined at all. Many techniques must be experienced directly through contact and there are few people who are skilled enough to teach this way (not to mention the difficult of finding good teachers in general). And it doesn’t help if a teacher (intentionally or not) withholds relevant information for one reason or another.

But who is this a problem for? Certainly it is a problem for the “legitimate” taiji community at large. Having large numbers of people perform bad taiji tarnishes the image of taiji. But I think that’s something for the “elder statesmen” of all the various styles and what not figure out. Certainly they are in the best position, have the most legitimacy and are the most qualified to do so.

From my perspective, as a lowly student pursuing an art, should I care if someone gets the wrong impression of taiji? Sure. And if I’m in a specific situation with someone, I’ll do what I can to get them to see things differently. But I don’t think it’s my obligation or 99.999% of other student’s obligation to go out of their way to try and change the taiji community. If it happens out of the natural course of training then great. And if you feel it’s your duty to do so, then go for it…. though unless you are already yourself a master, I think you will find it to be a difficult and frustrating experience. It’s one thing to think someone is doing something wrong. Another thing entirely to say it to them. It’s another thing to proove it. And still another thing to make them believe. Now multiply that by however many people are doing it wrong…… The big picture stuff should be addressed by the Masters.

If someone with poor taiji form happens to win a lot of competitions and brags and says his taiji is the best, let him brag. Let him start his own school. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. Such is Life. Taiji isn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last discipline that becomes infested with people (knowingly or not) making false claims. Just don’t go to any of the same competitions anymore.

I do not see having other people perform bad taiji as a personal obstacle for my own pursuits. It is better for the student to just focus on practice and that’s it. And as I stated elsewhere, a practitioner pursuing an Art is a personal thing between himself, the Art and perhaps, the teacher. If it doesn’t directly relate to what you’re doing then for the perspective of “being on your path to learning taiji” it’s irrelevant.

I think that just about covers it. It’s just my opinion. Hopefully it made sense. I did try to go through and edit things to make it more readable but for something as complex as this, I would have preferred to spend more time thinking and rewriting before posting so please keep that in mind.

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Anonymous October 6, 2011 at 4:34 pm

RGB – You have posted a lot and I don’t think I will attempt to address all your points but a main one I want to touch on is the idea of style.

You have said..
“I have seen no evidence leading me to believe that any of the other Taiji styles are bad or illegitimate. The style is simply the style. Chen is Chen. Yang is Yang. X is X, Y is Y. The differences between them do not make one superior over another. The Art is the Art. The issue that you have is with the practitioners.”

To an extent I agree with this.. styles as a core set of principles and concepts cannot be better or worse but on the other hand I would say that styles do not exist in a vacuum, styles exist ONLY in it’s practitioners. If more and more practitioners practice in ways that do not conform to the rules of the system then the line is diminished. So in this sense bad practitioners who do not pass on or learn the right methods eventually makes the style “bad”.

You have said
“Rules are designed to work within the confines of a particular system. Take the rule out of the system and it loses it’s meaning. You can have the same rule in different systems but the absence of one rule in another system doesn’t necessarily make that system bad.” And you give example of Karate vs. Tai Chi rules.

I agree, and this ties in with the above. Indeed if it’s just Karate they are doing that is fine. The problem is if you have Karate guy or even some other martial artist calling what he does Tai Chi because he does it Tai Chi’esque. Or if he is studying Tai Chi with a legitimate Tai Chi instructor but didn’t get the true transmission of Tai Chi principles in the first place because the master, and master’s master didn’t know them, or didn’t feel like teaching him the real goods, so he fills in the blanks with a smattering Karate, tong bei, or shaolin etc. In the real world this happens all too often which is why I said…

“If the essence of Tai Chi skill is to produce attributes of (X, Y, and Z) results and you study a different Tai Chi style that produces results (A,B, and C) or a style that produces skills of (X, Y, and A), or (A, B, and Y) instead”

