The Taiji "Classics"

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

The Taiji "Classics"

Postby Bhassler on Mon Aug 26, 2019 3:21 pm

Taiji folk seem to be fond of quoting the so-called classics as a definitive reference material for all things taiji. Over the years, however, we right here on eF/RSF have seen a number of people come around who have eventually gone on to write books and articles, make instructional materials and do interviews, and so on and so forth. I've even seen some of that material cited as references elsewhere around the web. Some of the things put out by various RSF members over the years have been decent or even quite good, most of it has been idiosyncratic to the individuals' practice, and a healthy portion has been mediocre, bad, or outright false. But, the fact of the matter is, anyone who proclaims themselves as such and can find a way to get their stuff published is viewed as an expert.

Anyone who's been around can form their own opinions as to what's good or bad as far as what RSF has seen put out into the world, but that's not the point. The point is this: What makes anyone think things were different decades or centuries ago than they are right now? 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?
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Re: The Taiji "Classics"

Postby oragami_itto on Mon Aug 26, 2019 5:05 pm

The taijiquan classics are confirmatory, not instructive.
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Re: The Taiji "Classics"

Postby Bhassler on Mon Aug 26, 2019 8:15 pm

That's beside the point. If the original author wasn't a qualified practitioner, then people would still be "confirming" against theory and hearsay, rather than actual knowledge based on experience.
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Re: The Taiji "Classics"

Postby Bao on Mon Aug 26, 2019 8:34 pm

Imho, the interesting part is the type of text that the classics represents. They were written and/or compiled by someone/people who was very well educated and had a lot of knowledge about Chinese military literature and Chinese thought in general. If not, the references would just not be there. Wu Yuxiang who did some work with the texts and wrote a lot by himself (and according to some people maybe he even wrote the classics himself) was a scholar and a high official. He was not the average “village wrestler” but approached the art from a highly intellectual position with a great knowledge of the Chinese philosophical classics and military classics. Thus the Tai Chi classics is not something equal to a practical handbook, but something that gives a brief conclusion about the nature of the art, and also a quite personal explanation of what it is. It was probably never written as something meant for a wider audience, and more something for fellow martial artists and students to read.
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Re: The Taiji "Classics"

Postby Strange on Mon Aug 26, 2019 9:03 pm

@Bao
teh correct

@origami itto
also teh correct...
except for xingyi's ming, an and hua jing pathway maybe be "somewhat" instructive
Last edited by Strange on Mon Aug 26, 2019 9:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Taiji "Classics"

Postby GrahamB on Tue Aug 27, 2019 3:30 am

Back to the first point in the OP....

Anybody can write a book and be published these days. Just self publish it. Easy. Same with online courses.

I don't think anybody thinks that makes you a legit expert anymore just because you have a book published.

Does it? I mean, does anybody here really think that? I don't.
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Re: The Taiji "Classics"

Postby oragami_itto on Tue Aug 27, 2019 5:36 am

Bhassler wrote:That's beside the point. If the original author wasn't a qualified practitioner, then people would still be "confirming" against theory and hearsay, rather than actual knowledge based on experience.


In my opinion that's precisely the point. You reach a point in your practice where a piece of the classics makes more sense and you can understand it for what it is. Based on your knowledge and experience. That experience validated both the classic in question and your practice.

Ultimately though, the Taijiquan classics describe Taijiquan. I'd you think something else is better then go study that instead. If you want to study Taijiquan, the classics are a good source for information about Taijiquan. That may not be enough for you and that's fine. There may be a bit of trust that whoever wrote them down was good enough to speak with authority, but that's generally well placed given what we know about the individuals who contributed

Furthermore nobody is standing watch over you to make sure your practice conforms to the classics, that's up to you or not.
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Re: The Taiji "Classics"

Postby everything on Tue Aug 27, 2019 5:48 am

It's not important that some random thing was written down by a mysterious author and then labeled a "classic", but when people like Wang Xiangzhai and Sun Lutang wrote the same kinds of instructions, it gets more interesting.
amateur practices til gets right pro til can't get wrong
/ better approx answer to right q than exact answer to wrong q which can be made precise /
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Re: The Taiji "Classics"

Postby Steve Rowe on Tue Aug 27, 2019 6:51 am

I think what makes a 'classic' is that it's old and popular. Like music or any other literature it then becomes subjective.
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Re: The Taiji "Classics"

Postby Steve James on Tue Aug 27, 2019 7:36 am

Steve Rowe wrote:I think what makes a 'classic' is that it's old and popular. Like music or any other literature it then becomes subjective.


