Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone -- A Guided Chaos Workshop
Chen Bing Gives My Former Teacher A Lesson in Taiji Push Hands

The Chinese Tai Chi Uniform -- Should You Wear One or Not?

Ken DemoHave you ever seen some of the snide comments made online by some internal arts people who slam those who wear a uniform when taking photos or videos? They refer to the uniform in a derogatory way as "silk pajamas."

I always wonder why people feel the need to do that. It seems a bit immature, and sometimes comes off simply as mean-spirited. It is not exactly the nature that Taiji is supposed to develop in people, is it?

I wear a uniform when I do photos and instructional videos. When I watch an instructional video by another teacher, it always looks more professional when they are in a uniform than when they are in a Budweiser t-shirt and sweat pants. But that's just my opinion.

Chen Village Uniform
Students of Chen Ziqiang wearing a uniform for a video in the Chen Village.

In recent years, I have worn a black and white uniform that was inspired by a wonderful documentary called Chen Village, by Jon Braeley. If you haven't seen it, and you are into Taiji, I highly recommend it. 

In the documentary, students of Chen Ziqiang are wearing a black and white uniform that I thought was strikingly beautiful -- a yin/yang design with the front half white and the back half black.

I had one custom made and that's what I wear in my videos and public demonstrations.

Chen Yu
Taiji master Chen Yu wearing a uniform.

It just looks cool, and isn't that why we got into martial arts in the first place? Three reasons -- to learn self-defense; to impress chicks; and because it's cool. Am I right? You're damn right I'm right. 

A lot of Taiji instructors wear uniforms in videos or in public demonstrations. Am I not to wear one because I'm not Chinese? Tell that to the Americans who practice Karate, Taekwondo, or Aikido and wear uniforms to practice.

When I practice with my students, we wear t-shirts and workout pants. A good Bruce Lee t-

Chen Xiaowang
Taiji master Chen Xiaowang wearing a uniform.

shirt always works. Sometimes, someone will wear a uniform and that's fine. My only rule is that my students do NOT wear an "I'm with Stupid" t-shirt.

In the end, to slam people for wearing "silk pajamas" in photos or public demonstrations is much more appropriate coming from a school yard bully than from a serious Taiji person. I expect better from them, don't you?


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


Always appreciate your blog posts, Ken!

The more formal nature of demos and filming for DVD's kinda calls for a more formal uniform. The only thing I don't like about the 'silk pajamas' is that when I'm watching someone like Chen Yu or Chen Xiao Wang, I want to see what's happening with the Dantien, the uniform obscures of the things I loved about Chen Qingzhou (who sadly died a couple weeks ago) is that at workshops he had no problem letting you feel his Dantien when he was issuing, he'd also lie down and bounce pebbles off his middle.

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.)