To clarify what I meant by this, if Tai Chi skill is to have a defined discrete skill set or attributes to develop, for example(multidirectional power using (rotation, opposing forces, lever etc (xyz)), and some other styles or in this case practitioners who have gone onto start their own branches of tai chi that do not emphasize the same attributes. Should they be called tai chi? Are the principles the same and applied consistently or do some of these other styles overly emphasize some things while not emphasizing others due to lack of knowledge? Should these branches be considered Tai Chi? That has to do with standards.. From what I can tell many in the Tai Chi world have interpreted various refined skills as being tai chi.. For example what I can tell some schools seem over emphasize whipping power using elastic tendon fascia power to whip their strikes. Is that tai chi skill? To me a whipping slapping, style striking that some Taiji schools deem as neijia, are more to do with extreme tossing… but what some of these Taiji schools doing things more akin to white crane or mantis. Some other branches seem overly pre-occupied with relaxation often seemingly collapsed… noodle fu mixed with western boxing, Is this Tai Chi? There’s even a school started up by a well known Shuai Chiao master that doesn’t seem to be anything other than Shuai Chiao body doing Tai Chi choreography.. can this be Tai Chi?
So when I said.. if Tai Chi is defined set of principles of (xyz) and you do (abc- completely different) or (xya – some of the attributes, but not all) even though some styles say they do tai chi are they really? How will that evolve the style. I think in the context of Tai Chi some definitions and standards first need to be set and agreed upon in the Tai Chi world. And in that framework I believe not all Tai chi that’s called as such, is equal even if they come from so called legitimate orthodox lines.

As far as what you’ve said.. “Chen is Chen. Yang is Yang.” Not always true.. There’s different Chen styles just as, there are many branches and offshoots of Yang style. Some lines of which ARE adulterated by other methods. The principles are not always clear and agreed amongst the different branches, so how are students going to wade through all this murky soup of style variations to focus on the practice of the real deal, when so many adulterated branches are claiming authenticity?

Well… Like you have said it’s something the heads of the schools have to sit down one day and work out, not us… but due to ego’s and peoples careers being at stake, I don’t think there it’ll happen anytime soon if at all. Anyway, I probably didn’t address your points to your satisfaction but that’s all I’m going to say about this for now.

Not sure if any Practical Method students want to chime in to this or not.. but if not it’s understandable.. This kind of talk is a bit of a Tai Chi political hot potato.

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rgb October 6, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Hello.

Ok. I can see your points.

There is a general adage in the Art world (not just the MA world) which goes something along the lines of “The Art lives on through it’s practitioners”.

So to your point, if we were to create a purely hypothetical scenario and say that every single Yang practitioner in the world alive at this very moment performed their forms breaking the Taiji principles and tossed or what not, and everyone believed that this was correct and there was no chance of the “pure” art re-emerging, then I would agree, that in this hypothetical, and in this way of defining what Yang style is, I would agree that what is being practiced as Yang Style is no longer “true” taiji. The common phrase that I think would be appropriate in situations like this is “The art is dying/died” or “The Art is lost”.

But I guess my feeling is, and I think this is something that we’re not going to agree on, if even one person out of millions is preserving the good Yang Style then the Art is not dead. It may be on the endangered species list but even one person in a million is enough. Alternatively, if there is some other way of preserving the Art than it may be dead but it is not lost.

Regarding your 5th paragraph about “Tai Chi’esque”. This I covered in my previous post. If someone who is completely unqualified goes off on his own and without anyone’s blessing, creates his own version of Taiji then it must be “judged” to determine if it’s “true” taiji. But if someone makes modifications with the blessing of an authority (as in the case of GM Hong and GM Fake) then it is already “pre-judged” and deemed appropriate by an authority so there is no problem. Note though that GM Hong was careful and clearly identified his style as “Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method” and not just simply “Chen Style”. So I think part of your isssues has to do with labels. Though to be fair, I think in most cases, the people who teach whatever variation of whatever style will mention whatever lineage/variation they teach.

But I can understand your point. Since there is no governing body of taiji that would do this (not that I’m aware of anyway), I think we are left with no choice but to leave it up to the individual to make that determination for himself. If someone sees bad taiji and thinks it’s good taiji, then for him, that’s taiji. And there are certainly people claiming that they teach X style of Chen or Yang but they are no where close. It’s unfortunate but this is the reality of the state of Taiji today (at least here in the West). There is no authority that can state what is and what is not taiji. Just individuals.

Regarding Chen is Chen and Yang is Yang. The point I’m making here is not to make a statement regarding all branches of Chen and Yang style. It is simply that the Art is the Art. The Style is the Style. Whether it’s Chen Villiage Chen or Practical Method Chen or Yang Chengfu’s Yang etc. I guess it might have been clearer if I just said X is X and Y is Y and left it at that.

