Watching the Development of Masters

With the whole YouTube revolution, it’s now easier than ever to find video clips of taiji masters online. Just searching for the term “taiji” will yield close to 1,500 videos! However, the videos produced by the masters of today show the form demonstrated at such a high level that it’s often difficult to see the subtleties of the art.

Consider, for example, a recent demonstration of xinjia by Chen Xiaowang (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) compared to a video of Chen Xiaowang performing Xinjia in 1977. To me, these are two completely different beasts. Compared to most demonstrations of xinjia, I’d have to say CXW’s current version of xinjia is much more “laojia” in nature.

I have often heard that taiji changes over like time. In fact, I’ve even heard taiji compared to wine in that it gets better with age. However, one of the difficulties I face is trying to “emulate” the end result, without going through the hardships of the journey. What did Chen Xiaowang go through to evolve his form and training?

While I may never know the details of his journey, he has given us the map. Train with any of Chen Xiaowang’s students and you will be exposed to zhanzhuang (standing meditation), silk reeling exercises (dantien rotations, and movements of qi). These are the core training methods of chen taijiquan. Even with this, there is so much detail, so many intricacies within a single movement of taiji. Don’t believe me, check out ZenMindSword’s commentary in Qi Supported Structure within the movement of Raise Hands.

Lucky for us, we have the power of YouTube at our hands. We can find videos of “masters in the making”. More specifically, I’m referring to the crop of “next generation” masters. They are still perfecting their art and because of this, they can give us little hints and glimpses that we may not see in the bodies of current masters.

Just check out this video of Chen Bing, 20th generation Chen Village master, performing Laojia Yilu in 2000. So powerful, yet controlled and fluid. Look at the minute shifts of his hips and kua. See the intention of his eyes manifested by the movement of his body. To me, this is an example of wine just in the beginning of it’s fine aging process.

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About wujimon

taiji, meditation and health
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2 Responses to Watching the Development of Masters

  1. Rick Matz says:

    It is the conventional wisdom that any given martial art, as practiced by the current generation of students, is but a shadow of previous generations; harkening back to some “golden age.”

    I wonder. We have unprecedented access to high level practitioners of all sorts of styles. We have video to capture for reference how these masters move. We have instant world wide communications.

    Maybe we are living in a Golden Age right now?

  2. wujimon says:

    Hi Rick. That’s an interesting perspective and one that I had not considered. To me, we live in the information age where we could easily fall into traps of “information overload”. The same can be said with easy access to all the videos of masters. In the “golden age”, you found a master and you trained. Today, things are more like little kids picking and choosing from a candy shop.

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