Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Square Form makes one look like a robot

Robot Taiji

A recent discovery of the attached video and link to a Blog  (see Robot Taiji link and blog link) led me to write the following response:

I practice and teach a Compact Square Form in addition to Compact Round Form. Specifically, this is directed to the authors of the blog article "Robot Tai Chi by Stephen Hwa" and generally to interested readers who may or may not practice the Square Form of Classical Tai Chi.  Generally, one must assume that not many people are familiar with the Square ("Fang") Form.  To my knowledge it came to fruition during the 20th century. It arose as inception and development by the Wu Family Tai Chi and its representatives. In its various incarnations and variations it has been introduced and taught by disciples and family of Wu Chien Chuan. What is not agreed upon even among the family and representatives is which version is correct. To explain this I can  only offer that   there is  very obvious difference between large frame square form and compact frame square form...size difference.  

All of the commentary that has been offered about square form leads me to think that even  difference of size is not apparent to practitioners of large frame.  There also appears to be a majority of practitioners in large frame practice who have never heard of Compact frame.  In addition, the most current commentary  from the mass media and the unitiated (including Tai Chi practitioners and even those who practice another version of large frame square form)   is that the Compact square form looks "robotic", hence the following article:

In regard to the "Robot" portrayal: I have for some time now not concurred with any representation, narrative or designation that fails to accurately explain the rationale of any Tai Chi movements to students. It would be injudicious to assume a priori that a robot's Tai Chi could be any less  or more correct than a human's. Particularly because the majority of Tai Chi that is taught nowdays is not correct to begin with. The reason for this is simply because it demonstrates time and again that it deviates from its origins and roots.

I have seen it time and again over 30 years that Tai Chi forms become watered down if not passed on intact from one generation to the next. The Square form insures that there is no deviation in this process, no moves are added, no moves are subtracted. For that reason, I am happy for this opportunity to reiterate that the performance of Square Form should look Robotic. In fact, the more robotic the portrayal, the better the performance.
The delineation of yin and yang is the eventual goal. That is to teach students what parts of the body to keep still and what parts to move. The part that is still is Yin and the part that moves is Yang.

The majority of people who start Tai Chi however, cannot keep much still when it calls for it. Additionally, that rule to delineate yin and yang is the most important lesson Wu Chien Chuan passed on to Young Wabu.
What most often happens is that students by habit move from the individual joints, eg; shoulder. It is difficult to teach students to keep a shoulder still, elbow still, a hip still. The movement at these joints "muddies" the overall quality of movement and in many respects drains off the power that could have been generated had it remained still. Correct Tai Chi thus becomes difficult to teach because the nerve impulses that govern movement from the joints have been cultivated over a lifetime. It is no wonder then that students struggle with the learning, thinking all the wrong reasons for their difficulties.

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