Generally speaking, I don’t have a problem with Art evolving. That is the nature of any Art (and really, the nature of human beings). The Master teaches the student and some students go on and modify or develop their own style and the Art changes. Just look at music, fine arts, performing arts, literature, cuisine, film, architecture, Martial Arts etc. Change obviously needs to be done carefully and needs to be scrutinized (as mentioned in my previous post) but it’s not a bad thing at all.

But sure, there are always going to be people who don’t know what they’re doing making up something horrible. But, I think over a period of time, natural selection works in the Arts as well. Maybe not in every single case and maybe not as fast as some would like but I think nature will eventually weed out the good and the bad in almost everything. Whether it’s Shakespeare or Beethoven or Da Vinci etc. I’m not saying that major forces can’t over ride the process (eg: deforestation, global warming killing off species) but let’s hope that barring something significant happening in the taiji community, natural forces will work here too.

I should make a particular note that I think M. CZH has done a fantastic job promoting good taiji. The videos and the web site and the workshops and Daqingshan and his openness in teaching etc. No one in the taiji community that I’m aware of is doing anything close. Perhaps his efforts will prove to be a turning point in taiji history…

And I guess I can understand why you would get upset seeing bad taiji or mislabeled taiji. But for me, if you have your Art – whatever it may be – then just practice your Art. That is the role of the student. Just do Yilu or whatever form is appropriate and work hard and get better at your Art. I’m not saying take a bury your head in the sand approach to things in Life, but for me, for something like this, since I’m essentially unable and largely unwilling to do anything about it (see my previous post about trying to convince people that they are doing bad taiji) I don’t see why it even deserves a moment’s thought. I feel bad for people fooled into doing bad taiji but what can I do but just turn the focus on my own efforts?

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pingwei October 6, 2011 at 11:15 pm

It’s cruel to tell someone who has been doing tai chi for many years that what he’s doing is not real tai chi. Not many people are willing to accept that.
I did chen style tai chi for over 20 years and taught chen style tai chi to many students, and my lineage was from a legitimate, authentic, well known master in China. Only when I came to US, and fortunately enough to meet CZH 10 years ago, then I realized what the real tai chi is. Fortunately, I didn’t have ego, I was able to start from zero. I consider myself fortunate. My point here is there are many chen style masters, they all do differently. Personally, I was drawn to practical method, and master CZH. Why did I abandon the previous 20 year practice? Simple answer, he (CZH) has the key to open the door for me. Only after you are led in the door then you will find out that the real tai chi world is magnificent.

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Pavel Codl October 7, 2011 at 4:33 am

Ping, I could not write it better. Same with me, but only 4 years ago. Another example. Just two days ago new student from Lao Jia school came into my class. After more than 10 years of practising, he stated after one class of PM:” well, let´s start from zero.” But generally it oneself choice, some want to learn real, some want just relax and many just dont care of origin

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rgb October 7, 2011 at 9:06 am

Hello.

Just some general comments.

I have found that there isn’t much of a relationship between how good someone is as a teacher and how good they are at the Art. You can have a world class musician, athlete or artist who is an awful teacher. Being a good teacher requires it’s own skill sets and experience… Poor to mediocre teachers are common. Good teachers are fairly rare. Finding a great teacher is like winning the lottery..

I’ve also found there isn’t really a concrete relationship between how good a person is at something and the length of time they’ve been doing. It isn’t uncommon at all to meet people from all walks of life who say that they’ve been a chef, lawyer, business manager etc for years and years – sometimes even decades – and yet they are awful at what they do. Conversely, you can meet someone who’s only been practicing something for a couple years yet they exhibit tremendous skill.

If someone said they came from a certain lineage/school or studied directly under a certain teacher with a good reputation it might increase the probabilities that at the very least, they had a certain minimum level of proficiency, but that, by no means, is a guarantee either. There are so, so many factors that determine a person’s skill.

As I’ve stated elsewhere, I think the most important relationship in any Art is the one between the Art and the practitioner. The student teacher relationship can be very important too, but pursuing an Art is ultimately about the practitioner and the Art. It is after all, the practitioner’s life, not the teacher’s. That’s why I am always heartened when I hear stories of teachers who recommend their students go seek another school/teacher to further their studies. That, is a person who understands his role as a teacher/mentor/guide, knows enough to see potential and puts the well being of the student before himself. I think that is a really wonderful, beautiful thing.

