Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Striving for "Real" Taiji

He who stretches
beyond his natural reach,
does not stand firmly
upon the ground;
just as he
who travels at a speed
beyond his means,
cannot maintain his pace.
He who boasts
is not enlightened,
and he who is self-righteous
does not gain respect
from those who are meritous;
thus, he gains nothing,
and will fall into disrepute.
Since striving,
boasting and self-righteousness,
are all unnecessary traits,
the sage considers them excesses,
and has no need of them.

I read this as I was ruminating two recent occurrences. The first was a blog that I read by another Taiji teacher. His blog was specifically talking about the origins of Taijiquan, he was presenting arguments about which family can claim the “real” Taijiquan.

To me, the whole tone of the blog seemed a bit the antithesis of taiji and taiji principles. Does it really matter the origin; history in China is so shrouded and intertwined with legend. If it was in fact Zhang SanFeng, or Chen Wang Ting, does it really matter? Isn’t it more important to focus on the development of Taijiquan?

Personally, this leads me into the second area on which I was ruminating. I have striven, for years, contrary to this passage from the Dao De Jing . One of the main things that I have striven for is to prove that Taiji is still a martial art, and that it has relevance. Like the author of the other blog, I have had frustration about so many “instructors” teaching “Tai Chi” as a form of exercise, as a sort of dance. There are also those that teach it as some sort of mystical study, enhancing a magical “life force” that they call Qi.

There is much benefit that comes along with the study of Taijiquan, be it Yang, Chen, Wu or of another name. We cannot however dispute the fact that to write the name of our art, we use the Chinese characters . The first character means “great, supreme, ultimate” the second character means “ridge-pole, extreme” when combined, these two characters refer to the Taiji Tu or the symbol that most of us in the west know as the Yin/Yang. In truth this symbol is the graphical representation of the Daoist philosophy. The final character is Pinyin quán which means fist and is used to denote a style of martial art.

With that said, it should be obvious that you cannot remove the martial art from Taiji or Tai Chi which is just the Wade Giles Romanization of the word. As some of my friends would say, “And there you have it.” Our challenge, as proponents of Taijiquan, is to maintain the integrity of this great art (and that means keeping the martial) while following its philosophies. It might seem easier to prove the legitimacy of Taiji by being a bellicose fighter. Is that truly Taiji?