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June 2004 - Editor's Notebook
June 2004

Development of an integrated body and internal strength are among the advanced and among the most difficult to reach. Tu-Ky Lam, a regular contributor, has been writing about this subject for quite some time and in this issue gives additional suggestions on how to accomplish this.

What he describes should be accessible to everyone since he says it involves relaxation, good structure and basic body techniques. Of course, it also takes effort and time, both of which are in short supply among many students of the art.

Even the zhan zhuang practice that he strongly advises is difficult because it requires an investment of time that often produces little noticeable effect in the short term and requires a willingness to deal with one's mind and emotions.

There can be many different goals in the practice of Tai Chi Chuan or other internal martial arts. For some people it is just learning a form, short or long. Or it can be be learning multiple forms, perhaps even hundreds of forms.

For others it can be forever testing their martial skill against the skill of others. And then there are some people who treasure above everything else the peace of mind they get from their practice. Of course, for many people the most important benefit is good health and a good quality of life.

Related to this is Kenneth D. Hancock's letter to the editor in this issue in which he responds to William F. Zachmann about Cheng Man-ch'ing's teaching a short form versus a long form.

Hancock feels that Zachmann's statement about the short form as a “clipped wings” version showed disrespect for Cheng. He also feels that practitioners of the short form can be as good as any practitioner of a long form and the fact that Cheng taught the short form was not a reflection of a negative attitude toward Western students.

When I received the article from Zachmann I didn't interpret his statements as disrespectful of Cheng. As a matter of fact, he has expressed his respect for Cheng, as have many people because Cheng made a major contribution to the development of Tai Chi in the U.S. While I appreciate why Hancock made his response, it may be a little more severe than necessary.

Teaching a short form was a very smart approach by Cheng at the time he was teaching in New York City and many teachers even now find it works for them to teach a short form.

Many people do not want to expend the effort to learn a long form. They often get discouraged by the extended learning process. People have short -term goals in Tai Chi and in life. That's why we see so many short forms now – 6-forms, 18-forms, 19-forms, 24-forms, 36 forms, even 10 and 13 forms.

But do people get as much from an abbreviated form as from learning a long form? I doubt it, unless they practice it many times a day and for many years. Do people who learn the long form necessarily have superior knowledge or skills? I doubt it.

Many people who learn a long form stop after learning it and decline to learn push hands or other techniques. If they do continue to practice, it is often without an effort to continually improve it. Going through the motions is the operative description. But even that has its valuable benefits, not the least of which is the fellowship of practice in a group.

It is the rare person who is always trying to go deeper and deeper into their practice and themselves. When they do, they tend to get results such as Tu-ky Lam discusses.

Having said that, the short forms are valuable in that they offer new students a relatively easy starting place. Hopefully, having learned one or more short forms, they will want to learn something more traditional. The forms also are very useful for instructors who can then have more to teach, a bigger repertoire to offer students.

For Tai Chi to grow, there has to be a variety of choices for students because of the diversity of the students and their abilities.

Of course, teachers would like to see everyone become very good. It's a pleasure to teach people who become good, barring personality problems. But becoming good is up to the student. It always has been and always will be.

Daniel K. Wong's article on Xing Yi gives insights into its techniques and similarities it has to Tai Chi and other internal arts. It is always beneficial have a knowledge of the ideas embedded in the other internal martial arts.

The same is true for the article on Bagua by Zhou Lishang. It gives an interesting historical perspective on how this martial art developed.

Many internal martial artists, including those that have appeared in T'AI CHI Magazine, have studied more than one martial art before or while they learned Tai Chi Chuan. But sooner or later, most find that one of the arts more satisfying.

Alex Yeo writes about the problem of dealing with Tai Chi scientifically instead of in mystical or philosophic terms. Some people are comfortable talking about and learning about the Dao and microcosmic orbits, etc. But many are not.

I remember hearing about a student who felt it was necessary to stop Tai Chi because the student felt it might be in conflict with certain religious beliefs. Of course, that was just in the person's mind, but for that person it was real.

Shi Ming was famous in China, where he taught in a Beijing park. For a while we sold his book, which unfortunately went out of print.

Now his son, Shi Hai, writes about the legacy of his father and the technique of single form practice. The article was brought together through the efforts of Leo Wagner of Germany who studied with Shi Ming.

Also, in this issue is a remembrance of Sun Jianyun, the daughter of Sun Lutang. She had the heavy responsibility of carrying forward the teaching of her famous father during a very difficult time in China.

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