There’s definitely an element of harshness to telling someone that what they’ve been learning for the past X number of years is wrong/poor. Certainly there are people who are going to be receptive to criticism and those who are not as well as those who care and those who do not. And there are different ways of expressing such criticism to “ease the blow”. But I think the greatest tragedy in regards to the serious, passionate student pursuing an Art, is having wasted so much time and effort doing something that has gotten the student no where…. or worse, has given him so many bad habits that it becomes harder to do it the right way. The only thing that would make this tragedy worse would be for the student to waste another second staying on this path. The sooner this student goes on “the right path” the better.

I should emphasize that I’m not advocating anyone to go out and confront people with bad taiji. It’s not anyone’s obligation to do that and doing so can very easily be a whole messy situation that escalates into an all out war. But if the student initiates and ask for an opinion or if all the circumstances surrounding the situation is right and you’re in a position to show/express/discuss the point, then I think nothing can be better for that student.

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Anonymous October 7, 2011 at 12:28 pm

RGB Regarding your previous posting

You said

“But I guess my feeling is, and I think this is something that we’re not going to agree on, if even one person out of millions is preserving the good Yang Style then the Art is not dead. It may be on the endangered species list but even one person in a million is enough. Alternatively, if there is some other way of preserving the Art than it may be dead but it is not lost.”

No I would agree to this.. why would I not? You are simply giving a definition of what endangered means. However being endangered is a big enough problem. It’s only a matter of time before endangered becomes extinct unless some drastic measures are taken.

You said

“Generally speaking, I don’t have a problem with Art evolving. That is the nature of any Art (and really, the nature of human beings). The Master teaches the student and some students go on and modify or develop their own style and the Art changes. Just look at music, fine arts, performing arts, literature, cuisine, film, architecture, Martial Arts etc. Change obviously needs to be done carefully and needs to be scrutinized (as mentioned in my previous post) but it’s not a bad thing at all.

But sure, there are always going to be people who don’t know what they’re doing making up something horrible. But, I think over a period of time, natural selection works in the Arts as well. Maybe not in every single case and maybe not as fast as some would like but I think nature will eventually weed out the good and the bad in almost everything. “

Evolution is happening for sure… the fact of life is that things evolve and change.. but in what direction is a major point here. In case you haven’t noticed all this bad Tai Chi out there HAS been due to evolution..and in the wrong direction. Evolution is great if the foundations are strong and the process is a continual refinement and adaptation of the art to modern times and situations.. but the main problem we have today, is lack of essence so to speak and a lack of consensus and standards in the Tai Chi world, not only in the West but also in the East. This not only applies to Tai Chi but many other Chinese martial arts, as well as Traditional Chinese medicine. Much has already been lost already. If we accepted “natural selection” for Tai Chi then arts like Thai Boxing and Western Wrestling will reign supreme and subtle challenging arts such as Tai Chi WILL die off simply because the results are harder to come by.. should we allow natural selection to phase out something a valuable cultural treasure like Tai Chi? I personally don’t think so… I do feel that there does need to be a catalyst of some sort. What that catalyst will be I don’t know, but CZH’s school is certainly a step in the right direction.

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rgb October 8, 2011 at 8:30 am

Hello.

Regarding extinction. Anytime something of value disappears from the world, that is a very sad thing. Most of the time, we have people who champion an Art and they fight hard to keep it alive/preserve it. This is because it’s in our nature to want to protect what we value. And if anyone ever finds that this is their calling then I would applaud them and encourage them to fight for what they believe. It’s a great thing to have a well defined purpose in Life.

Though as I sort of mention in my previous post, the very nature of true Taiji is precisely what makes it difficult to keep pure. Few people understand it and even for those that do, it’s very difficult to teach. Plus students must spend countless hours practicing this “thing” that they don’t understand with no guarantee that they will ever even get it. And time is not a commodity that most people are willing to spend on something where there’s little tangible value until they’ve sacrificed years of their life. Even if they were to gain some mastery, what would the average person do with those skills in a practical sense? He would likely be more physically fit for sure, but Taiji does not have a great cost/benefit ratio for the modern person with a job, spouse and kids.

