If the question had come from a young chap I would not be surprised. But for the question to come from someone nearing his 70s it was interesting to say the least.
Someone, X, visited me to find out more about learning Tai Chi. The first question asked was whether I was accredited. The reason was because this other teacher that X was learning from was accredited by a master in Australia.
I said no though I have a MACU licence back in the days when it was required. Of course, anyone who knows about MACU licence would know that to apply for it you have to get your teacher’s endorsement before they allow you to test for it. Thus, indirectly you can say that I am accredited by my teacher and his organization.
My teacher didn’t believe in the MACU licence because he said that those so-called examiners conducting the test didn’t really know about our Tai Chi and hence not in a position to test the competency of practitioners in our style. But it was a game that had to be played otherwise one cannot be a legitimate Tai Chi teacher in the eyes of the law. It was fortunate for the examiners that all they had to do was to judge the applicant’s competency based on his ability to do forms. It would have been interesting if they had to personally touch hands to see if applicants really do know Tai Chi particularly push hands. I cannot help but wonder how many of these examiners’ competency or incompetency would be exposed then.
X said that his current teacher can move the hands nicely. Yes, and so can so many other practitioners, not necessarily at the teacher level. The real test of a Tai Chi teacher’s competency is not whether he is accredited, how many awards he has but whether he can explain and demonstrate his art when under pressure from a resisting opponent.
I don’t know how many readers are aware of it but if the Tai Chi teacher is not able to demonstrate good and competent combat skills then even learning health exercises from them would not help you as much as you think. The logic is simple – to reap the benefit of Tai Chi for health you have to be able to open up the channels in your body. If the channels are opened then the Qi will be able to flow; if the Qi can flow then you should have no problem generating power with little exertion and outer movement on a resisting test partner. If you cannot do it then no matter how friendly, how many armfuls of paper accreditation your teacher has, how great you feel or how much you think your Qi or Yi is moving, in the end it all boils down to self deception.
Some of my students who have trained in the prescribed manner can demonstrate fajing ability after years of careful training. When they reach this stage I encourage them to go and test it against friends because being able to use it in class is not as useful as being able to apply it against opponents who will give you a hard time with unscripted responses. When students find that their training works they come back with renewed faith in the style and train harder. For newer students they find that the training will help them to release the tension in their bodies; sometimes they can feel the Qi trying to break through the parts that are blocked.
I mentioned to X that in traditional martial arts training a master who really wants to teach you will not ask you to attend a public class in which he cannot pay optimal attention to your learning. He will also not necessarily give you a paper accreditation though for some schools they either give a certificate or a letter to indicate that you have learned from the master. The real test of how much you have learned lies in the skills you are able to demonstrate.
For example, if I meet someone who claims to have learned from my Dong style teacher I can easily verify his claim not so much by looking at a piece of paper but by testing his push hands. If he cannot demonstrate the unique way of neutralizing power that my teacher possesses then the claim of learning and the accreditation certificate means nothing. If he doubts that what I have explained and shown is not true I can point him to those seniors who know not only my teacher but the grandmaster and he can do his own independent checking.
Tai Chi is a physical skill that you have to spend time to acquire. A piece of paper does not give you the skill nor attest how good you really are. Did I mention the story of one of my teacher’s junior Down Under?
As a disciple under Grandmaster Wei I am sure he would have been given a disciple certificate. I understand that he is active to promote the system and is regarded as an expert in the style until the day someone called him out on it. Fortunately or unfortunately the person who called him out took a video and posted it for the whole world to see that the Emperor has no clothes. Its sad since it impacts this lineage in our style but its a good reminder that we should not believe too much in our own s%^t but must constantly train to improve ourselves paper accreditation or not.
Want to Master Tai Chi Today? Don’t let paper qualifications and awards fool you as to a teacher’s skill level. There is a reason why old timers say that maxim does not leave the mouth, fist does not leave the hand.
Want to learn Tai Chi in Singapore? At Singapore Tai Chi Yang Style lessons covering forms, weaponry, push hands, fajing and applications are offered. Lessons are conducted in English. Send enquiry today at the link here.