Ling Zhi-an, even at 77 years old, is a vigorous practitioner and still very much-engaged in Tai Chi Chuan, teaching both Chen and Yang styles, although he obviously appears to favor the Chen style for its self-defense repertoire.
Because the Chen style can be so rigorous to perform, I have often wondered whether a person could continue to maintain a high level of performance at an advanced age. It does not seem to be a problem for Ling. He maintains a solid and deep stance. While taking photos of him, his postures were so deep I sometimes had to ask him not to go so low because I couldn’t get a good vertical shot.
In interviews of this kind, even though some of the same questions are asked, there is almost always new information and new ways to express the complexity of Tai Chi Chuan practice.
For anyone practicing a long time, it is refreshing in more ways than one to get this kind of information, which 10 or 20 years ago was just not available in the West. No longer is it possible to talk about internal Tai Chi solely in metaphysical terms.
Of course, information alone is not going to make anyone’s practice better. Even having the information, it takes time practicing, often in the wrong way, until your mind and body discover the better way.
William Ting (Ting Kuo-Piao) also covers some ground that needs to be worked over and presents some new insights. He does a different style, called Wu Ji Jing Gong. Wu Ji is the “uncarved block,” or emptiness, that gives rise to Tai Chi. Jing, has the meaning of calm and gong has the idea of skill, as in gongfu.
Don Ethan Miller, a veteran of Tai Chi practice and tournament competition, where he won a number of championships, has a creative approach to developing push hands skills. He describes some interesting techniques that are worth trying.
The push hands competition at A Taste of China were held in a professional way, as usual, but it becomes more apparent that a new model for the judging should be considered.
Sometimes the referees upstage the competitors and there is a lot of stopping and starting to warn or caution competitors and to award points and to poll the judges. Some of this is promoted out of concern that someone might be injured.
But in the bouts I have watched over the years, competitors were almost always in control of themselves and almost never do anything intentionally to injure their opponent. When they do something that requires a warning it is usually because they cannot control the action of the opponent or themselves. Or it is because of the lack of skill.
Competitors should lose points for infractions, intentional or unintentional. But some of the control of matches has to be loosened up it there is going to be any Tai Chi involved. Now, control is total.
Perhaps a model should be created from other sports such as boxing, baseball or basketball or perhaps a creative hybrid. After all, you don’t see the judges or referees or umpires taking a vote on each ball pitched or each bump under the basket or each sack of a quarterback.
Dr. Paul Lam, who has written before for T'AI CHI, introduces us to Peter Wu and they have as interesting discussion of Chen style as a method of self-defense. For all the varied benefits of Tai Chi, its root is in self-defense and it helps greatly to understand more about it. In the Chen style, it is highly complex.
With all the hype about multimedia, it might seem part of a fad to have an article about Tai Chi and multimedia. However, Martin Mellish has some very good and practical ideas about using new technology to produce multimedia instruction materials. Anyone considering making an instructional videotape or CD should read his article.