The Taiji "Classics"

Discussion on the three big Chinese internals, Yiquan, Bajiquan, Piguazhang and other similar styles.

Re: The Taiji "Classics"

Postby Trick on Wed Aug 28, 2019 4:03 am

The Taiji Classy - wear your colorful silk and quote from old books 8-)
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Re: The Taiji "Classics"

Postby charles on Wed Aug 28, 2019 6:39 am

Bhassler wrote: What leads anyone to believe that just because some guy with a Chinese name and some free time wrote some stuff down, it has any relevance to actual practice or meaningful gongfu? Or was it just the equivalent of some hobbyist with more enthusiasm than good practice doing the contemporary equivalent of writing a wikipedia article?


That's a good question.

One could argue that there were relatively fewer people practicing/learning Taijiquan when the "classics" were written and that people who were practicing it learned it closer to a legitimate source. Today, many learn from someone who learned from someone who learned from someone who learned from a legitimate source. Or, in modern times, one learned from books or videos.

It is also worthy of note that those who wrote the "classics" didn't learn from written classics. They weren't trying to base their practice on some enigmatic statements written in a book. They weren't trying to figure out what or how to practice based upon the correct interpretation of what someone else wrote. Many modern practitioners base much of their practice on their particular interpretation of what dead guys wrote in cryptic notes - and then insist that their interpretation is the right one.

There are a few books that many regard as "modern" classics, or at least important sources. One such book is Jou Tsunghwa's, The Tao of Tai-Chi Chuan. He is of sufficiently recent times that many have met and studied with him and there are videos of his practice. However, there isn't general agreement regarding his skill and knowledge level: some believe he was a grandmaster of the art, while others feel he was an enthusiast - as you put it, "some hobbyist". Some feel his book is one of the most important modern references, while others feel the book has many errors and misunderstanding. Perhaps the "classics" are, as you suggest, similar.
Last edited by charles on Wed Aug 28, 2019 6:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Taiji "Classics"

Postby Steve James on Wed Aug 28, 2019 7:16 am

They weren't trying to figure out what or how to practice based upon the correct interpretation of what someone else wrote.


Right. I'd say they were expressing their experience and understanding. That's true from the earliest (Yang/Wu) documents to Jou's. However, in terms of literary history, Jou cites and quotes "the classics." It's not the other way around. A modern "classic" would be something that everyone quotes --the way every Yang practitioner should/must know Yang's "10 important points." In the Yang tradition, the "Classics" are the texts/quotations that have been passed along.

There is little doubt that the writers meant what they wrote to be transmitted to future students. That was the expected audience. However, none of the classics could have begun as texts. They were oral expressions and meant to transmitted orally and therefore face to face, hand to hand. Understanding was meant to be transmitted through the mitts, not the words.

Moreover, they were written within the context of Chinese culture and aesthetic. Some are called treatises; others are called songs or poems. People can make up new ones, of course. But, they won't be able to tell whether they're classic or will become so. But, they'd be writing in a western context to western readers.

Many modern practitioners base much of their practice on their particular interpretation of what dead guys wrote in cryptic notes - and then insist that their interpretation is the right one.


I think the first part is necessary because there's no alternative. If they simply ignore what the dead guys wrote, they might as well not claim to do what the dead guys did. I agree that people insist on the correctness of their interpretation --even from a translation. Otoh, what Bao said is true in that most (Yang/Wu) tcc practitioners know the same words. One could even say they agree on the same words. But, they do not agree on what the words mean or how to express the words correctly. More precisely, they believe that most tcc practitioners are doing it wrong.
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Re: The Taiji "Classics"

Postby charles on Wed Aug 28, 2019 7:42 am

Steve James wrote:However, none of the classics could have begun as texts. They were oral expressions and meant to transmitted orally and therefore face to face, hand to hand. Understanding was meant to be transmitted through the mitts, not the words.


An exception to that might be Chen Xin's book. It seems to have been written as a sort of text book.

Many modern practitioners base much of their practice on their particular interpretation of what dead guys wrote in cryptic notes - and then insist that their interpretation is the right one.


I think the first part is necessary because there's no alternative. If they simply ignore what the dead guys wrote, they might as well not claim to do what the dead guys did.


This is where we part company. The alternative is to study with someone, firsthand, who has traditional skills. I suggest that there is no other way to achieve traditional skills, the stuff the "classics" attempted to describe. I suggest that reading about it, and attempting to interpret the enigmatic writings of previous, now-dead, authors will, by itself, never lead to traditional skills. There is too much room for misinterpretation and too much missing from the writing.

I agree that people insist on the correctness of their interpretation --even from a translation. Otoh, what Bao said is true in that most (Yang/Wu) tcc practitioners know the same words. One could even say they agree on the same words. But, they do not agree on what the words mean or how to express the words correctly. More precisely, they believe that most tcc practitioners are doing it wrong.


An old joke:

How many Taijiquan practitioners does it take to change a lightbulb?

Ten. One to change the lightbulb and nine to say, "Oh, we do it differently".

The differences in how to physically implement the guiding principles of Taijiquan is what gave rise to the different family styles of Taijiquan. In my opinion, the measure of how "correct" is a particular interpretation is the skills the practitioner can demonstrate. Without being able to demonstrate "traditional" skills, the interpretation is irrelevant, which gets back to the OP's question/statement.
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Re: The Taiji "Classics"

Postby Steve James on Wed Aug 28, 2019 8:05 am

The alternative is to study with someone, firsthand, who has traditional skills. I suggest that there is no other way to achieve traditional skills, the stuff the "classics" attempted to describe.


I don't think that is an alternative either. Both are necessary. Sure, it's easy to say "study with someone who knows," but how does a beginner know who knows anything? Anybody can say "I'm teaching taijiquan."

I totally agree. It's impossible to learn to use any martial art from a book.
Last edited by Steve James on Wed Aug 28, 2019 8:06 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Taiji "Classics"

Postby robert on Wed Aug 28, 2019 9:52 am

charles wrote:
Bhassler wrote: What leads anyone to believe that just because some guy with a Chinese name and some free time wrote some stuff down, it has any relevance to actual practice or meaningful gongfu? Or was it just the equivalent of some hobbyist with more enthusiasm than good practice doing the contemporary equivalent of writing a wikipedia article?


That's a good question.

One could argue that there were relatively fewer people practicing/learning Taijiquan when the "classics" were written and that people who were practicing it learned it closer to a legitimate source. Today, many learn from someone who learned from someone who learned from someone who learned from a legitimate source. Or, in modern times, one learned from books or videos.
...

I agree. I would also point out that there seems to be a pretty good success rate of passing these skills down in families. I haven't met the YCF inheritors, but the videos I've seen look good. Yang Jun, James Fu, and Tung Kaiying. In Chen style there is Chen Yu, Chen Bing, and Chen Ziqiang among others. YCF wrote that taijiquan is easy to learn, but difficult to correct. If you look at the examples I listed you have a teacher who can do taiji correctly and a motivated student. Earlier this year at dinner Chen Bing said that it's hard not to get it (taijiquan) if you live in Chen village. There are so many people who are proficient and you have daily exposure.
Last edited by robert on Wed Aug 28, 2019 9:58 am, edited 1 time in total.
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