Can Westerners really learn T’ai Chi Ch’uan well? Or are they so bogged down in a Western culture and a “Western” way of seeing and thinking that they will never get it?
In a recent issue of “The Ten Directions,” a Zen Buddhist publication, there was a flap about a Zen teacher in Japan supposedly suggesting that the Western mind has some difficulty in understanding the true teaching.
But it is not unusual for people not well acquainted with Westerners to know more about their weaknesses than their strengths.
There is also a tendency of teachers--any kind--to be exasperated with students, partly because students, by definition, are awkward with what they are learning.
While “Westerners,” do not have the culture history and knowledge about T’ai Chi Ch’uan or Zen, that is not a significant problem.
Even in China, younger people are often not attracted to T’ai Chi Ch’uan. Most of those people in the parks are retired and I am sure some of their teachers have the same sense of exasperation about them as the teachers in U.S. or other Western countries have with their students.
I think Westerners who study T’ai Chi Ch’uan bring to their studies a lot of intensity, a real desire to learn and a fresh love for the art. Of course, there are a lot of flakes and a lot of people who don’t know how to relate to it. But that exists in any art in any country.
Understanding the true teaching of Zen or T’ai Chi Ch’uan or anything else does not really depend on any cultural underpinnings. It depends on the individuals, their affinities, and their perception of life.