Of Alternative Facts 2

Part 1 here.

Below are my comments based on what my teacher told me during those years I was learning from him.

Alternative Fact No. 1
…..Imperial Yang Family Tai Chi, a mysterious branch of the most popular style of Tai Chi that originated from the Palace staff during the Qing Dynasty in the early 1900s.

Grandmaster Wei never called the Yang style he learned from Great Grandmaster Wang “Imperial Yang Family Tai Chi”. The name was concocted by some of GM Wei’s disciples.

If indeed the name of GM Wei’s Yang style is Imperial Yang Family Tai Chi then why was this name not used for the title of GGM Wang’s book and GM Wei’s books on their Yang style?

Also, the claims of a mysterious branch is a modern marketing thingy. After seeing the very different form in this style somebody once asked GGM Wang why he did not call the style Wang style Tai Chi. GGM Wang became angry and said that he could not do so because this was the Yang family’s Tai Chi.

Thus, what is written in this blog post about GM Wei’s style as originating from Palace staff is a marketing claim.

Alternative Fact No. 2
Master Yang Jian Hou, son of Yang style founder Yang Lu Chan, was summoned to train the royal family and, along with his son Yang Chengfu, used the palace staff to absorb the blows. No one absorbed blows better than Wang Chonglu and his son Wang Yong Quan. After years of pushing them around, the fearsome Yang Chengfu rewarded their courage with lessons in the Yang family secrets, not shared with others.

It is interesting that the writer of this post had a link to Jarek Szymanski’s translation of some stuff from GM Wei’s book. I wonder whether the writer read through Jarek’s translation because writing his own post because if he did he would notice a glaring mistake in this paragraph.

Hop over to the article of Jarek’s that the writer linked to here.

Read the article and you will see why this paragraph is basically full of alternative facts when compared to Jarek’s translation of what GM Wei wrote about GGM Wang and his father’s learning of Tai Chi from the Yang family.

Alternative Fact No. 3
The Old Six Roads seems distinctly different from the Yang form, with shorter and more compact movements within the larger postures.

“….. seems distinctly different…..” – seriously dude? The form is not “seems distinctly different” but is “distinctly different”. Unless the writer is not comparing apple to apple (I think he is probably comparing GM Wei’s 22 form to the longer Yang Chengfu 108 form) then the form is longer and not shorter than the conventional Yang style form that originated from Yang Chengfu’s lineage.

The postures are also not larger when compared to that of Yang Chengfu’s version of the long form. Unless one is watching someone not competent in the form doing the demonstration the onlooker should not be getting this impression.

Take a look at the conventional 24 form that is based on Yang Chengfu’s 108 form. The arrangement of this form is basically nearly identical to GM Wei’s 22 form.

 

Next, take a look at GM Wei’s 22 form performed by the master himself :-

Alternative Fact No. 4
For decades, Wei Shu Ren traveled China and South Asia to teach and compete.

I have to say I have only heard of GM Wei travelling to Australia and Taiwan to teach. I have not even heard of GM Wei travelling within China to teach and certainly not to South Asia, in fact not even to Southeast Asia.

As to the claim of GM Wei competing I have to say that apart from that one video of him doing a push hands demo I have not seen more. Nor have I heard from my teacher of GM Wei taking part in competitions.

You would think that if these two claims are true you would see pictures in GM Wei’s books of him with medals and scrolls from competitions, as well as GM Wei teaching seminars or posing with large group of participants in countries that he taught. But no, the only seminar pictures in GM Wei’s books are from the book launch of the 22 form and with participants in Australia and Taiwan.

Alternative Fact No. 5
Today the Imperial Yang Family Tai Chi tradition is carried on by Wei Shu Ren’s three daughters

A reader may get the impression that it is only GM Wei’s daughters who are carrying on the tradition.

The facts that have been left out whether intentional or out of ignorance by the writer is that GM Wei once held a ceremony to officially proclaim his retirement from teaching.

During this ceremony GM Wei did three things – announced the formation of a formal style for his Tai Chi, designate his adopted son as the official custodian of the style, and named two disciples (his adopted son and one senior lady disciple) as being official teachers of the style. None of the other 50 odd disciples nor his daughters were named as official teachers during the ceremony.

