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T'AI CHI MAGAZINE - April 1995

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April 1995 - Editor's Notebook

Vol. 19, No. 2
April 1995

In this issue Chen Qingzhou, a man of considerable skill, emphasizes the importance of really hard work to develop a high level of gongfu. He also feels very strong about maintaining the Chen style traditional skills.

He feels that the new frames, hsin jya, of the Chen style are not good for preserving the traditional Chen style gongfu.

There is some controversy as to what is the old style and what is the new style. Without getting into details of the controversy, he is to be respected for his sincerity. Skills, and strong viewpoint. He is not an angry man, rather a very gentle man who feels it is important to maintain what he feels is the integrity of the Chen style.

What we have to acknowledge, also, is that Tai Chi Chuan is going through a major period of growth and with this growth there is increasing diversity. This takes the shape of simplified forms designed to encourage more people to learn Tai Chi. And they are doing that.

Unfortunately, some of these simplified forms leave much to be desired. They don't adhere to the classic rules very well and sometimes look like they were put together like a committee and perhaps by a committee. The 24 forms has been criticized for this as well as the 42 and the 48 and some of the shorter Chen forms.

Forms like these, and others, will develop and have some benefits. They are inevitable.

What we have to question is whether they fulfill the basic principles of Tai Chi and whether they will develop higher internal energies and skills characteristic of Tai Chi. The answer is: not likely.

They will probably be good for exercise and as an entry point to the world of Tai Chi. But the people practicing these forms should not feel they are practicing more than basic Tai Chi Chuan.

It is hard to imagine that practicing a modified form for 10 to 15 minutes a day is going to provide anyone with more than good exercise, health and relaxation. That is quite a lot for most people. For any broader or deeper development, a traditional style following Tai Chi principles will have to be seriously pursued.

Chen Qingzhou believes hard work on the fundamental training methods is necessary to develop higher levels of gongfu.

To work hard you have to know what and how to practice. I don't think getting up early in the morning and practicing forms over and over again for an hour or two will be productive unless there are added ingredients, such as useful instruction and your own insight.

It has to be hard work for more than a few months or years. Learning techniques, even difficult ones, is relatively easy. But consistent practice over many years, even during times of relatively little or no progress, provides important seasoning that is often necessary to achieve higher development.

Yang Jun, the grandson of Yang Zhenduo, in an article on push hands points out that the student has to be actively participating in the learning process. He tells about the need to try to question why your push hands opponent manages to control you and why techniques don't work. This is something you have to do largely by yourself by asking important questions again and again.

Doug Woolidge's translation from Wu Kung Cho's “Gold Book,” presents a rich opportunity to explore the potential in the 10 essential guidelines and to ask ourselves some questions. What does the much overworked word “centered” really mean dynamically, beyond the obvious, superficial use? What does it really mean to yield and follow? What is “billowing”? The explanations in the translation do contain hints but you have to actively think through the meaning, drawing on your own experience.

Vlady Stevanovitch presents a different kind of global spiritual approach, which Tai Chi Chuan certainly lends itself to. It is clear that he has attempted for many years to ask and answer important questions on the inner meaning of the physical aspects as well as the spiritual.

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