While the millennium mania has certainly been overplayed during the past year, it still is useful to take a thoughtful look at Tai Chi Chuan as it has developed and its outlook for the future.
Most people in our survey think that T’ai Chi is on the verge of becoming very popular throughout the world. It certainly has that potential.
Up until now, the growth has been hit or miss. But more and more people are learning and many of those students will become teachers.
More experts from China are traveling to other countries to teach. It is a win-win situation. Everyone who learns has an immediate, positive connection with China. And the teachers from China get a chance to experience cultures from other parts of the world.
A key is getting more positive information about T’ai Chi Ch’uan out to the public to stimulate interest and sustain the desire to learn past the initial difficulties. The more people learn that it has serious benefits for health and stress and that it is not a spacey New Age dance, the more people will become involved.
A serious problem is maintaining the integrity of T’ai Chi. There will be all sorts of simplified forms that are intended to make it easy for people to learn.
But will they really be T’ai Chi Ch’uan? The intention may be there but the result may be that people just learn exercises taken from T’ai Chi Ch’uan. Having learned some exercises they will think that they have learned T’ai Chi.
It is important for us not to confuse our desire to teach more people with the desire to market ourselves and our products to make a lot of money.
There is also a serious quality problem. We need more good teachers at different levels. Not everyone can be a master. You can’t expect people to study 10 or more years before teaching. Some can’t even wait a few weeks. Some people who have studied a long time perhaps still don’t have the prerequisites for teaching.
Everyone who has been doing T’ai Chi Ch’uan for some time has his or her own horror stories to tell about this.
More and more people will talk about certification as a way to establish good teachers. Some even want to make it a state matter, with, of course themselves and their friends in charge.
The problem with this kind of regulation is who is going to say who is qualified to teach. As soon as an organization to do this is established, it creates power and at once becomes political and bureaucratic.
Even in spite of these problems, T’ai Chi Ch’uan’s tremendous benefits will outweigh the problems. As many respondents mentioned, T’ai Chi Ch’uan has so many inherent benefits that it is bound to grow despite problems.
Many of the respondents expressed their confidence that T’ai Chi is the best thing out there and once people learn about it, they will love it. The fact that many of these people have been practicing for many years and still love it as much, if not more, is in itself a tribute to the art.
There are several articles of note in this issue. Dr. Paul Lam gives useful information about teaching.
Ted Mancuso writes about the importance of continuity in the practice of T’ai Chi forms. There are multiple benefits from this continuity of which people are not aware.
Michael Gilman explores the subtleties of different hand techniques and how they can differ from move to move.
Douglas Woolidge has an interesting translation of a writing about T’ai Chi principles that is useful. It is valuable to read each of these translations, since the writers in Chinese often express important principles in different ways.