The way of Tao | September 12, 2007 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

- September 12, 2007

The way of Tao

'Internal martial art form' builds strength from inside-out

by Andrea Wang

Anyone curious about the martial art of tai chi will have a chance to experience the ancient Chinese art form on Sept. 22, when the San Francisco Bay Area branch of the International Taoist Tai Chi Society celebrates its 10th anniversary. The society is hosting special events at Avenidas.

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Weekly Intern Andrea Wang can be e-mailed at


Posted by Taijiquan
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2007 at 12:00 pm

While there are certainly health benefits to be derived from the various flavors of Tai Chi, the Taoist Tai Chi Society's approach has very little to do with authentic Taijquan.

The amount of mysticism and New Ageism that has come to infect Tajiquan over the last half century is lamentable, because the original martial art is REALLY a martial art.

In fact, the kind of thing that the Taoist Tai Chi Society teaches is a series of *external* exercises that are choreographed movements based on what Taijiquan looks like during the exercise movements.

These exercises do have a benefit in reducing stress, and creatingn relaxation, as most gentle movement routines would, but that's as far as it goes.

If you want to see some of the best Taiji practitioners alive, take a look at some of these youTube videos. This is the real thing, and far from the gentle dance in the park that the Taoist Tai Chi Society pushes.

Learning from an AUTHENTIC taijiquan instructor is not an esy task - firstly because there are juist that many of them around. That said, once you have worked with someone with real skill, the differences are manifestly apparent.

Also, doing the Taiji forms CORRECTLY, and slowly (the latter being the *only* thing Taoist Tai Chi has in common with the real thing), creates health benefits that are just as compelling, if not more compelling, than anything groups who pretend to know Taijiquan claim.

Last, there is a very simple "teacher test" that one can ask an instructor to provide, to see is s/he isi performing bodt mechanics appropriately. I have never met a Taoist Tai Chi instructor who could pass that test. They may be out there, but I have yet to meet even one.

Check out these videos.

Chen XaioWang showing "fa-jing" (fast strike) - notice that he is ONLY using waist, leg and back power to strike, and how his arms "wind" in and out toward the target. This is the real thing, and quite fierce in practice.
Web Link

Chen Xiaowang, performing the last part of a short routine - again, note that there is no INDEPENDENT movement of the limbs - it's all connected through the back, waist and legs.
There is no magic or mysticism attached to this, only years of hard training, and "eating bitter" Note also that Chen is 60 years old in this video, and his style is called "Chen" Taijiquan. This originated sometime in 17th century China, and NOT during the time of the Taoist masters of yore (the latter is another myth that has been soundly disproved by scholars)
Web Link

Chen Taijiquan demo from Chen Xiaowang's son, Chen Pengfe
Web Link
This is the "real deal" - no fluff, and quite serious in terms of technique and real internal power.

The word "internal" is used not to define the art as soft, but rather to describe the use of internal muscle groups in somewhat counterintuitive ways, all resulting in enormous power that can be applied to striking and joint locking.

Again, the technique involve *wanting* the opponent to come in close, because almost any part of the body can be use to strike - shoulders, elblw, fist, back of wrist, knee, foot, etc,, etc.

PLease note that most taijiquan is NOT of the quality that we're seeing here, mostly because it is hard to access instructors who know the real thing, and have worked for more than a few months with someone like Chen XiaoWang, Chen Zheng-Lei (check youtube), and many others

Some Chen Taijiqaun applications
Chen Erhu (???) - Chen family taijiquan (?????) applications

Again, the forms,, done correctly, are far more health-giving than the simple dances that pass for Tai Chi in most of America (and lately, a lot of China)

Much was lost during the cultural revolution - including many authentic teachers of Taiijiqaun (Tai Chi).

Maybe one day we will see more of the authentic thing, but that won't happen until we have more Americans spending time with the great Chinese masters, as well as those masters being willing to show everything they know to their most dedicated and talented students.

Posted by Taijiquan
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2007 at 12:01 pm

here's the applications video, from above - I forgot to insert it
Web Link

Posted by Gern Blanston
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 13, 2007 at 1:38 pm

Perhaps it's a cultural shortcoming on my part, but watching the older gentleman in the first video linked in Taijiquan's first post doesn't bring to mind thoughts of grace and power -- it looks like the poor guy's suffering a seizure! The video of Chen Pengfe displays far more grace, but I think the whole notion of "internal power" and the myriad uses, both constructive and destructive, to which this power may be put is more a function of the imagination of Tai Chi's practitioners, and less a product of reality and practice. I don't doubt that it's good exercise, just little beyond that. But if you believe in things such as Feng Shui it's no stretch to view a man flailing his limbs in a palsied dance as the very image of hidden power. Just not my speed, I guess.


