Saturday, 27 April 2013

Why do the teachers all do it differently?

Chen Xin

I've been asked many times why do the teachers all do it differently? One of the most puzzling things to many Taijiquan students is why the teachers from Chenjiagou all seem to be so different. After all they trained with, for the most part, the same teachers, how is it then that they come to look so different?

First lets be clear what we are looking at. Chen Taijiquan is an internal martial art where every movement is led by one's intention. Chen Xin used the analogy of a writer composing an essay to illustrate the use of intention: "As the pen moves it carries the intention of the writer, producing on paper what the writer intends. What the mind plans, the hand writes. The writing requires the full attention and complete focus of the writer".

Concentrating upon details during a workshop at the Embrace
the Moon Taijiquan School in Seattle, USA
As Taijiquan students begin training they have to concentrate very hard on what to do as they are doing it - where the weight is, the position of the hands, angle of the body etc etc... As a result, the mind can become tense and movements can become disjointed and not free flowing. It needs an extended period of persistent practice to become natural, unforced and uninhibited.

To go back to the writing analogy. If we think back to how we first learned to write. First we were shown the letters of the alphabet. We were taught the rules of what made an "a", what made a "b"... and so on. We would painstakingly copy out a letter over and over again until we fulfilled the rules for each particular letter.  Then we would begin to string the letters together to form words, spelling each out carefully. In time we would "suddenly" be writing fluently and effortlessly. Taijiquan follows the same process. First learning the rules for each part of the body, learning how to move in the required way. As the requirements become second nature and we are no longer concerned with where the hands should be, the angle or direction, where the weight should be, our movements become "internalised".
Learning Taijiquan's rules for each part of the body
- Lecture at the Taoist Sanctuary of San Diego

We are not surprised when each of our classmates develops their own distinctive handwriting. As long as they continue to stay within the principles we can understand what they write. The same should hold true when we see the differences between the Taijiquan masters. Anyone who finds it difficult to reconcile the variations between Chen Xiaowang, Zhu Tiancai, Chen Xiaoxing, Wang Xian, Chen Zhenglei  et al... is perhaps guilty of confusing the manifestation with the method.

2 comments:

  1. Just as each learner is an individual, so too are those that do the teaching. It is a joy to see and to take part.

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  2. It makes sense that Yang style developed its own status based on a common vocabulary. The pen is the same but the calligraphy, the character formation and the external template unfolds on its own.

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