Fighting with Bagua Elk Horn Knives
Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang Workshops in the U.S. 2010

Another Reason Tai Chi in America is So Weak - A "Tai Chi Life"

There is a letter to the editor in the most recent T'ai Chi magazine that points out one reason there is so much bad and weak Tai Chi in America.

A guy wrote a letter in response to an earlier article that talked about how Tai Chi has been "dumbed down" for a lot of people.

It's true. It has been dumbed down. The article was correct.

So this fellow writes a letter in response to the article saying that if you truly lead "a Tai Chi life," you don't judge people or put them down in any way. If someone is doing bad Tai Chi that's okay because it is "his" Tai Chi. There is no right. There is no wrong.

The letter states that even if someone is doing bad Tai Chi, "In their eye, it is Tai Chi, so it is."

Let's apply this logic to other human endeavors:

** You should never criticize a play or piece, a work of art or a piece of music. Whoever created it thinks it is art, and so it is. All works of art should be treated the same. My granddaughter's drawings are the same as Picasso. The music of Britney Spears is on the same level as The Beatles.

** I can get my daughter to represent me if I ever go to court. It doesn't matter that she has never studied law. She might think she is practicing law, and so she is. No problem.

** I think I'll decide to start practicing medicine on people. It doesn't matter that I've only taken a course in acupuncture. I can diagnose their illnesses, relate them to the elements and meridians and points, and begin a treatment. Don't tell me it isn't practicing medicine. If I say it's medicine, it is.

When you train with a true Chinese tai chi master, you will find out very quickly that there is good tai chi and bad tai chi -- and you are practicing bad tai chi. :) A good tai chi master -- a real master -- is very quick to show you the mistakes you are making. Training with a real tai chi master is a very humbling experience, because you get to see -- and you are told first-hand -- how much you suck.

Yes. Suck.

The problem with people who have studied "dumbed down" tai chi is that they believe they have the real thing. And it's an incredibly easy cop-out to say "there is no bad tai chi." In fact, it excuses your own weak version of the art. I've seen tai chi masters watching a DVD of another tai chi master (both from the Chen Village) and the master watching the DVD starts angrily denouncing the master's technique in the video.

I suppose this master doesn't lead a tai chi life.

And what does that mean -- a "tai chi life?" When you study tai chi, you're supposed to zone out and forget about quality in anything? I suppose so. How convenient.

It's complete B.S. that people have applied some ridiculous standard of thinking to a martial art such as Tai Chi Chuan. This is an art that enables you to break an attacker and put them down -- right now. If you can't do this, and use the proper body mechanics, you are, in fact, not practicing tai chi.

I would hate to see this guy's students (I'm intentionally not revealing his name), and I have a feeling he practices pretty weak tai chi. I just hope he is enjoying his "tai chi life." Personally, like so many in these arts, he's living in a "tai chi bubble."


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Tai Chi deserves enough respect to do it right. Even if you are doing it only for health reasons, if it's wrong, you are not getting the maximum benefit. If it's wrong, and you try to use it for self-defense, you get your butt kicked. Both instances are bad Tai Chi.


What if there was a golf teacher who said "it doesn't matter if your swing is off -- it doesn't matter if you hook or slice the ball into the next fairway -- as long as you think you're playing golf, you are." How much would I want to study golf with him? Not much.


People in the West (and the East) need to get off this "new age" Tai Chi health dance crap! Not to glorify violence, but the reality is that Taijiquan (Chen, Yang, Wu, Sun, Wu Hao) is a fighting system and health is only a side-effect. Either do it right or don't do it at all! Thank you Ken.

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