Posted by Taijiquan
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2007 at 4:40 pm

Gern, the video that you're wondering about is showing the POWER part of Taijiquan.

Just to inform a bit more: the slow taijiquan (or tai chi) sets (or forms) are slow for a reason - they're slow because the practitioner is paying extraordinary attention to something that can only be loosely translated as "connection". There is really no other way to describe this; one has to work with someone really good for a long time to understand this phenomena, to which there is no mystery.

As for Chen Xiaowang not being "graceful", what you're seeing in the fajung demonstration is REAL taiji put into action. IN other words, the slow sets prepare one to engage, full speed, to defend oneself - with real power.

Here is CXW performing the Laojia, Chen's first form - Web Link
note that there is some fast movement, but it's mostly slow, and perfectly done - remember, what you see in terms of arm AND leg movement, is LITERALLY driven from the center of CXW's body - NONE of the arm movements or leg movements are independent of movement from the center. This is hard to believe unless you experience the basics of Taijiquan, and get a glimpse of what's possible through the special training routines created by the masters (the forms).

The fact is that Chen Xiaowang is a national hero in China, and widely recognized at the primary progenitor of Chen Taijiquan, worldwide. Seriously, he's the Muhammed Ali of Taijiquan. As well, he is a foremost martial artist who has been recognized as such (sometimes after private session 'meetings', where CXW showed what he was capable of, so as not to embarrass his opponent). CXW isi an olympic quality athlete (now 60) who is one of a handful of great teachers, teaching Chen Taijiquan.

What we see in most Tai Chi classes is a mimmiced version of Tai cHI (Taijiquan), with peoplep waving their arms about is a slow, but orderly fashion. That's nice, and it does have some health benefits (as would any movement), but it;s NOT real Tai Chi

Do you think for a moment, as so many faux Tai Chi practitioners would have the world believe (as they spice their promotional materials with "magic" and "defense without touch" garbage), that Taijiquan practitioners don't fight at full speed, and instead (as the imposters claim) fight at the slow speed of the forms? If you DO believe that, you've been had, because it's clearly not the case.

If you have doubt, then a visit to Chenjiagao Viillage will quickly change your mind - where Taijiquan was invented some few centuries ago (not millenia ago, as the imposters like to promote).

Many years ago I boxed for pleasure. When I first encountered a few of the best practitioners in the world (like CXW), I could not believe the power, pure speed, and fierceness that they had mastered.

All that said, the forms, practiced slowly, DO have benefit - as stated in my last post.

What bothers me is when I see articles like Ms. Wang's. She's probably a very good reporter, but I've become weary of pretend organizations like the Tai Chi Taoist Society making claims that they teach authentic Taijiquan.

One of the main problems with finding the real thing - as stated prior - is that most of the good practitioners are in China (and Australia - Sydney is where CXW now resides).

It's also true that there are MANY imposters in China.

Taijiquan is NOT a difficult discipline to learn, if one has the time, energy, dedication and patience to learn how to appropriately apply the unique internal muscle dynamics required - AND, a good teacher. It's simple physics, really - but counterintuitive.

Here are a few more places to visit, if you're interested, or Google "Chen Taijiquan" (there are other schools, as well, such as Yang (the most popular, but purely derivative of Chen, but the principals are the same), Wu and one or two others.

There are also two other internal arts - they're called Hsing-i, and Ba Qua Zhang...Hsing-i is a more simple, straigghtforward style, again, with the same principals of internal power (again, this is NOT some mystical power, but a highly trained version of using the body in ways that generate far more striking and joint-locking power than most other martial arts styles - here's something on Hsing-i Web Link

More on Chen Taijiquan:
Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

Posted by Taijiquan
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2007 at 4:58 pm

here's CXW's nephew, performing the Xinjia erlu, a more advanced set, with some fast power moves

Chen Xiaoxing - Xinjia Yilu demo

remember, that EVERY ONE of the movements in the form has several FULL SPEED martial applications. Taijiquan martial artists do NOT defend themselves at these slow motion (training speeds)

anotehr thign to remember, the slow movement, in low stance, created enormous leg strength, used to drive power into the body ans throgh to the opponent.

Taijiquan translates to "body as fist"

Posted by Taijiquan
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2007 at 5:00 pm

opps! here's the video
Chen Xiaoxing - Xinjia Yilu demo
Web Link

Posted by Taijiquan student
a resident of another community
on Sep 15, 2007 at 4:50 pm

A man with expertise needs to study most.
A man with no expertise knows best.
A man who criticizes is the man who is envious.
A man who envies is a man who admires.