That's right. Nobody writes classics nowadays, or can know that what they write will become classic. Now, why does something become classic? It's because people appreciate them enough to repeat it or want to hear or see it again. If it's poetry, it might become classic because of the beauty of what it says. If philosophy, it might become classic because of its meaning. "Classic" doesn't mean "better."

The other thing that the Taichi "classics" (and who called them that anyway?) are not are boxing manuals ala Dempsey or even the Chinese boxing manuals. There are no collections of specific techniques. You can't give "The Song of Pushing Hands" to someone and expect them to do anything with it but read.

And, that's the problem. All of the tcc classics are up for interpretation. Some will read them like Zen koans and find infinite depth. Others will say that they don't say anything. That's completely normal.
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Re: The Taiji "Classics"

Postby Bao on Tue Aug 27, 2019 8:14 am

No practical advice and like koans made up for interpretation? Hmm... let’s see...

Move continuously without breaks,

“energy (Jin) should be rooted in the feet, generated though the legs, directed by the waist, and expressed through the fingers.”,

Walk like a cat,

Mobilize the chin like drawing silk from a cocoon.

Release the chin like releasing the arrow.

To fa-chin [discharge energy],
sink,
relax completely,
and aim in one direction!

In the curve seek the straight,
store,
then release.


Etc etc.

Plenty of practical advices, things that most Tai Chi people agrees with.
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Re: The Taiji "Classics"

Postby Giles on Tue Aug 27, 2019 8:18 am

oragami_itto wrote:
Bhassler wrote:That's beside the point. If the original author wasn't a qualified practitioner, then people would still be "confirming" against theory and hearsay, rather than actual knowledge based on experience.


In my opinion that's precisely the point. You reach a point in your practice where a piece of the classics makes more sense and you can understand it for what it is. Based on your knowledge and experience. That experience validated both the classic in question and your practice.


Agree. And some of the a-ha moments produced by the classics are not just about confirmation (i.e. backward-looking) but also help to steer and refine one's ongoing training.

Although as Steve James also says, it remains a question of interpretation. The texts are not 'authoratative', they are open to interpretation and misinterpretation, but nonetheless they are very useful, stimulating and inspiring. For me, what speaks in their favour is that various taijiquan people whom I have met and felt personally - in my opinion excellent practitioners or 'masters' with martial skills - all made frequent reference to the classics in ways that were clear, helpful and illuminating. These people certainly didn't/don't do identical taijiquan but despite the differences of interpretation and practice they all had something of the X-factor, something in common despite the variations.
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Re: The Taiji "Classics"

Postby Steve James on Tue Aug 27, 2019 9:24 am

Tcc agree! Limão.
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Re: The Taiji "Classics"

Postby wayne hansen on Tue Aug 27, 2019 1:21 pm

If you don't get the classics you need to train more or get a new teacher or change arts
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Re: The Taiji "Classics"

Postby Strange on Wed Aug 28, 2019 2:19 am

@GB
yeah, in the past, at least ppl know that they are spouting nonsense, so they stop at
the teahouse.

nowadays, we have tom, dick and harry using western theories to described chinese arts;
chinese ppl using western deconstruction to analyse chinese art; western and chinese ppl
talk themselves into thinking cma is something outside of themselves that can be analyse
like a thing divorced from oneself... so all this big mess that sound real "true" lead ppl like
you to think that publishing a book in "olden" times is the same thingy as publishing in
current modern times.

if you do not believe me, you can try to publish a book of the same standard.
Very soon, you realise that you need to ask ppl who actually can use their skills to
write you a preface or dui lian. if you do this one day, please share with us their
response.
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