Characteristic DNA

Silently the digital minutes began their countdown to the witching hour. It is the last lesson for the day with a new student.

As usual, I requested to see what the new student, X, has learned with his previous teacher TS. He performed and I stopped him when he reached Single Whip. I said that the form that he just did was the Wu style form but he said that TS told him its the Yang style 108.

I have learned and investigated Yang style for a long time so I know what a Yang flavored form looked like. I had also learned the Wu style form when I began my journey and what X showed was definitely a Wu style form.

Anyway, today after work I checked out TS’ background. I found this interesting passage :-

Anyway, some fellow Taijiquan teachers/friends have said to me “Hey, Tek, your Yang Style looks like Wu Style? and your Liu He Ba Fa looks like an elongated Taijiquan routine set. Is it Wu or Yang or Sun or Hao?” I just smiled and answered “Lao Zi says, “The name that could be named is not the eternal name.” So Taijiquan is Taijiquan. Whether you call it Yang, Wu…Liu He…Ba Gua or whatever, what difference does it make if it helps and serves the purpose? It does not really matter.

On another page where TS’ background is mentioned it is said that :-

At age 13 he started learning Tai Chi with Mr. Tung, a principle disciple of Master Wu Tu Nan,….

What is interesting is from the passage above to the year 1986 there is no mention of him learning Yang style Tai Chi Chuan and suddenly in 1986 he “….resumed teaching Yang Style Tai Chi and Lok Hup in Toronto.” The only conclusion I could make is that he learned Yang style from his teacher Mr Tung. So who did Mr Tung learned Yang style from? Could it be Wu Tu Nan? But then Wu Tu Nan was a well known Wu style Tai Chi master.

Googling further I found the answer which was Wu Tu Nan had spent 4 years learning from Yang Shaohou. Ah, mystery solved. Since Wu Tu Nan had spent 8 years earlier learning Wu style Tai Chi the flavor of his first style may have influenced that which he learned from Yang Shaohou.

It is true what TS said about Tai Chi being Tai Chi, a rose by any other name thingy. But when I saw X’s form I have to say that there are many loopholes from a combat perspective and just as many from the perspective of good biomechanics, Tai Chi Classics’ principles notwithstanding.

Yang style has a certain flavor, a unique set of characteristics DNA if you will, that sets it apart from Chen, Wu, Wu / Hao and Sun style. They are as such for a reason. Saying they are all the same does not really help a beginner learn. If anything, it sounds like selling dog meat but calling it beef.

The awakening I received from Master Yap has stayed with me and I applied it to new students except that I would ask “why do you do it this way?” and 99.9% of the time they do not know. So I’m like if you don’t know what you are doing then how do you know that you are doing it correctly?

Everything we do in TaijiKinesis has a reason. When we do push hands the reasons are obvious. I have students who had learned under other teachers and when their old habits crept into their push hands it would be obvious. They would struggle, huff and puff but I would smiled and shook my head, indicating to them that it was not working.

With X as with other students I would say that they probably learned more;  experienced positive and powerful feelings in a one hour lesson than when they were learning elsewhere for months or years. To Master Tai Chi Today should be clear cut but when I saw the abundance of flying elbows with students who came from other teachers I can but sigh and think Que Sera, Sera; what ever will be, will be.


Want to learn Tai Chi in Singapore? At Singapore Tai Chi Yang Style (TaijiKinesis) 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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