Saturday, March 6, 2010
Will the Real Taiji Players Please Stand?
How many Taiji Players does it take to screw in a light bulb? One hundred. One to screw in the bulb and ninety nine to say, "that's not how we do it."
Let me get to my thesis right off the bat, with due respect and regards to my friends, associates, teachers, and mentors: There is no objective, real, true Taiji, to the exclusion of others.
Through the miracle that is the internet, we all have the opportunity to learn, teach, debate, and share knowledge. And overall I think that is great. However, through forums, and Facebook groups, and blogs, etc... we have all engaged in the "that's not how we do it" verbal exercise. I am as guilty as anyone. And I think that's OK, to a degree. We each need our own objective definition for our own version of Taiji. But like most things in this world, Taiji is subjective. That's what makes it such an interesting and appealing art. However, I think that once we step off into this idea that 'what I'm doing is real, and what you're doing is crap' we ultimately limit ourselves and a do a great disservice to Taijiquan.
Taijiquan is a potent, deadly, devastating Martial Art. At the same time it is a great choreographed from of Qigong, with unbelievable healing powers. It is a mindfulness practice as potent as sitting meditation. It is good overall exercise. It is a beautiful aesthetic art. And there are numerous other definitions that I'm not bringing to mind right now. For some of us, it is all of these things. For some it is only a few, or only one. That's OK. That's great. But if it is only one or a couple of these things for one, that doesn't nullify the other categories for other players.
There are some martial Taiji players whose art is as deadly and effective as any martial art on the face of the planet. At the same time, there are senior citizens doing simple, slow forms in the public parks and nursing homes of world who are proactively addressing their health and adding precious years to their lives. There are competition players, yes even MMA competitors, who add to their art through the practice of Taiji. At the same time there are spiritual-minded people who count Taiji as another meditation practice, another vehicle to Nirvana, or whatever their spiritual goal. The list goes on. And they are all Taiji players, and any and all of their Taiji is as real as any of the others.
I do think that there really are some practices that may be called Taiji that really aren't. But this is because they do not follow established Taiji principles and practices that follow across all forms styles and applications. The Classics are fairly clear on what constitutes Taijiquan. I don't want to go down that path in this entry. Suffice it to say for this post, if we are following the teachings of the Classics and the major schools it is Taiji. Yang Yang, whose system is my primary, has developed an eight movement form for senior citizens and new students based on the Chen Hunyuan System. It is a very simplified form and is extremely different than the original Chen forms. However, it is based on the thirteen movements: the eight forces (peng/lu/ji/an/lie/zhou/kao), and the five directions (advance, retreat, left, right, and central equilibrium). It is probably fair to say that most who learn and practice this art will never get to the point of doing San Shou, Double Push Hands, or Fajin. They may never use their Taiji as self defense, or even think about self defense at all. But that doesn't mean they aren't doing Taiji. At the same time, there are young Chen players whose advanced Push Hands is as potent as any Jujitsu, and whose sparring skills as skillful as any Karateka. But that doesn't mean they aren't doing Taiji either. It's just not the same Taiji as the folks at the nursing home, or in the park, or wherever.
As I said, I am as guilty of categorization and apparent exclusion as anyone. And for that I apologize to any who got the impression that I am coming from this point of view. I am not. I am just as happy playing hard push hands/sticky hands, San Shou, or grappling as I am doing the Yang short form and Zhan Zhuang in the park. For me Taijiquan is a martial art, a healing art, a vehicle for mindfulness, a tool for learning about myself, complete exercise, practical Taoism, self defense, etc... There are folks who practice in ways that I don't and use Taiji for things that I don't and may never. But I don't think their Taiji is any more or less real than mine. It's all Taiji and its all good.
Posted by R at 8:34 AM