Of Alternative Facts 1

Kellyanne Conway.

The arrival of Kellyanne on the political scene following Trump’s ascension to the White House was the birth of the term alternative facts. Since then the US political scene has been filled with so many alternative facts that I am sure many less politically savvy readers would be utterly confused by the amount of information coming out.

I would think that the Tai Chi scene would be safe from alternative facts but I was wrong. Alternative facts have arrived.

Today my friend Paul pointed out a blog post to me. I read it and went “huh”.

I don’t claim to be a representative of this school and style or even a formal lineage. But then in the early years my teacher explicitly said that there is no need to have a formal disciple relationship.

Anyway, a person can be a disciple but the status can be meaningless unless the person truly practices to achieve the skills of the style. This is as opposed to a person paying money to be a disciple, learning a form (not mastering it mind you) then going back to his country to open a school and teach the style’s form without first mastering it. Basic competency is not the same as mastery!

Anyway, I read the following alternative facts in this post :-

Alternative Fact No. 1
“…..Imperial Yang Family Tai Chi, a mysterious branch of the most popular style of Tai Chi that originated from the Palace staff during the Qing Dynasty in the early 1900s.”

Alternative Fact No. 2
Master Yang Jian Hou, son of Yang style founder Yang Lu Chan, was summoned to train the royal family and, along with his son Yang Chengfu, used the palace staff to absorb the blows. No one absorbed blows better than Wang Chonglu and his son Wang Yong Quan. After years of pushing them around, the fearsome Yang Chengfu rewarded their courage with lessons in the Yang family secrets, not shared with others.

Alternative Fact No. 3
The Old Six Roads seems distinctly different from the Yang form, with shorter and more compact movements within the larger postures.

Alternative Fact No. 4
For decades, Wei Shu Ren traveled China and South Asia to teach and compete.

Alternative Fact No. 5
Today the Imperial Yang Family Tai Chi tradition is carried on by Wei Shu Ren’s three daughters

The problem with alternative facts is that over time they are accepted as facts because readers particularly those in the West do not always have access to other sources of information.

The problem is compounded by the fact that over time key players pass on and unless their version of the facts are made known, allowing for comparison with other competing facts that came later the truer facts may become lost to history.

So what is my contention with the above five alternative facts?

Read on in the next post.

 

Diversity in Practice 2

In the earlier Diversity in Practice post here I compiled a clip showing how various descendants of Grandmaster Wei Shuren played the first section of the 22 Form. It is certainly an eye opener to realize that within a two generation span the way the form is played could vary in the essential requirements.

I can imagine if I am someone totally new to the style looking from outside in and wondering what to make of the differences, particularly if I am looking to learn the style. Or I could be a beginner wanting to improve myself, being confronted by the differences and wondering who to look to as a learning model or perhaps I should try to take in all.

In another previous post The Classics As A Standard I highlighted the importance of using a reference standard in assessing our practice of Tai Chi. The same tool can be used in the case of the 22 Form. For us we are fortunate because we also have the following :-

i) A number of videos of Grandmaster Wei playing either the 22 Form or 108 Form

ii) Four texts including one text specifically on the 22 Form

Taking into account the above we can then use them as tools to understand what we are seeing in the videos of the different performers. We can compare them with the first clip of Grandmaster Wei to have a general impression.

We can then move on to the text on the 22 Form to see what the general and specific requirements are and observe if they are in play consistently. For example, the requirement of elongated wrist is highly specific to our Yang style Tai Chi.

Using these tools as reference standard will also allow us to answer other questions such as this – the Cheng Man Ching style uses the Fair Maiden Hand which outwardly looks very similar to our elongated wrist. Based on this observation some outsiders have concluded that our Yang style is similar to the Cheng style.

However, I have learned the Cheng style before and I can say that outer appearances aside we are not similar. I don’t make this conclusion based on emotion but by using the tools above to make an objective evaluation.