Getting back to extinction… the way that I look at it, there are certain truths in Nature. That things are destroyed because they exist. And that all things will one day perish. Extinction may take days, decades or centuries but it is still the nature of existence. There are no laws governing how long or how well or in “what direction” something will exist. What survives and what doesn’t is really up to how ever things unfold. Things change. New things emerge and “space” must be made to make room for it. Sometimes that simply means “out with the old, in with the new” sometimes everything must share and squeeze into the same space. To protect something from decaying is to fight against the natural forces and this is no trivial task.

On the “micro time scale” we may have some limited control on how fast or slow it takes for something to disappear but nevertheless, it is still subject to these truths. On the macro time scale, we must realize that with every new generation, the pledge to continue the difficult struggle to protect an Art must be made and that is not something that we, living in the current time, have any control over. What happens, happens. Though it is worth noting that it is far easier to destroy then it is to create or preserve, so it is because of this fragility that we should cherish what we have now, while it exists.

There are many things that no longer exist or are dying out in this universe… from (as you point out) Chinese Martial Arts and Chinese Medicine, to plants, animals and insects to entire civilizations, stars and planets to even non-physical things like ideas and beliefs. We, as human beings, place value on these things but from the perspective of Nature, whether they still exist or not is neither good nor bad, everything is simply part of the natural course of things. Like it or not, human beings, human soceity, human culture, human desires etc are a non-matter to Time and Nature. What happens, happens.

I don’t mean to sound so pessimistic or callous. I can certainly empathize with you. I am happy and grateful for M. CZH for keeping real taiji alive and like you, it’s sad for me to see how taiji is changing. But I guess the philosopher in me believes that the state of taiji today is as a result of all sorts of different and powerful “forces” that have been at work for decades. It is what it is because things happened the way they happened. And how things unfold from here is anyone’s guess.

What I know for certain is that there is good taiji being performed today, right now, at this very moment, and I also know that there are people who are keeping it alive. That, for me, is enough for who I am (a lowly practitioner), at this very moment. I hope that doesn’t sound too depressing.

I think the best thing that most of us can do is to just keep practicing and keep taiji alive that way. Perhaps even in this scenario, the principles of taiji can be used to take 4oz and move 1000lbs….

To end on a positive note, I’m willing to bet that true taiji will survive long, long after we’re gone. Having someone like M. CZH who understands taiji and who can communicate and teach these hard to understand concepts in English goes a long way. And incredibly powerful tools like the internet and computers and video recordings enable the art to be preserved and studied by the masses who would never even had a chance to know about it otherwise.

Well, this has certainly gone way off topic. See? Even internet message boards are no match to the forces of change! :-)

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Anonymous October 8, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Absolutely nothing to disagree with you about there. The only constant is change. All we can do here is to try and shape that change if we see things heading in a direction we don’t like or agree with, from our own points of view. From preserving art forms, to endangered species, to ways of life. Ultimately all in this world will be gone one day. Some may as why bother? Because having some worthy causes to believe in and fight for whatever they may be. That gives us mere mortals meaning and purpose during our short time here. As it applies to the state of Tai Chi, I am of the opinion that if there’s bad happening to something you value, what is worse then doing bad, is standing by and doing nothing at all. Take care!

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rgb October 8, 2011 at 10:02 pm

Ok. It sounds like you’ve found your calling and want to take an active role in preserving true/pure taiji. That is quite a task. I sincerely admire your passion.

Note though that simply practicing taiji day after day, year after year, is in it’s own way, a method for keeping the Art alive.

Best of luck to you.

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Niko November 3, 2011 at 9:44 am

“His form is called 83-form today. From the same style Hong’s and Zhang Zhijun are different.”

Are there any recordings of Chen Fake performing ? To my knowledge not. So how can you claim that they are different from Chen Fake ? I don´t know Zhang Zhijun, so i can´t tell if his form is different from Grandmaster Hong.

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Niko November 3, 2011 at 10:58 am

I´am not referring to the four changes Hong introduced into yilu.

