Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Classical Tai Chi THE Martial Art
I find it fascinating that Classical Tai Chi (Taijiquan)was once so highly regarded as not only the most capable but also the most polished martial art of its time. The royal families of China were undoubtedly protected by individuals who were extremely proficient in the art. When the sun set on the need for personal martial skills the door opened so that the general populace could be taught.
One does not hear the use of the word "chuan" along with Tai Chi in most classes today, however I always heard it used in my study of the Wu's Style. A statement might be: "It is time to do our chuan" which would precede the group playing the form as a whole. I wonder if the term is still used because I see a store full of so called "competitive" and "shortened" versions being touted.
However, with the teaching of the world as it were, the degradation and demise of the art thus began. What we have nowdays as a supposed "legacy" is in the majority of cases merely a shallow and insipid caricature. I am not impressed whatsoever by even the most "athletic" performances as competition routines, to say nothing of so called "new age" Tai Chi.
Having studied the art on both sides of the fence as it were, I do not subscribe to the general tendency to augment my practice with additional "Chi Kung" or "Qigong" practices to develop internal energy. Or for that matter do I subscribe to the supposed need for the various "standing post" practices. Quite frankly, Classical Tai Chi does not need them and it is sufficient unto itself. I'm often inclined to think that an overall deficiency in the understanding of Tai Chi principles is the precursor to thinking that one needs these additional practices. I also think that one's own recognition of a supposed "lack of progress" or a "better way" makes one feel the need for what appears to be an easier way to do things. Therein, I feel lies much of why the art has begun to suffer...everyone is looking for an imaginary shortcut to learning.
I also defer to my teacher Stephen Hwa (Hwa Laoshi) and his teacher Grandmaster Young Wabu. I'm sure if they wanted disciples to do these practices they would have told us to and laid out a path for us to follow. I think, that adding these additional practices on one's own and still calling it Classical Tai Chi, is a disrespect of the art and shows disrespect to teachers. It cries out that the student knows better than the teacher...how can that be?
If you want "internal energy" it will come with extended practice of the Classical Tai Chi form. Not the "short", or coupled with "breathing/qigong/standing/etc" practices but the 108 movement "long form". How on earth does anyone purport to know better than the grandmasters of the art who were the geniuses that gave it to us in the first place? Think of what existed in the Qing dynasty and shortly thereafter before the floodgates were opened to the public. No one would have dared to suggest augmenting or shortening it to those individuals.
In addition,the fact that large numbers of technocrats have set arbitrary standards and shortened what really looks like "dancing" competitive routines certainly does not impress me. Albeit "athletic", still very pretty, very dance like, very choreographed (much like a Broadway show). THE martial art is absent and one sees no martial intent in these carictatures.