The biggest thing lately has been that if you cannot do full contact combat, then your Tai Chi is no good.
If you cannot express your Chi Energy and bounce people around without physically touching them, then your Tai Chi is no good.
If you can’t win competitions performing your Tai Chi Form, then your Tai Chi is no good, etc. etc. etc.
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.
The Chinese, along with the rest of the world, love a good story and the martial arts are full of stories. People are still arguing over who it was who passed their teaching on to the Chen family, others believe that Chen style Tai Chi was the first Tai Chi Chuan and that they kept all the secret teachings just for the family. Even the top Chen style teachers are still arguing about who has the true teachings. There was a big revival of martial arts in China from the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, starting from the Shaolin monastery and Wudang Taoist monastery. This was initially done to kick off the tourist trade and it worked.
If you look at the family styles of Tai Chi Chuan from both of the Li families and Chen, Yang, Wu, Sun and Hao etc., even within the same family style it is taught differently. Why is this? It is simply because of the particular teacher’s own understanding of what they are teaching. Some have a little understanding and some have a lot of understanding, but irrespective of their understanding, they want the best for their students.
Understanding is not just a mental knowledge of the art, it is the depth of sensitivity to the art. A Tai Chi player who is unable to relax the nervous system deeper than the first level, will not feel the Sheng Chi energy running through the meridians of the body and will not accept a belief in Sheng Chi energy. They will be a purely physical Tai Chi player, until one day their practice takes them to the next level of relaxation.
The relaxing of the nervous system is also required for the understand of how to strike with complete relaxation, Tai Chi Chuan has this in common with old-style Hsing I Chuan – Xing Yi Quan.
So whether you practice an old system or a modern system, just remember that those who dedicated their lives to working it all out and putting it together are long gone in our history. It is up to each new generation to carry the torch and give to the next generation. I don’t believe that any system can be done as it was first put together without adding our own stamp to it, because each new generation will understand it slightly differently and emphasize their understanding of it. Very few will ever really master the whole of their system and fewer still will ever master themselves. Many practice their Tai Chi form and at some point believe that they have mastered Tai Chi, but then they stop exploring and investigating their inner and outer depth of understanding and their growth stops.
What I would say to all Tai Chi Chuan players of any system is to take the understanding that you have of your system and look deeper into that understanding and keep looking deeper and you may surprise yourself as to the depth of understanding that you have at your disposal. There is always more to learn and there is always more to comprehend and appreciate. Leave other teachers to their own learning cycle, if they need help they will ask. If you think other teachers are deceiving or misleading people, then that is their karma. People are drawn to those teachers because they too need to learn something, that is their karma.
How do you know if your teaching is true?
How do you know if you understand more than another teacher?
How do you know if another teacher has a better understanding than you?
In the system of Tai Chi Chuan that I teach there are people teaching that fall very short of any understanding of our system and, to make things worse, they are producing new teachers who know even less. To say that I’ve been upset about this in the past would be an understatement. My teachers name and our system have been shamed by those teachers. But to do anything other than do the best that I can for my students and teachers would bring more shame on my teachers name, so that is what I’ve done and that is what I will keep doing until I decide to stop being a teacher and coach. But I will never stop being a student.
New systems will rise from the old as they have always done. It is in the human spirit that our need to create something arises whether it is making the perfect cup of tea, constructing the perfect house, creating the perfect fighting move or creating that exercise that will heal humanity. Do it in your own way, build on your own knowledge and understanding. Trying to blow out another’s candle, even if you believe them to be mistaken, will not make your candle shine any brighter, it will just makes you colder.