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Niko November 5, 2011 at 2:29 am

Although not a master i just want to add one comment.
I came to Taiji through a video of Master Chen on youtube which had a huge impact on me. Before that, Taiji was almost unknown to me – i had no idea about the styles, masters and so on. Pingwei and Pavel mentioned that there are many pupils with different masters, who are practicing for a long time with only little or no progress. Why is that ? After reading an article from Master Sun, where i think he pointed out to that issue, i can only conclude that either the Master ” can´t teach ” or the pupils are not receptive and open to learn. And according to Master Sun the master, in order to be able to teach, must have the “goods”.
To make it short, i think we can be happy to have a school led by Master who´s “goods” and teachings are excellent. And personally i feel really lucky, that i haven´t had to go through the martyrdom of finding such a master.

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Niko December 4, 2011 at 6:16 am

There are some who have “it” and some who don´t. It´s like yin and yang.
Is it a black horse or a white horse ?

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bruce.schaub December 19, 2011 at 6:35 am

Taiji is about transformation…study of change….merging internal with external…for various different, reasons masters have decided to make their internal movements apparent in the external “appearence” in their form…some not so much….some hide their spiral energy almost completely. generally speaking it’s necessary to practice spiral movement externally in order to manifest it internally..as time goes on the mechanical aspects give way to study of naturalness and effortlessness (doing less and less) depending on where someone is in this transformative process, their form may look quite different… in addition to that, thier are many applications of idividual taiji movements. when you reach the level where you are practicing your form as if you are fighting an opponent, your mind intent will and should manifest in extremely specific ways, and your body moves as if you are actually engaged with an enemy. How well you can actually apply yourself to this and which application you are envisioning changes your form in subtle, or not so subtle ways….

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andi January 25, 2012 at 2:03 pm

i think i found here with you guys one of the most interesting places in the web to discuss about taiji and learn from each other…
what does make taiji so special as an art of moving your body and applying this movements to other persons in a fighting purpose?
it is the taiji principle, which i found out can be different throughout taiji styles…
i am practising yang style by erle montaigue (taijiworld.com) and chen style by chen xiaowang…
for example: if you want to do the yang style as i learned it with low stances, it does not work…
you need to stand in a smaller way, the energy more risen up… totale different framework than chen style…
the pushhands – practice can also be different…
what else can i say… work out the principles correctly for every tiny little movement and work on the power of your muscles and tendons… taiji needs an powerfull and balanced body and train as hard as possible…

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charlie wishon November 18, 2015 at 8:38 am

We all will comment on what we do not know . Our experience can never be the guide . We must follow the procedure, adhere to the principle. Outwardly we will look different , so ultimately we must trust our teacher, remain open , follow the procedure.

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conroy January 20, 2016 at 2:46 am

Tai Chi comes from the imagination, the mind, and this is why Tai Chi will change and it must change and evolve, it is a dynamic art so it will change and this is the precise point of Tai Chi

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conroy January 20, 2016 at 2:48 am

Tai Chi comes from the imagination, the mind, and this is why Tai Chi will change and it must change and evolve, it is a dynamic art so it will change and this is the precise point of Tai Chi
standstillbefit.com

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Karen Adam January 21, 2016 at 4:45 pm

I would think Conroy that there are quite a few traditional masters who would beg to differ from your opinion. Just my opinion

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Paulo Ruggeri February 10, 2016 at 12:36 pm

Like every artist when sings the National Anthem, sings it his way, with his own interpretation, the same happens when a Martial artist interprets the form.

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John November 27, 2017 at 12:37 am

In my humble opinion, Tai Chi Forms should be unified so that we all perform the same steps, stance and movements. There isn’t a system in place currently hence resulted in too many variations even in Chen Style alone. Anyone can claim to be a master just because he/she does thing in a different manner. Some movements are so flowery and lack practicality but look nice.

In my Tai Chi Class, different instructors taught the movements differently. What should I do? So out of respect, when Instructor A is teaching, I will follow his style. If Instructor B is around then I have to follow her way. I find this a hassle.

In fact, there should be a world recognizable examination system, where trainee can be graded accordingly. i.e. unified movement for grading just like TKD.

Just my two cents worth.

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Kelvin Ho November 28, 2017 at 10:33 pm

In Practical Method, our form (yilu) is an essential tool to transform our bodies. Within a given school, students should be doing it more or less the same, but they are not absolutely the same. That is unavoidable. People are at different stages. People can be understanding things differently or mistakenly because of background, whom they learned it from, etc. People can have a different training focus. We have to see beyond the external appearance, and see how principles are attempted to be followed.

