“This is like your own version of the Yang Family Tai-Chi. It is not as taught by Yang Jun, who is 6th generation Yang Family. Sorry, I don’t like your style.”
I love hearing from people who view my offerings on YouTube. Mostly they are very supportive and offer comments that make my day. On occasion, I receive one like the one above, and it gives me cause to reflect. Let me share some of my thoughts.
All Tai Chi comes from the same source – the Chen Village martial art, later called Chen Tai Chi Chuan. Yang Lu Chan studied at the Chen Village, and later became the first person to teach this art outside the village. He changed it to match his ideas and methods of teaching, and it became known as Yang style. He had many great students, some went on to teach on their own and start their own styles, like the Li and Wu styles. I would add that most senior students who go off to teach on their own don’t plan on creating their own style. If they are offering something different and they are particularly skilled, others might start to refer to their method as “this or that” style.
I feel there is nothing special or sacred about the Yang Family form. It happens to be the first form I encountered and studied and at the time I knew of no others. Being young and strong at the time, 1968, I might have started with the Chen style if I had to do it over. It is a more athletic and martial form.
Each person who starts his or her study of Tai Chi does so for a reason. Generally, it is health related. Not many for martial skills. My reason was self awareness – what Master Choy called “Meditation in Motion”. I needed to find my center and I did with the help of Master Choy and Tai Chi Chuan.
In 1973, Master Choy certified me to teach. I moved to Tucson and have been teaching full time since then. It wasn’t till many years later that I dared to allow changes to creep into my teaching and form, and I did it to be true to my goals.
The Yang style, as practiced by theYang Family, has a long form composed of 108 movements (or sometimes a different number because of differences in how moves are counted). In this form, there are repeated movements. For instance, Single Whip is repeated 10 times. What most instructors do is shorten the number of moves, say to 54, or 34, or 24, or even 8, eliminating repeated movements. Why these have evolved is varied, but mostly, people don’t have the time to study a skill that takes years to learn. One can learn an 8 movement form, even to the level of Instructor, in a week-end.
My form evolved to give every repeat a different application so the form is subtly, or not so subtly, different. I have close to 108 different moves. Each move allows the player an opportunity to connect the mind to different parts of the body. The more different moves, the more connections, the greater the increase in the size of the brain. More moves means greater exercise. More moves means increasing necessary memory and motor skills.
So I say to the person who added the above comment on YouTube – yes, this is my own interpretation of the Yang “Style” Tai Chi Chuan, and I’m proud of it. If everyone liked only one form, there would probably be only one, not the variety to choose from to help realize your goals. And also, most people prefer the first form they study as it feels “right” to them.
There are two major ways to how people approach other practitioners and styles of Tai Chi. The first is to discount what they are doing because it is not how you learned. That was my approach. Master Choy never talked about other forms, only Yang style as his family practiced it. When I first encountered another form, I thought they didn’t know what they were doing. Only later did I open enough to accept other ways of doing and thinking about the moves.
The second way is to find great interest in other forms, and even discount your form, because your form is now common place. This new form has ideas and ways of approaching Tai Chi that your instructor never shared.
So much depends upon what you are seeking through study. One of my main students is very philosophical, and she is attracted to an instructor who is also deeply into the philosophical approach to the study. Another needs physical exercise, so his study centers around how to do the form to accomplish his goals.
The bottom line is not to find fault with people who think and move in ways different than yours. Look deeply into what they are trying to accomplish and see if there are lessons for you personally. If it works for them, encourage their practice, and if it doesn’t, either hold back from commenting or maybe speak up depending on your relationship with this other person. It is very difficult for most people to take criticisms from fellow students. And certainly don’t do it in front of fellow students.