Updated: Nov 25
Extracts from Masters of Traditional Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan lineage interviews Part 1 (This series of article will provide you with an invaluable insight and better understanding of Traditional Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan)
Grandmaster Ip Tai Tak: The training in Tai Chi Chuan is quite different from ordinary academic studies. The individual will still need to practice to gain better understanding of the form. In Chinese, we often use the mill stone to explain the concept of correct form practice. For example, wheat grains are put in the mill to be turned into flour which can then be used for numerous purposes. Form practicing is similar in that over a period of time of continued practice you will begin to appreciate better understanding and insight into different aspects and application of CHI, within the form. Some intelligent people often ask the Master to teach more postures at each session as they can memorise more moves. However, each correct posture needs to be practiced regularly before learning new moves otherwise the full essence of the postures is not grasped. Time spent learning a few postures correctly at each session is more valuable and important than learning many postures incorrectly.
Master Alan Ding: I truly do believe that there are some people who are gifted at learning movement and understanding motion - who have a physical memory and hand eye coordination that only requires movements to be only shown once. I have a friend and colleague who is able to see, retain, and then demonstrate movement similar to the original with ease. However this does not guarantee that they will achieve high level Tai Chi Chuan. To achieve high order Tai Chi Chuan is not simply about movement. Whilst movement can be reproduced there also must be the understanding of the concepts and principles behind them to make Tai Chi Chuan work. This demands dedication, continual effort, commitment and concentration. Whilst mimicking movements has some advantage, the gain is small, and not a factor that will contribute to achieving high order Tai Chi Chuan. Some practitioners often try to learn from different Masters who are conducting various workshops or seminars. Will they be able to learn much Tai Chi to improve their skill?
Grandmaster Ip Tai Tak: People attending these workshops or seminars do gain some understanding of the different approaches of Tai Chi Chuan as demonstrated by these Masters. People generally learn numerous forms, pushing hands, weapons etc. These are merely movements and often taught at basis levels. To achieve high levels in Tai Chi Chuan, you should seek out the best and continue to study with that Master. Higher levels or skills are normally only taught to people who have stayed with the Master for long periods of time. The time factor is not the only determinate. Your character and personality are also taken into account because the Master needs to feel that the individual is worthy of the true transmission. Hence, you can see why Masters teaching thousands of students may only have a handful of disciples. The late Master Yang Sau Chung had only accepted three disciples, myself, Master Chu Gin Soon and Master Chu King Hung.
Master Alan Ding: My own thought is that it is easier to chop and change instructor than to persist towards a goal that cannot be bought. Whilst these practitioners gain breadth and variation in the superficial, there is little depth of knowledge that is gained. To be able to catalogue a library of forms and masters that you have been in contact with, is impressive in any modern society looking for this ‘product profile’. However to the traditionalist, the opposite is the case, bringing into question their honesty, trustworthiness, loyalty and most importantly depth of knowledge. The master/student relationship is built on time and trust. Time spent moonlighting from one teacher to another may be acceptable up to a point until stability and rooting is found. However I know no true masters who actively publicise many multiples of teachers.
Grandmaster Ip Tai Tak: The individual should seek out a reputable, skilled and knowledgeable Master. The attitude and approach of the student is also important. In ancient times, before and individual is accepted to undertake training, his character is also assessed throughout his training from initial to advanced stages. Failing such tests meant that the student would no longer be allowed to study the art any further. Constant and regular practice is vital. Results in one’s training are measured in ten year periods. To be good in Tai Chi Chuan you have to be committed and able to endure hard training. Correct postures are important. These are building blocks for strong foundation. Bad postures gives rise to poor foundation and further training will yield little gain.
Obviously this individual did not have a good teacher. Stop and find someone else. As I said before, you should find a knowledgeable teacher, not just a famous one. Generally a knowledgeable teacher will be someone whom very few people know of and is difficult to find.
Master John Ding: Without a doubt, it’s the most important aspect in one’s training – to study under an experience high level master. However to have a good master is just the beginning of the journey! You also need to practise and take your training seriously. Talent or ability to learn the movements quickly is no good if you do not practise the form correctly and regularly. If a farmer wanted to grow good quality wheat, he would need to obtain quality seeds. These seeds then need to be planted in good soil and given the right environment to grow – only then will they produce quality wheat.
Master Alan Ding: It is imperative to find a good teacher that can guide you to a path well-trodden by Tai Chi scholars before you. However this can be a feat that can be more difficult than meets the eye. With the number of branches that each Tai Chi Chuan family has generated through time, it can leave the new practitioner bewildered with choice. My advice is to research well and from reputable sources. Take the time to visit a class or even join in for a session if the class allows. Remember that truly able practitioners that are able to transmit are far and few between, so don’t be surprised that you may need to travel. Make sure you get yourself off to a good start by going to a school that can not only offer you authentic Tai Chi Chuan packaged in a way that suits you and your needs at the time, but also allows for the opportunity for growth. Many people start Tai Chi Chuan with preconceived ideas of what they want from Tai Chi Chuan. Often after a period of study those needs and wants change and mature as the student grows. By being able to develop and cater for this, signifies a school’s ability to present Tai Chi Chuan holistically, something that can only be achieved if the traditional art is truly understood. A school that only offers a one trick pony may offer a specific cohort of people their ideals, but for the rest of us there is little opportunity for growth, longevity, and is probably best avoided.
If you are interested in reading more about any of these masters’ interviews, you can obtain digital back issues by checking our magazine website or contacting us: Website: www.taichialternativehealth.com Email : email@example.com
Tai Chi Classes Dublin is a member of the Master Ding Academy. Master John and Alan Ding are visiting Dublin twice a year for open Tai Chi workshops. Find the workshop dates here.
He was interviewed by Master Ding in 1995 for TCAH Issue 4. Master Ip Tai Tak was born in Hong Kong. He took up external martial art as a young man due to his prevailing weak health. At the age of 21 years, he studied Yang style Tai Chi Chuan under Master Tung Yien Kit for 4 years. During this period his health improved, and with his consistent approach was also appointed as Instructor for Master Tung’s school. In 1949, Master Yang Sau Chung left China during the communist revolution to settle in Yuen Long, New Territory, Hong Kong. Master Yang gave a public demonstration exhibiting the traditional Yang style Tai Chi Chuan in 1951. Master Ip was so very impressed by Master Yang’s demonstration and in the pursuit for greater understanding he left Master Tung, to study the Traditional Yang style under the Head of the Yang family style. After 4 years of study, he was formally accepted as the first inner disciple of Master Yang Sau Chung. He continued to study under Master Yang until he passed away in 1985. Now at the age of 69 years, he is still as devoted as ever to the study, practice and development of Tai Chi Chuan, only teaching a selective number of senior students. (Note: Grandmaster Ip passed away on the 25th April 2004)