For example, below you can see the Single Whip posture of Grandmaster Wei Shuren and Grandmaster Cheng Man Ching :-

singlewhipx2

The characteristics of our style which can be seen in the posture of Grandmaster Wei but absent from Grandmaster Cheng would be the following :-

i) Bell body posture

ii) 2-4 line

iii) Bell clapper line

iv) 3-Chi rings

v) 3-Passes

vi) Elongated wrists throughout

vii) Hot bun under armpits

viii) Others

 

I have not drawn the lines in but as an exercise you can do it yourself and my conclusions here will be very clear.

Instead, I am highlighting three obvious discrepancies in the performers in the video compilation which you can easily spot below :-

a) Non-elongated wrists

This is something that is easily overlooked when playing the form. If you cannot keep the wrists elongated properly it means that you have not developed deep awareness of what your hands are doing.

If you are unable to master the principle of elongated wrists how then will you be able to fulfil the requirement of “when intercepting strength do not use wrists…..” – this saying can be found in the text that GM Wei wrote for GM Wang Yongquan on the 108 long form.

violation

b) Carry the wooden tablet

In the posture of Wild Horse Parts Mane we have the requirement of Peng Ti which is likened to using the arm to carry a Chinese court official’s wooden tablet.

This is a very important principle for fajing purposes. So if you fail to fulfil this requirement you will not be able to demonstrate the fajing flavor shown by Grandmaster Wei and you will end up using normal biomechanical means.

violation-2

c) 3-Passes

The 3-passes is a method for controlling the spine mentally. There are 4 variations to the 3-passes. If you fail to keep the 3-passes it also means your bell body will be non-existent.

Consequently you will not be able to develop strong, springy power through the principle of what is normally referred to as Peng Zhang but often mistakenly called Peng Jing. Thus, each requirement is for a purpose. You can think of them as pieces that make up the entire puzzle.

violation-3

 

Sometimes its not politically correct to analyze what other people do. But if we want to Master Tai Chi Today we should be bold to ask politically incorrect questions. For example, an obvious politically incorrect question is if everyone is correct then why no one is really getting it. So what’s the answer? This I leave you to ponder.

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Diversity in Practice

It is quite amazing to note diverse flavors of Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s 22-Form that is out there. Take a look at the video below which starts off with a performance of the first section of the 22-form. Thereafter, you can see performances of the same section by two of his disciples and others.

As part of our strategy to Master Tai Chi Today we should do research and observe how others practice the same form from our style. Who knows, we might learn something whether it is how to improve or what to avoid doing.

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The Mind Inside Tai Chi – Review 4

Continuing with the review on 2.3 Qi.

The author wrote that “The first element of mind approach in practicing taijiquan is qi.” I find this very strange. Shouldn’t the first element to using the mind be intention? We always say “no Yi, no Qi” but never “no Qi, no Yi“. I feel that the author has not explained Qi properly. Instead, he quoted ancient writers to try to get the explanation across. It kinda reminds me about trying to explain to a layman about a Turing machine.

I like to read history in high school and the Second World War was a favorite topic. No narrative of how the Allies won the war would be complete without understanding the role of Ultra. Recently, what Ultra was has been given a boost by the movie The Imitation Game.

If you had seen the movie you would know who Alan Turing was if you hadn’t by now. The code breaking machine that Turing designed is referred to as a Turing machine. If you want to read all about it in-depth you can go to this link for an explanation.

Or if all that technical explanation turned you off but you still want to know what a Turing machine is you can accept a simplified broad-based explanation at the end of The Imitation Game in which it is stated that today we would refer to a Turing machine as a computer. P.S. – you should know that a modern PC does not work like a Turing machine but read this much simpler explanation here and you can understand why its not wrong to say that a Turing machine is a computer.

Though I find ancient explanations of Qi fascinating I have doubts that it can help today’s practitioners to truly understand what it is about. Consider this part from page 93 “…how can nihility becomes being? It can by using, distributing, and generating qi, and using qi to give birth to things, it becomes heaven and earh; thus qi is the origin of being.” How is this useful to a learner who is already having a hard time trying to grasp biomechanics much less such high-faluting concepts that does not seem to have anything to do with actual practice?

If you are confused by the terms used don’t be. Nihility simply means nothingness or non-being. It is basically a rephrasing of the oft-heard refrain of Wuji becoming Tai Chi. But when you think about it the proposed answer doesn’t satisfactorily explain the question. Consider how does non-being become a being or how does Wuji becomes Tai Chi. The answer the author gives is to use Qi but he forgot to mention how Qi came about.