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John December 3, 2017 at 1:32 am

In my Tai Chi class, an instructor taught us a more flowery form, where there are more body twisting and focuses on how each move can be used for defences/attacks.
Another would want us to do the straight forward form minus the body twisting, which she said these are the “extra flowery steps” and not essential in Chen style Tai Chi.
I thought I am caught in some sorts of Tai chi politics…haha. I mean Tai Chi is probably a kind of martial art that you find different instructors wanting you to do things differently. Why they can’t just agreed among each other and make the art more uniformed and standardized?

I am still new hence can’t really comment who is better. So when asked, I would always say they are both good and each have their strength and forte.

Having said the above, this art probably get so personalized that may be one day when I have learnt enough, I might have my own movements (consolidate the goods from the two) and the stories go again. Sometimes I just wondering whether this is good or bad for the long term development of this art?

My two cents worth…

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taibarb7 December 4, 2017 at 10:23 am

In my view, it’s a matter of your understanding what you can see and what not. and then there are teachers who have a certain level as well – you can learn from any person. Sometimes it’s just the “why it is wrong what he/she is showing”. I have learned a lot from that.

And then there are excellent teachers who try to make it more clear how you are supposed to move your body and that might seem like “not so good” to some students. It’s a way of teaching. The student is probably expected to eventually figure out the principle behind it.

FWI

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聖 胎 November 29, 2017 at 3:39 am

“We have to see beyond the external appearance, and see how principles are attempted to be followed”
If you want to see how principles are attempted to follow, you are still looking at the external appearance to assess them. You still use your eyes to see if the practioneer has mastered the transformation. Is Mastery exactly that, the transformation ? Is that the essence of Taiji ? If that is so, the only training focus should be the transformation. Push hands or fighting is just a byproduct, it is not the goal.
I just recall some words of Hong : ” The pure blue flame, is the pure ability that comes from training”. What was Hong´s message with these words ?

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Kelvin Ho December 4, 2017 at 8:32 am

Using the eyes is one of the inputs to the experience. We often need to calibrate our eyes, ears, etc. After some period of diligent practice, you will be able to “see” how one’s form is done, and it is measured up against some physical comparison. At the basic level, you can see the protrusions and indentations. Your eyes can only see things that are at or below your current level, but not higher.

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charlie wishon December 5, 2017 at 9:30 am

I see lots of comments.. it’s very simple… very few follow the principle. only those that do get Taiji into their bodies…

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聖 胎 December 5, 2017 at 10:16 am

Is it so simple ? What is the principle in your understanding ? Don´t tell me in with the elbow and out with the hand. This is Taiji-Kindergarten.

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Kelvin Ho December 5, 2017 at 8:11 pm

Principle: Separation of Yin and Yang
Concept: Indirect Power
Action: In with elbow no hand, out with hand no elbow.

These are three ways of describing taiji. They are one and the same.

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聖 胎 December 6, 2017 at 3:31 am

If training is supposed to transform our bodies, then what is principle behind that ?

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Kelvin Ho December 6, 2017 at 5:13 am

The training is to transform our bodies such that we can conform to the principle of separation of yin and yang. As an example, if you can stretch your hand without allowing your shoulder to move in the same direction of the hand. If your shoulder does move in the same direction and speed as the hand, there is no stretch in the arm.

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聖 胎 December 6, 2017 at 3:17 pm

Have you solved the puzzle of Yin Yang separation, and if so, what is the transformation like ?

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Kelvin Ho December 7, 2017 at 1:51 pm

Solving it will be a life-long pursue.

bruce.schaub December 6, 2017 at 8:44 am

You say ‘ in with elbow and out with hand is taiji kindergarten ‘ and that is precisely the reason no one gets it. They think it is too simple and not important enough and want whatever the next thing is that is more complicated or more deep. The reality is the body is a mess that must be sorted out. Think of the name Wild Horse Parts Mane. A wild horses mane is a mess, it must be carefully separated and a horse that has been broken and tamed and groomed has a mane that is separated and differentiated into two halves. It has been sorted out. In with elbow and out with hand is the same. It is the first step in sorting out the body and if it is realized, the body develops an understanding of yin yang differentiation that can be applied to other parts of the body. This was the genius of Hong. Trying to go on to more ‘ important ‘ things is like trying to learn calculus without ever having mastered addition and subtraction. You really can’t just skip steps.

