Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Thursday, December 12, 2019

There is One Taijiquan

Below is an excerpt from a post that appeared at Tai Chi Thoughts, regarding the different styles of taijiquan and that this differentiation is an illusion. The full post may be read here.

I agree with my teacher that there is no “Style” in Tai Chi Chuan and that it doesn’t matter what forms you practice. Not just for the sake of agreeing, but through my own research and accumulated knowledge through my +30 years of practice, I have come to the conclusion that the idea of “Style” is based on mistakes and is nothing but an illusion. Tai Chi Chuan (or Taijiquan) is a word that sum up certain principles and theories about body movement and mechanics, leverage, angles, as well as ideas about the mind and psyche, and ways to put these principles and ideas into practical practice. If the basic ideas and principles are different, then we can’t talk about different styles. Then we would be speaking about completely different arts. The art is the sum of what every good teacher, dead or alive, and regardless style, could agree with is basic Tai Chi concepts and principles. “Style” is merely different ways to present the same ideas and concepts, merely different packages. So if it is called Tai Chi and in fact really is Tai Chi, then “style” doesn’t matter, you should be able to build the same foundation in all styles and be able to achieve the same type of skill-sets regardless of what style you practice.
– “Chen is the original Tai Chi and thereby the best.”
– “Chen style was lost and the original art was preserved in Yang style.”
– “Chen is better than Yang style for combat.”
– “Chen style is Tai Chi mixed with Shaolin.”
– “Yang Style is watered down Chen style.”
– “Yang Style has more advanced Neigong (internal practice) than Chen.”

These and many other common statements are all based on the false presumption that there is a common standard of “Tai Chi” and that every style has its own set standard. In fact, there has never been a commonly accepted standard, neither of Tai Chi in general or of any style, except until very recent as Chen and Yang family representatives now try to standardise the public teaching. Chen stylists sometimes say that Chen style should be the general standard because this is the oldest style. But still, Chen style has gone through changes and no one knows exactly how it looked like in the days of the person Chen stylists have agreed upon should be the founder, Chen Wanting.

Now, to complicate it further, back in the old days of Yang Lu Chan and his students, no one talked about “style”. No one differentiated “Yang style” from “Chen style” or “Wu style”. Something was either Tai Chi Chuan or not Tai Chi Chuan (or Changquan, or Mianquan as it could be called back then). But the problem we are attaining for the moment is not only a question about the lack of style differentiating names. Practically speaking, everybody back then practiced with, and learned from people with different backgrounds. Chen, Yang and Wu stylists (as we would call them today) all practiced with each other and learned from each other. Yang Cheng Fu studied with Wu Jianquan and learned Push hands from him.

And several of Chen Fake’s students also studied with the Yang family.  Also if we look at an individual family, as if you look at students of Yang Cheng Fu, they also studied with other Yang family members as Yang Shaohou and Yang Jianhou. So there are no “pure” lineage today that can only be traced directly from Yang Shaohou and Yang Jianhou, or from Yang Banhou. There is no “pure” lineage from Chen Changxing, Chen Youben or further back. So the concept of “style” derived from a modern time when different traditions already were mixed up. “Style” is a fabricated idea on the illusion that there are or ever has been “pure” Tai Chi styles with clear standards. And that is just not true. In fact far from the truth.


maccac said...

Marketing predates all martial arts. Still marketing is marketing. People try to sell what they know. They package things, they create and tell stories about their product. Should competition arises, they tell the other product is not as good as theirs, it lacks the original features and qualities. So it goes with taichi.
My teacher got his taiji from Jiang Rong Qiao (the famous baguazhang artist). Form is roughly the same but movements are more serpentine. People tell me it is not taiji. Well yes it is. But I don't care anymore

Rick Matz said...

Absolutely right.

Thanks for visiting!

Frank Granovski said...

I've been exposed with numerous tai chi forms, exercises, etc. For me Cheng's looks and feels righ for me. I appreciate other styles/forms, and make no criticism for them.

Rick Matz said...

I agree.