In the transmission that comes through our side the missing link is simply Yi (Intention). How does Wuji becomes Tai Chi? Use Yi. With Yi the flow of Qi will occur and with it the rest such as Heaven and Earth unification with Man will happen. So we say Yi is the originator of Tai Chi rather than Qi. The most important part of what I am getting at here can be proven easily. Just do an informal survey and see how many practitioners who claim to have attained Qi can use their Qi-generated skill to use Yi to fajing.

Want to hear something funny, when I read further down on page 94 after the earlier part about Qi then the author used the Tai Chi Classics to mention that the intent is used to trigger the Qi. Does he know that what he wrote earlier contradicted what is mentioned here in the section on Intent-Qi-Form?

If I move on to page 95 there is a section entitled Intent Arrives, Qi Arrives which is basically what I mentioned above about the Yi leading the Qi. Again, the author rather than clarifies merely confuses by asking how inner qi is formed and replying that the answer is “intent arrives, qi arrives.” He is missing the point that when you have Yi then Qi will move; both these added together is what we refer to as Inner Qi.

The author wrote that at the beginning you can feel the intent arrives but not the qi. From my practice and teaching experience this is wrong. It is very easy for a total beginner to feel his Qi as in making the palm warm even on the first day of learning. But a beginner will have a problem getting his intent out to where it should go. In fact, most of the time when a beginner thinks he has intent he doesn’t really, not in the Tai Chi sense anyway otherwise he would have no problem doing fajing.

To Master Tai Chi Today particularly the use of Yi and achieve Inner Qi we must understand the true relationship of the three keywords of Shen, Yi and Qi. Otherwise, you can be training Tai Chi your whole life but never get it. The fact that masters in the past can master Tai Chi means we can master it too. Just don’t get confused and misled by half-baked writings of people who think they know the subject but their writings are indicative of someone still trying to feel the way and at times seem to be chasing their own tail.

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Right Ho Professor!

In my previous post I mentioned that students should invest in a good physics text.

I was listening to a physics lecture and there it was, the explanation for why Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s training and fajing method is spot on.

On the other hand, it also explains why the rear foot pushing off the ground method that is typically used does not allow for optimizing of the force generated and causes the person pushing to be destabilized.

The entire explanation simply rests on that one equation all of us knows, F = ma, but not in the way it is normally explained. You see, if you look at F = ma the natural conclusion to reach is that you must push fast, hard and with your entire body; and that is exactly what I see most masters do.

However, after listening to this physics lecture on acceleration particularly the detailed explanation given on the nature of acceleration the professor indirectly (I say this because he was not lecturing in the context of Tai Chi) verified why Grandmaster Wei’s fajing model is correct and can generate the type of sudden power that literally knocks a person off his feet.

What do you know? Physics, man, another key to help you Master Tai Chi Today! Rock on, Professor B.

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Old Six Routines (22-Form)

This is a clip showing Grandmaster Wei Shuren demonstrating his arrangement of the 22 posture form. This was filmed in Sydney, Australia.

Grandmaster Wei created a shorter version of the original 89 posture form so that beginners can practice it a few more times within the time constraint that modern practitioners face in their daily lives. This is because a proper practice of the 89 posture form would take up as much as 2 hours per practice session.

Grandmaster Wei’s point of view as related by my teacher was that it did not matter whether one is learning the shorter or longer form. Instead, what matters to mastery is one’s ability to absorb and utilize the essence.

Sometimes readers don’t understand what I mean by a good performance of a form. So I am going to use this gentleman’s performance for the purpose of comparison.

http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XNjA0NTMzNzQ4.html?from=y1.2-1-98.3.4-2.1-1-1-3-0

I am not going to analyze it but I think its obvious when I say that he has not gotten the part of use intent to move correctly. If you compare it to Grandmaster Wei’s performance the defects in this gentleman’s rendition of the form are obvious. I am not dissing him, merely pointing out for those who are interested.

The only thing I like about this clip is that the key points for performing the form is displayed in Chinese for each of the postures for those who know how to read Chinese.

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