Please note that it is the Ho-Hsieh Li and Chan Kam Li Family of Shandong Province that is being discussed here.
I must admit that the 40years I’ve been involved in the Li Family Arts, as taught by the late Professor Clifford Chee Soo, has been a joy and a privilege.
The journey has been one of the biggest helter-skelter rides of a lifetime.
One of the greatest things Professor Clifford Chee Soo was able to bring out in some students was the ability to be in the moment yet using hindsight and foresight to help with the moment-to-moment journey.
I started my Li Family Arts journey back in the early 70’s I’ve seen people with abilities that people today just wouldn’t believe; mind you I sometimes had difficulty in believing what I was seeing and it was right in front of me. Some of those abilities I still aspire to; some I have surpassed, others I have let go of and there are some yet to present themselves.
Now hindsight has helped in understanding some of Professor Clifford Chee Soo’s reasons for the changes he made to The Li Family Arts.
If you joined the Li Family Arts in the mid 80’s to 90’s will not have noticed any changes. Some of you from the early 80’s may have noticed some changes.
Those from the 60’s and early 70’s will have seen the changes.
Chee stopped teaching a whole lot of things in the mid and late 70’s.
The 80’s were so different, but those who stayed with him after his move from London to Coventry adapted to the way he was teaching, which wasn’t always easy and sometimes caused problems.
The main thing that Chee did was to simplify the Li Family Arts to make it easier for people to learn and in doing so opened it up to a whole lot of people that would otherwise not have handled the training. What Chee did had benefits to it on some levels, but also caused problems with the understanding of the Li Arts. And after his death of course, he wasn’t around to help with the understanding part. I am sad to say I’ve observed the Li Arts become more and more watered down to become a ghost of its former self.
Some promises were made to Professor Chee Soo at a meeting held by Professor Soo with a few instructors some two and half years prior to Professor Soo’s passing in 1994. I can count on one hand how many have kept even one of those promises and I still have several fingers left. For me it has taken many years to get to a position in which I have felt worthy to pass on the old teachings of Professor Soo.
I must admit in the past it would make me very sad and sometimes extremely Pissed Off to see and hear what some teachers have turned these arts into. There are many teaching our Tai Chi who do not even use any Tai Chi concepts let alone any Li Family Tai Chi principles; making new forms up and putting Professor Soo’s name to them, even saying that they were secret teachings that only they received (at least have the decency to put your own name on them). Changing the forms because they are unable to do the techniques or cannot remember the moves or finishing the forms off badly on their own, because they were never taught them; or, adding other people’s forms and claiming it as Professor Soo’s. I’ve seem teachers adding Yang and Wu Family Tai Chi to the Li Form to make it look more like the other Tai Chi systems. All of which shows their lack of understanding let alone integrity.
Chee did not give private lessons, and secret teachings. Chee was a very accomplished modular coach. He showed you what you needed to practice, now if you could continually reproduce what he gave you to a good standard he would give you the next bit and so on. Insight on technical, philosophical and spiritual information would depend on whether you asked the right question with the information that showed that you understood the work he had given you. If you didn’t ask your question with the appropriate information, well back to the drawing board. Chee would always point you in the right direction.
Chee never hid behind Chan Kam Li. Although Chee could be outspoken at times it was done with understanding and integrity. I have seen many Martial Artists and non-martial artists challenge Chee both verbally and physically; Chee never lost, he always assisted them to a clearer thought process.
So is all the Li Family Tai Chi being taught from the same page? A few words maybe but that’s all. How many are teaching the Li Family Concepts and Principles? Well, again, I can count them on one hand and still have fingers free.
And if you’re not teaching the Li Family Concepts and Principles, then you’re not teaching Li Family system. You’re not teaching what Chee taught you, so call yourself something different. Please stop giving the Li Family Tai Chi a bad name and making Chee looking like a fool. Stop standing behind Professor Chee Soo and stand behind what you teach with understanding and integrity.
As for now, well, as a wise Li Family colleague said to someone from another Tai Chi system who thought he should go and Sort Out all those who claimed to be teaching the Li Family system who were dishonouring it, we are teaching it the way we are teaching it and they are teaching it the way they are teaching it.
There is the true history out there and history how some would like it to be.
The truth is that Tai Chi Chuan has been around in China for thousands of years, but it wasn’t called Tai Chi back then. It’s had many names and has taken many forms. Some have come from the old Taoist collaboration, others from individuals with a need. Some came from the Martial side, others from the Health side, and some both Martial and Health. And, in the case of Ho-Hsieh Li’s System, it came from Taoist roots and from a mixing of Martial and Health arts – clever folk those old Taoists. The system is a Yin/Yang based system, but it is versatile and can be done in Yang Base or Yin Base.
The depths of the Li Taoist Arts are vast and, to be truthful, even done badly our Tai Chi form is very beneficial. But, done with Li Family Concepts and Principles as intended it is exceptional.