Zen Seeing

One of the few things that Tai Chi practitioners tend to argue about is who learned what, who is who in what position in which lineage, old versus new versus modified versus whatever else forms, fast versus slow, complex versus simple looking forms, etc.

After nearly four decades since I first learned Tai Chi the only thing I am sure is that there is a lot of hot air, fluff and uncertainty as far as things that happened a long time ago.

Hence, I don’t put too much stock in such things. Instead, I rather believe in what I see before me. The present is more important than the past because the past is the past and whatever you have today is what you have regardless of what occurred in the past.

One argument I heard lately is that a complex form is somehow more important than a simple looking form. Of course, the problem with this point of view is that a complex form without the proper principles is like a race car frame without a worthy engine to power it.

A simple looking form is not necessarily worse off than a complex form. This depends on how you actually play the form, how you use your intention to express the principles in a manner that allows you to manifest the critical requirements for power, speed and ability to change.

If you want to Master Tai Chi Today you have to learn how to see things as they are and put aside things that are not essential to the development of your Tai Chi skills. However, I should not be surprised when some practitioners have these type of opinions. I view it as the manifestation of insecurity and a means of coping with uncertainty when they feel that there is something missing in what they have learned.

It is good to realize this and attempt to do something about. However, putting stock in old wives tales about the Yang family, competing lineage claims, spurious arguments and so on will not help you to master Tai Chi. Its when you learn to see things as they are, what I would call Zen seeing that you start to make genuine progress.

I have seen people look at the listing of a Yang form in a book and compare it to the listing of another Yang form and somehow conclude that the form with more postures is an older form and therefore of importance. For the life of me I don’t really get it. To me a form with substance is a form with substance. Having more or less movements, whether simpler or more complex, performed faster or slower is not going to detract from it.

Yet others have mystified the Yang Banhou name; as if it stands for some magical, mysterious skill. I am willing to give this the benefit of a doubt, however, I have yet to see any so-called Yang Banhou lineage performers demonstrate really refined skills.

Below is an example of a Yang Banhou form :-

This is another example of a Yang Banhou form with the same master showing off his push hands. I prefer this master’s demo to the one above.

There are some more Yang Banhou forms demo on Youtube. Do a search and see. Below is another which some viewers may claim offers indication of skills due to the low stances :-

If you love low stances then this Zhaobao form demo should please you :-

The same applies also to the so-called Yang Shaohou small frame form, an example is shown below :-

You know what, at the end of it all I tend to see are similar biomechanics being used; what I define as the rear leg pushing hard off the ground mechanic to generate power. Below is a clip someone posted to a Facebook group I happened to see in my Timeline. I cannot remember the exact comment but it mentioned something about this skill taking several years to learn and I could not help but raised my eyebrows and thinking surely you jest ……

For comparison take a look at 0:31 in the clip below. The biomechanics used is the same but applied in a less exaggerated manner.

At 0:48 further on in the clip you can see clearer the use of the rear leg. I have captured this in the form of stills for a clearer look below :-


Can you see the biomechanics at play? Clear as daylight, right? Or you can’t see?

Now try looking at this clip of Grandmaster Wei Shuren at 0:25 :-

Below is the screen capture of this section in the clip. Can you see how this fajing is performed?


So there are many issues to think about along your way to mastering Tai Chi. If you get things in the right perspective then you are on the way. If not, you should re-examine what you are doing but remember to put aside your ingrained biases. Without an open mind you will never know what you miss out.


Want to learn Tai Chi in Singapore? At Singapore Yang Style Combat Tai Chi lessons covering forms, weaponry, push hands, fajing and applications are offered. Lessons are conducted in English. Send enquiry today at the link here.

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