Taijiquan is a way of life. The power of a form is internal.

Posted by Taijiquan
a resident of another community
on Sep 15, 2007 at 11:22 pm

Perfect! Thank you Taijiquan student, for making my point. :)

This was EXACTLY what I was alluding to before.

"A man who critixizes is the man who is envious"?? I love this, because the writer is criticizing my criticism, easily falling victim to his/her own cryptic remarks! :)

If one deals with this kind of Taiiji mumbo-jumbo as long as I have, it's easy to see the cryptic circularity in the arguments of phonies and pretenders who take student money, and make promises about "special powers" etc. etc.

In fact, some of these people are downright DANGEROUS, teaching various internally-related forms of Chi-gong (special internal exercises) that can dangerously raise blood pressure. Be careful!

Taijiquan is, first-and-formost, a martial art. The body dynamics that one uses to deploy taijiquans martial applications are what make Taijiquan unique.

So, one can learn those dynamics (easily explained, without mumbo-jumbo (like this last poster) , but not easy to train in - it takes a lot of work, and good instruction). Thus, if one is doing proper body dynamics, one can "do" Taijquan and get some great benefit from that without going into martial applications and sparring.

Quoting from the Tao, supplemented by New Age mysticism. It's EXACTLY the sort of thing that fake proponents use to create an aura of mystery about the internal martial arts. It's quite sad, really, because the body dynamics are NOT apparent immediately (one has to train for them).

So what we have - probably in the vast majority of cases - even from instructors with decades of experience - is people who know the outward physical manifestation of a form (what we see people doing in the park), but they're all doing nothing more than simple choreography - the simple outward manifestation of the form, without the internal dynamics that control the choreography.

This is all VERY difficut to describe in a post, or in writing, But it's readily apparent when you see someone who knows what they're doing SHOW how it's done, and provide the training tools necessary to help the student accomplish this.

Taijiquan student (above) sounds like SO MANY of the Taoist Tai Chi Society folk that I've seen over the years, who honestly don't even do Taijiquan (sorry, but it's the bitter truth) making all kinds of mystical claims.

We have people trying to look good with whatever brand of Taiji they're pushing, who fake throwing students without touching them (a little cooperation can make any fake teacher look good), or go on and on about the esoteric "chi" (without understanding what "chi" is, or quoting from the Tao, or claiming that Taiji has mystical roots. Nonsense!

There is now EXCELLENT scholarly research into the origins of Taijiquan.
"Zhang San Feng (credited above as a 'user' of Taijiquan) is said to have established one of the oldest forms of Taijiquan called Wudang Taijiquan, back in the 13th century. From here we move to the years 1600-1680, when a man called Chen Wang Ting adapted Taijiquan into a style of martial arts called Chen Style Taijiquan. From there it is recorded that, from 1799-1872, Yang Style Taijiquan came about, not surprisingly named after its creator, Yang Lu Chan. From 1813-1880, a man called Wu Yu Xiang combined the two aforementioned styles to develop Wu Style Taijiquan. Next we have Wu Chuan You (who was a descendent of Yang Lu Chan, credited for Yang Style Taijiquan) who, between 1834-1902, developed another Wu Style Taijiquan. Moving along the time?line to 1861-1932, we encounter Sun Lu Tang, who created a Sun Style Taijiquan by combining the styles ofTaijiquan, Baguaquan and Xinyiquan."

Tthe late 18th century is when this martial art took form, from some basic movments that were worked out in the 14th century.

the pretender mysticists would have us believe that Taijiquan is some mystical art that was derived from the Tao. They've been shownm to be wrong, by excellent Chinese scholarship, and additional university-based scholarship performed in America.

As the prior poster puts it, "Taijiquan is a way of life", but be sure you're doing the real thing, and not fooled by imposters who want to take your money, and sell you a phoney, mystical bag of tricks.

Moving ones arms and legs around in a choreographed dance is probably a healthy thing to do - it's movement, after all - but if those movements are not driven by the unique internal musculature dynamics that one learns from one of the few qualified teachers out there (who can pass a teacher's test), then it's just choreography, not Taijiquan (or Tai Chi)

Posted by Taijiquan
a resident of another community
on Sep 16, 2007 at 1:05 am

here's some "Taoist Tai Chi" - pure mumbo-jumbo -- a nice form of gentle and probably healthful exercise, but by NO means is this Taijiquan (or Tai Chi)
Web Link

compare this, in every way, to what you've read above, if anyone is interested

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