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聖 胎 December 6, 2017 at 3:42 pm

” … and that is precisely the reason no one gets it ” -> your assessment seems right. How many people progressed to elementary school ? What do you think ?
Concerning Hong, Wikipedia says, he travelled around the world to teach Taiji. Have you more information on that ?

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bruce.schaub December 7, 2017 at 2:20 pm

I’m sorry but it’s a bit difficult to have a serious conversation with someone who is hiding behind such a pretentious alias as ‘ Immortal Body ‘ . Perhaps if you could use your real name we could discuss things further. You seem to be trying to assert yourself as some type of authority, and if you are you should be comfortable being who you actually are. Your tone suggests that you think you already know a lot. Your questions seem ( to me ) to have a snide trolling type tone. Perhaps I’m wrong. But I can tell you Master Chen does not like people to come on this site with fake names. So please, at least, use your real name. Thanks

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聖 胎 December 8, 2017 at 4:59 am

Actually i am not some type of authority or kind of schoolmaster, even if it might sound this way. I just point out to some critical issues in learning Taiji and Qigong and that is transformation.

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bruce.schaub December 8, 2017 at 8:23 am

There are different schools of thought on what transformation is, and the procedure for achieving it. Also there are different stages. Master Chen gave a lecture at the first workshop I ever attended on ‘ setting up the furnace ‘ for example, and discussed the two main schools of thought. We follow a particular method that has to do with opening of the kua, which is a physical method that will ‘ release ‘ the dantien. Up to that point we don’t even talk about dantien. The focus is on opening the body. The body is systematically opened through a process of isolation. By breaking the body down and training the various parts in isolation, and learning the particular body method, the body is redeveloped and new relationships and connections are established between various body parts. Taijiquan is a martial art. This is hard training, and through hard training, the body cooks out impurities, and a healthy body with taiji coordination is established. You could say this is like a silk worm building a cacoon and something different emerging out of it. If taiji we have a concept called zhuan guan. It refers to the ‘ extreme limit ‘ . Taiji is the study of the extreme limit. Meaning at the extreme of one thing there is a turning over, at the extreme limit of yang , yin begins. These are the rules that govern out practice. But realistically there are many different transformations and I am only talking about the initial stages. It starts with in with elbow , out with hand.

Kelvin Ho December 8, 2017 at 10:05 am

By practicing the form and foundations repeatedly over a period of time, we are introducing new habits. The new habits have to be more dominant than the old habits. As an example, if one is asked to turn your waist and only the waist, more often than not, the person will be turning his shoulders or hips, maybe along the waist, but not the waist alone. The segmented way of doing the form trains us to have isolated actions. These isolated actions when used together later must still be independent of each other, and not get merged or fused together.

聖 胎 December 8, 2017 at 3:45 pm

“Master Chen gave a lecture at the first workshop I ever attended on ‘ setting up the furnace ‘ for example, and discussed the two main schools of thought.”
The difference between the two main schools of thought would be interesting. And i like it a lot when Master Chen uses this language to describe Taiji. It is traditional language. But for people who have not experienced it, it makes no sense …
There is also an external agent you can/should use, which helps a lot with this kind of work. Maybe without it is even impossible to achieve it.
Well, thanks for the discussion. I´ll be gone now. Wish you good luck !

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bruce.schaub December 9, 2017 at 10:34 am

Thanks, Good Luck to you as well.

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John Upshaw December 8, 2017 at 4:42 pm

Many good comments have been made regarding what is required to have a transformative process in pursuit of “getting it” by Bruce and Kelvin. It is a long and arduous journey! I am extremely grateful to have Master Chen to guide me. I am also grateful to have several disciple brothers that have contributed to my growth, whom all are at various levels of ability. I seek to continually progress…which requires continual practice…I have so much to work on…I use the Three-Character Cannon On Learning by Grand Master Hong Junsheng as a reminder of how to “stay the course”.

Contemplate Frequently
Practice Regularly
Persist
Follow the Rules
Seek Progress
Don’t Rush
Without Knowing
Ability has Increased

A statement by Grandmaster Hong as told to me by Master Chen…”the well is deep”…transformation is continuous…and the further one goes, the more difficult it becomes…I am convinced that only those that can persist, that can shut up and follow Shifu’s instructions, and regularly practice, will make progress…

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