What is distinctive about Taijiquan?

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J HepworthYoung
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Re: What is distinctive about Taijiquan?

Post by J HepworthYoung » Wed Jul 13, 2011 6:22 pm

while i agree there is a practicality to traditionalism, and even a tradition of practicality, I find them nonetheless distinct in terms of conservation and revision.

When you look at some early historical figures of Taiji you find such diversity that one is led to believe that the one size fits all methods of training and emphasis are of a fairly modern creation having some origination in training groups of soldiers, but now having the emphasis of training groups of civilians. Early one on one training methods seemed to have resulted in a great deal of variation, indeed when we speak in terms of arbitrary aspects of martial arts I can't help but imagine that some of the dogmatic aspects pertaining to group instruction methods arise out of practical needs regarding instruction, rather than regarding performance.

there is something to be observed regarding the system as it appears passed individual to individual and the contrast of the system when it is passed individual to group, for example few historical figures are known to have trained as an anonymous member of a larger group, instead their individuality sets them apart in every way. My favorite figures in the history of the art largely received and gave out personalized instruction that met the needs and limitations of their students. Granted that a group and an individual approach are not mutually exclusive, however in terms of the amount of work needed on an individual basis one must commit as an individual to not only participate, but additionally individualize and personalize the effort to ensure it is not made in vain.

That is to say that what we term as traditional these days may not be very traditional. No place is this perhaps more apparent than here, where a concerted efforts regarding historically accurate Chinese swordsmanship have been forced to account for and cope with the emergence of impractical features and methods being presented as traditional, such as flimsy swords and forms that are designed to accommodate empty hand training and form work and not actually in place to accommodate sword training itself. There is a large amount of so called traditional material that lacks pragmatic quality regarding swordsmanship due to the cultural and political aspects that effected the utility and relevance of martial arts in society.

Considering this in relation to taiji sword, one might ask what makes taiji sword unique, but to address this properly as is likely the case for taijiquan in general, one must specific what type and form of taiji sword they are seeking to learn about, otherwise the diversity obfuscates the martial reality.

Though one can observe that through deduction only once similarities are identified can differences become apparent it still strikes me that Taiji sword can be identified as the use of the martial system of taijiquan through a sword, much as taiji staff, or even fan is likewise the same presentation. Taijisword in and of itself does not contain elements foreign to taiji as a system, nor does the system itself contain elements missing from the use of the sword in the system. One can only begin to wonder what the system is, so that when expressed through various weapons and tactics; it conserves the vital elements which distinguish it. Now if the system is itself arbitrary in regards to information and teaching then one wonders what constitutes taiji at all?

Is taiji a set of applications and techniques? I don't believe so. I find it to be a systematic teaching, a martial philosophy capable of being expressed in nearly infinite ways. the postures and methods can vary a great deal, likewise in regard to swordsmanship there is an aspect of ambiguity regarding the formal expression of postures. However the systematic relationship of the martial arts philosophy to it's application and use in general seems unique to the art.

No other martial art that I am aware of employs a system of comprehensive energies and understandings of physical dynamics in the manner taiji does. No martial art I know of lacks something found in taijiquan, but no martial art i know of has the totality and comprehensive systematic content of taijiquan in terms of philosophy, presentation and application. That is not to address taiji as a health oriented exercise for the elderly, that is by no means a good example of what i am referring to.

I am a big fan of the human body and movement and global forms of dance and martial art and Taiji is simply amazing in just how comprehensive it is. It sort of puts a great deal of pressure on individuals to express the system for themselves, because the system itself is limitless in terms of utility, only the limitations of an individuals ability to express it prevent it from perfection.

I believe it is possible to revise aspects of taiji in a personal manner while employing the principals and achievements of previous teachings. I have my own forms that I practice, forms I put together, however they contain nothing that is not in some previous system of taiji. However they train my body to have the skills I desire to use and express including with regards to bladed weapons, clubs, throwing weapons and various empty-handed applications. By no means do I teach my forms and methods or even desire to teach at all and I do not think of them as better than more traditional forms. however in terms of content every energy is the same and despite a difference of forms my art is still the 13 postures. I love a good lesson in push-hands or sparring.

Roland Tepp
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Re: What is distinctive about Taijiquan?

Post by Roland Tepp » Thu Jul 28, 2011 10:21 am

J HepworthYoung wrote: I am a big fan of the human body and movement and global forms of dance and martial art and Taiji is simply amazing in just how comprehensive it is. It sort of puts a great deal of pressure on individuals to express the system for themselves, because the system itself is limitless in terms of utility, only the limitations of an individuals ability to express it prevent it from perfection.
There it is. You've managed to express exactly what I feel about taijiquan.

It is not that taijiquan has something that is missing from other martial arts. It is simply how all the pieces of the entire system fit perfectly together to form something that is much bigger than simple sum of its parts.
Roland

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