April 1997, Vol. 21, No. 2
While Tai Chi Chuan is an important martial art, many people feel that it is more valuable as a tool for living. Ralph Johnson makes this point in his letter to the editor in this issue. Most practitioners will probably support this general view.
But there is a strong constituency of people who feel that unless emphasis is placed on fighting skills and techniques, then it is not really Tai Chi Chuan.
The truth is not somewhere in between these points of view but in a global viewpoint which includes both. If T'ai Chi's roots as a martial art are neglected, then it becomes something else, possibly worse or maybe better, depending on your point of view.
I don't really want to engage Mr. Johnson on what he has to say on that point. Perhaps someone else will.
But at the same time, I don't think there has been an “explosion” of fighting aspects.
However you do T'ai Chi, you should know how to develop good structure and internal energy.
For this reason, I think it is important to have good material about the martial aspects of Tai Chi. People need to understand its fundamentals, logic and proper practice. This could only help the development of Tai Chi Chuan. At the same time, there is also always a need for material about the benefit and more profound aspects of T'ai Chi.
One of the most important aspects of the study of Tai Chi Chuan is that it can stimulate within its students an intense desire, and sometimes, if they are lucky, a devotion to practice, learning and sharing. To find something like Tai Chi Chuan that you can give yourself to fully is surely one of the treasures of life.
Another potential treasure is qigong, which is discussed in a commentary. Linhai (John E. Clauss) writes perceptively about what qigong has to offer and how it can be misused.
He has some 23 years experience with martial arts and qigong and has lived in China.
While many teachers and practitioners of qigong are very sincere, honest and skilled, we should always apply a healthy skepticism.
We should not be overly impressed with “unusual” qigong results or “supernatural” powers that others “demonstrate” or promise us.
We should be earnest and impressed with how, through our own practice, we are able to use qigong to improve ourselves. If a qigong practice makes us dependent on someone's special powers, which usually are quite expensive, directly or indirectly, then perhaps we should look elsewhere.
As useful as qigong is, Tai Chi Chuan has the advantage that it validates itself physically. While it involves the mind, if someone is not doing it according to the fundamentals, it is relatively easy to see.
Liu Jun Fang, featured in this issue, is a quality martial artist trained traditionally in China. She has won many awards, written two books, and is still quite fit. During the photo session, she posed in many pictures, including quite low stances, without tiring, despite her 75 years.
Jiang Jianye is quite active in the Albany, NY, area at workshops elsewhere and had a broad background of martial arts training in China before coming to the U.S.
The proper use of the waist is important and he presents an introduction to it.
Malik Lawrence, who writes about the immune system, has been studying T'ai Chi and qigong since 1986 and is a student of Wei Lun Huang. His article helps to clarify how qigong works.
Steven Bennett, who compares Cheng Man-ch'ing style of T'ai Chi and Liu He Ba Fa, studied with Cheng Man-ch'ing for a short period and studied Liu He Ba Fa with John Chung Li as an indoor student.
Dr. Brice J. Wilkinson, a longtime practitioner in Winona, MN, has some useful information for getting started teaching at the college and university levels.·