Teachers teach in many different ways and students similarly learn in different ways. Chen Zhaopi’s memorial article mentioned that Chen Zhaopi spent many years in different parts of China teaching the Chen style Tai Chi.
Even in ancient times, teachers, including Confucius, and others would travel from place to place to teach and to learn.
In fact, when T’AI CHI Magazine was founded as a newsletter in 1977, the name Wayfarer Publications was taken from the teachers and students (wayfarers) who traveled through China to teach and learn.
During those years after the fall of the Ching Dynasty, China was in turmoil and even in the following years when Chen Zhaopi retired to the Chen village to reinvigorate the Tai Chi practice there, China suffered through war, famine and the 10 years of the Cultural Revolution.
Despite the difficulties he encountered, Chen Zhaopi helped to create a renewal of Tai Chi practice in the Chen village.
In the article, it is mentioned that for decades Chen Zhaopi practiced the Chen style 30 times a day, rain or shine. This was also said of Chen Fake.
For some people the practice of Tai Chi is like food. They are nourished by the practice and never tire of doing it. In fact, it nourishes something within them.
When I was teaching at UCLA in the mid-1970’s, someone told me that a student of Mary Chu, who also taught the traditional Yang style there, did the form nine times in a row. I got the impression it was a one time event. At 25 minutes for each set, that is almost four hours.
Fu Shengyuan, son of Fu Zhongwen, who also did the classical Yang style, once said that in his classes, students practiced the Yang long form five times in a row with each set lasting about 15 minutes.
The initial repetitions were said to be for loosening up, progressing to doing it with applications in mind.
Feng Zhiqiang admonished his students to practice well.
I take that to mean that practice should not be going through the motions but trying with each step and movement to be trying to improve how to do it better with greater relaxation and inner stillness as well as better timing, balance and coordination.
Steve Doob, who has been practicing martial arts since 1963, writes about the power using a stalking attitude when practicing martial arts.
It is akin to the idea of using intent to focus movements and energies when doing movements or dealing with an opponent.
A key problem with intent and stalking is to retain a certain degree of relaxation. Tension always limits our choices and relaxation always gives us more choices.
This ties in with the idea of practice. The more we practice, the more we can relax. And the more we relax the more we can understand the mechanics of what we are doing, the choices the opponent has and the more choices of action that are open to us.
Tai Chi has always been evolving. This is true of the Yang style as well as all the other major styles.Many people are now learning forms that consist of 8, 10, 13, 16, 18, 25, 37 forms and others. This is in addition to the traditional long form styles. This is a natural progression.
Teachers create forms to make it easier for students to get started with Tai Chi. This is good for the students and for the teacher, who has something new to teach.
The hope is that the student, after learning the form will go on to learning other, longer forms.
The working principle is that you get what you pay for. Your benefits will evolve out of what you learn and practice and the effort and intelligence you put into it.
In this issue Liu Xi Wen, Liu Zong Kai and Vincent Chu write about three basic Yang styles.
Liu Xi Wen’s teacher studied with teachers who studied with several Yang family members. He writes about the differences in their Tai Chi and the benefits derived from their method.It is interesting to learn about the differences that evolved. One is said to be good for applications, another is good for training and applications and another is good for overall health and internal training.
Applications without internal training is missing something and vice versa. As you progress, some things become more important than others. You can read and make your own evaluation.
When I came to California, I worked as a reporter and editor for a daily newspaper in San Bernardino for several years.
Once I had to cover a local beauty pageant. My job was to get the winners and write some kind of a story for the local page.
After it was over the contestants and their mothers were walking away from the stage when I heard one of the mothers say after her daughter didn’t win, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
So when you consider the different forms or styles or teachers, remember, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”•