Singapore Tai Chi Chuan

Defining the Internal 5

Continuing from the previous post.

So what’s the big deal about Tai Chi Chuan? Is there something so extraordinary about it that it enabled Yang Luchan to make an impression in Beijing ages ago; an impression that still have people talking about it today? Not to mention getting people gaga over conspiracy theories about the Yang family teaching watered down art to the Manchurians, lost fast forms, secret fajing methods, under-the-table practice methods, longer long forms, modified forms, etc, many of which seems plausible but when you think about it the only thing to do is raise an eyebrow and say “….seriously dude?

Let’s take a simple example – teaching a modified art. I have seen this in some arts but if you show something that your student have never seen before you basically have a few excuses – its an advanced skill, the technique is in the advanced form which you have not learned, etc. If it contradicts something that you have told your royal patron before what do you think will happen? So yes, you can teach a watered down art but in those days you would have to be really careful not to show your real art. However, I wonder if Yang Luchan ever accidentally showed off something that he never wanted his Manchurian employer to see. I think it would be difficult especially when meeting a challenge in front of the Sixth Prince. This is why in our lineage it is said that Yang Jianhou did teach the proper Yang style to the Sixth Prince. What happened to the Sixth Prince after he learned it is something I do not know.

Then you have all these stories and speculations about secret and lost fast forms. I wonder if people who make such speculations have their heads screwed on the right way. Fast form – that’s the secret Yang family art? Really? I wonder if people who say this know that you can do the typical Yang Chengfu 108 form in a fast manner…..

And then you have the secret, solo posture fajing practice….. Those who make such claims are basically insulting our intelligence. Even if the Yang family never taught it you can easily find out about doing movements faster to fajing by simply observing arts such as Bajiquan and putting two and two together.

I have seen an article about those under-the-table, ultra flexible practice of the form. I have seen a picture of an old man posing under the table. I wonder if he was posing or he can still actually play the entire long form at a slow speed at that age under the table. I know really young kids have no problem doing so due to their flexible young bodies. But a mature man in his 80s still doing that? Really? Just this week my student came back from holiday and again he did his form with his knees really low and I told him that if he did it this way for 5 minutes he probably won’t think much about it. But try doing it for an hour and the pain would surface.

Modified forms, shortened forms, excised techniques, simplified techniques, etc makes up another popular theory train for why Yang style Tai Chi Chuan today is no longer what it once was. By extension of the argument a form that is more complex, has more movements etc would therefore fit the bill of an extraordinary Tai Chi form that Yang Luchan once practiced. Proponents would claim that this would be the Chen style that the Yang family practiced behind closed doors. I think there is no argument that Yang Luchan learned from Chen Chang-hsing. What is not clearly established is whether what Yang learned is the same Chen style forms we see today. So the argument is still up for debate in the absence of conclusive evidence.

All the above arguments have played out in other styles of martial arts. So its nothing really new. They could also be various, valid ways to realize the art. But they do not explain the one simple question of what makes Yang style Tai Chi Chuan, at least as practiced by Yang Luchan and his son, Yang Jianhou the extraordinary art that it was, such that even Yang Jianhou shared the nickname of Yang the Peerless with his father.

I’ll stop the post here and give the reader time to digest what I have written. I’ll also go and do some practice.


Author: ZenMindSword

Mushin is a practitioner, researcher and trainer for Yang style Tai Chi Chuan. He is also author of The Ip Man Koans, The Ip Man Questions and TaijiKinesis series of eBooks, as well as co-author of Complete Wing Chun.

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