No Pain, No Gain -- and No Quality in Your Taiji
World Tai Chi Day 2011 - Practicing at Middle Park in Bettendorf

Pride and Prejudice and Taijiquan -- Is Race a Factor?

One of the negative aspects of the Internet is the ability of anonymous people to say nasty things, hiding behind phony names and avatars. Anonymity enables emotionally stunted people to say rude and profane things that they would never say to your face.

Recently, one of these people made a comment on one of my YouTube videos. This is his comment:

"what is it about caucasians instructing asian martials arts that´╗┐ i just dont believe a thing they say."

I usually delete comments like this because it isn't serious, but I approved this one and I replied in a not so kind way. I told him it's because he's a dumba$#.

The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized that this attitude is a racist view that permeates the world of taijiquan.

Have you ever noticed that there has never been the photo of a Caucasian, an African-American, or a Hispanic or Latino teacher on the cover of T'ai Chi Magazine? Only those who have the Asian look have graced the cover of that publication.

Look inside the covers of the magazine and you see articles and photos of all types of teachers, but not on the cover. No way.

What about teachers such as Jan Silberstorff? He would be a very deserving candidate. But he's the wrong race. You can't tell me in the decades that T'ai Chi Magazine has been in publication there has never been someone of another race who deserves to be on the cover. But T'ai Chi Magazine also allows stories to be published that show "masters" sending students flying without moving, so there are several editorial changes that need to be made in that publication.

A couple of days ago I received an email from a man in Taiwan. He told me that he loved my videos and the way I clearly explained the concepts. He has been searching for a good tai chi teacher in Taiwan and has discovered that the kung-fu there isn't always very good, and the teachers aren't very willing to teach very much. There's also the language barrier. So he ordered over $100 worth of DVDs so he could study the internal arts.

The hidden secret that everyone talks about but nobody really makes public is this -- there is prejudice in the world of martial arts. A lot of Asian masters will give you a little information but not much. Many masters will hold you at the basics for a very long time.

I've been lucky to have some American teachers who question and probe in a way that is counter to the culture of the Chinese. Americans want to know why they're being told to do something, and we have been trained in our culture to ask questions of the top people in the nation. I've been lucky to have teachers that looked beneath the hood and are willing to share what they've learned. I try to do the same and I try to keep learning.

Rather than dressing up the movements and the concepts in abstract terms that imply supernatural abilities -- something you'll never achieve -- a good teacher shows and tells you how to move and perform applications in real-world terms that you can understand.

Unfortunately, the supernatural aspects of the art have distracted so many tai chi teachers in America, the quality of the art has disappeared. The best taiji I've seen in the United States has been Chen style because for the most part, these teachers have been taught the internal body mechanics that have been replaced by "chi cultivation" and slow-motion "moving meditation" in other schools. One of my new students said he recently met another well-known Yang teacher in my town, and the teacher said flatly, "Tai Chi was not intended for combat."

And there you have it. A further weakening of the art.

I've found that regardless of the race of the teacher, I can learn from almost everyone. And I've also found that I can learn more in one hour from a good American taiji teacher than I can in a weekend with a Chinese master. It's simply a fact. 

In my DVDs and in the more than 450 video lessons on my online school, I work hard to deliver the knowledge I possess in a clear way. My actual physical skills will never even get close to the skills of Chen Xiaowang or Chen Xiaoxing or Chen Zhenglei. You'll never mistake my form for theirs. But I'll teach what I know, and I won't hold back. I have knowledge that a lot of people haven't had the chance to get if they're at a lower level than I am in taiji training.

As long as they can get past my color, perhaps they can learn something, too. 


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Hey there,

Sorry to hear that you got such a rude comment on your video.

I would just like to say that I have only ever had Caucasian martial arts teachers. They have all been incredibly qualified, and have themselves trained with some significant people in the martial arts world. The fact that they are Caucasian has never made me question what they teach me. Would I learn from someone of another race? Absolutely. If they're a good teacher and I can learn something from them, it doesn't matter where they come from.

I personally believe that martial arts has nothing to do with race, gender, religion, or whatever other label people care to put on it. At the end of the day we all love our arts, regardless. Getting hung up on other things just takes away from training.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)