Yang Style Taijiquan

Do you know why this pattern is called "Single Whip"?


I found it difficult to learn Tai Chi from a book, so I purchased a video. Through my research, I've seen so much controversy over the origin and history of Tai Chi. Is there more than one style of Tai Chi. I often see either Tai Chi Chuan or just Tai Chi, are they the same?

Very few actually look at it as a martial arts, including my old Tae Kwan Do instructer, to whom I argued quite a few times on this fact. I hope to educate people about Tai Chi in a public talk.

-- Jason, USA


Taijiquan as well as Shaolin Kungfu are not only very effective martial arts, they are also a way to spiritual cultivation. In fact spiritual cultivation was the very reason why they were first developed.

Learning from a video enables you to learn only the outward form, which is the least important aspect of Taijiquan Kungfu. The more important inner aspects have to be acquired from a master. Unfortunately real masters are very rare today.

While I am glad that you have chosen to speak on Taijiquan, you are not qualified yet "to educate people about Tai Chi". The basic requirement of an educator or teacher is that he must not only know about the art adequately, more importantly he must have had some personal experience of what he is saying, and his experience of the art should be of a reasonably high level. If you cannot even tell the difference between Tai Chi and Tai Chi Chuan, or do not know about the various Taijiquan styles, your educating other people is a case of the blind leading the blind.

Please do not be mistaken that I am being harsh, or that I am reprimanding you. I am just being sincere. I also know that you are sincere about doing your bit for Taijiquan, and that you mean well. That is why I am giving you this sincere advice, which I am sure you will much appreciate later when you have become a master yourself -- if you have the ambition to become one and are ready to work hard for it.

Your attitude is typical of many Westerners. Everyone has a right to adopt his own attitude so long as it does not harm others, but from my experience I can safely say that such an attitude will never make you a real master -- no matter how long or how hard you try. That is perhaps one reason why there are so very few masters today, and why the standard of kungfu (including Taijiquan) has been so watered down that it becomes no more than a dance. If you know almost nothing about Taijiquan and have never practised it properly, but feel justified enough to educate others on the art, it is easy for you to think that you have attained a very high standard when you are actually at a superficial level.

This of course does not mean that you cannot talk about Taijiquan to others. It is perhaps a matter of word choice: it would be better if you say you inform others rather than educate them. And, in order not to give the false impression that the profundity of Taijiquan can be so easy reached by merely reading some books or listening to a talk, you may add that yours is only an introduction, and those who wish to learn about Taijiquan farther should seek a master, but not a bogus instructor.

Taijiquan is a practical art. Taijiquan masters are generally not bothered to argue over who was the real founder of Taijiquan, or when and where it was founded. What they are more concerned are the real practical benefits like getting good health, vitality, combat efficiency, mental freshness and spiritual joy from their Taijiquan practice. Nevertheless, if you wish to have some historical background, you can readily get it from my book, "The Complete Book of Tai Chi Chuan". You can also have a good explanation of the various styles, and of the difference between Tai Chi and Tai Chi Chuan.

I do not know how many people practise Taijiquan today, but I can estimate that more than 90% of those who think they practise Taijiquan are merely doing Tai Chi dance. Taijiquan is a very effective martial art; Tai Chi dance is a lazy person's way of exercising. You may practise, or "play" as some people are inclinded to say, Tai Chi dance your whole life, yet you cannot defend yourself; even the health benefits are minimal.

The above is taken from Question 10 of Jan 98 of the Selection of Questions and Answers.


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