The Quality of Tàijíquán Today
The founder of Yiquán, teacher Wang Xiang Zhai, once commented that the quality of Tàijíquán today has gone downhill and that he hopes one day a practitioner will be able to restore it to its former standard and glory. Of course, most Tàijí practitioners are offended by his comment, but I do not think that he is arrogant in his remark as there will not be a reaction without an action. Li Ya Xuan, a senior student of Yáng Cheng Fu of whom Cheng Man Ching spoke highly, said that ninety-nine per cent of Tàijí practitioners practice incorrectly. Unlike Wang Xiang Zhai, he gave the reason, he said it is because they do not follow the Tàijí classics in their practice. Looking into the Tàijí circle today, we will find that his comment is justified and, instead of being offended, we should look at the causes and find a remedy for them, as it is the duty of every Tàijí practitioner to improve the quality of Tàijíquán.
Tàijíquán was brought out of the Chen village by Yáng Lu Chang, the founder of the Yáng style and it was propagated throughout China by his grandson Yáng Cheng Fu, and Wu Chien Chuan the founder of the Wu style. It was then brought out of China to other parts of Asia, America and Europe by Tung Ying Chieh, Cheng Man Ching, Wu Kung Yi and their students.
In the late nineteen sixties, seventies and the eighties, the government of mainland China began the mass promotion of Tàijíquán in order to promote health among its population. Various different Tàijí forms were created based on movements from the traditional styles. In most of these new forms the movements were simplified, and it was done by people who had no in-depth understanding of Tàijíquán. Their movements were based on the beauty of the performance rather than the principles of Tàijíquán. We just have to look at Tàijí competitions, when all the 'champions' are performing their Tàijí form it looks more like a dance than Tàijíquán.
The present day Tàijí could be divided into five categories:-
1. Tàijí Exercise - This is commonly found in municipal parks in Asia, but it also includes people anywhere in the world that do the Tàijí form as a movement without any Tàijí principles within it. Although it is be than taking no exercise at all, it is definitely not Tàijíquán.
2. Tàijí Dance - This is the, so called, Tàijíquán promoted by the Wushu Federation in China and Wushu Organisation outside China. It has beautiful movements and posture, the movement flows like a dance (occasionally the practitioners pause the performance at a beautiful posture for the audience to take photographs) but it does not have any Tàijí principles in it. Most of the so-called Tàijí champions in Wushu competitions fall into this category.
3. Holy Tàijí - This is most commonly found in the West, where the teacher who has practiced other forms of meditation combines them with Tàijí form. While neglecting the Tàijí principles, they make yin and yáng into something mystical and bring other spiritual practices into it.
The teachers in this category often promote 'guru worship' and in this group you often find 'gurus' and 'followers', rather than teachers and students.
4. Tàijí Gongfu - These are mainly practitioners of other internal and external martial arts that have taken up Tàijí. Although they are practicing the Tàijí form, they talk about the principles but never apply them. When it comes to the application in pushing-hands they only use the techniques of the other arts they have learned and discard completely the Tàijí principles.
5. Tàijíquán - In this category the practitioners study and investigate the classics of Tàijí diligently. They put every principle of Tàijí in their Tàijí forms and pushing-hands, are always looking deeper into the principles and follow the traditional way of teaching and learning. Usually, regardless, of what style of Tàijí they are, they only stick to one style and system and pursue the Tàijí principles and Dao through their life. Sadly this category makes up a very small percentage of Tàijí practitioners.
Excerpt taken from the book 'True to the Art' by Wee Kee Jin
Esaias Hobbs has trained under the direct guidance of Wee Kee Jin and is dedicated to bringing the pure form of teaching and sharing of knowledge to those who wish to train in Tàijíquán.
Matthew also runs a successful Acupuncture and Tui Na Massage clinic in Lewes, East Sussex.
Russell Erskine has been a student of Wee Kee Jin since 2007, and finds his practice so profound that he believes it fundamental to a harmonious life. In agreement with his teacher Jin, he is passing on his understanding of the art to newcomers.
Russell also works in the Ambulance Service and is passionate about playing music.