Dispelling misconceptions about Taoist Tai Chi

flyingjundao

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Hi there, this is my first post! I really like this forum, but I’ve seen some threads about Taoist Tai Chi, and there seems to be a lot of unfortunate misconceptions and judgments of the art, and I think (as a practitioner) I should stand up for it a little.To begin with, Taoist Tai Chi is an adapted version of Yang style taijiquan created by the Taoist monk Moy Lin-Shin in the 1970’s (to know more about Mr. Moy, look at the wikipedia page: Moy Lin-shin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia). Initially, when Mr. Moy came to Canada, he began teaching traditional Yang, but he realized a lot of people were in it purely for surface value and martial techniques, so he shifted the focus of the moves to their non-competitive healing benefits. He ‘simplified’ the moves of the 108-form Yang and made the stretches and turns further emphasized, adding in elements of qigong and other internal arts, particularly stressing lok hup ba fa (liuhebafa) influence. This, alongside his teaching of his Taoist spiritual practices, was to act as an introduction to tai chi and traditional Chinese philosophy and culture.

His advanced students often proceeded to his more in-depth teaching of lok hup.
Mr. Moy’s organizations were: the Taoist Tai Chi Society, his Taoist temple Fung Loy Kok Institute that he founded with Mui Ming-To and Tang Yuen Mei, and the Gei Pang Lok Hup Academy created in memory of his Master Liang Zipeng (a student of Wu Yi Hui). Their popularity grew to an international level, and after his death, they amalgamated into one big umbrella group.

The first misconception I’ve heard about the TTCS is that instructors are not well trained. From what I’ve seen, this is based on people only being exposed to beginner instructors. With the Taoist Tai Chi Society, a simplified set is taught to beginners for 3-4 months, and then they proceed to a ‘continuing class,’ where their form is refined and improved over time. Beginner instructors are often instructors-in-training, and have been doing tai chi for about 5 years (on average). All of the continuing class instructors I’ve seen, however, have upwards of 20 years of experience. In continuing classes, foundations are really emphasized, and the learning, as with any form of tai chi, is ever-deepening on physical and internal/meditative levels. In continuing class, depending on your instructor, certain techniques like push hands are used to develop your skill and balance. On one hand, a lot of practitioners learn tai chi with the TTCS for a good stretch and to become more supple, socialize, and have a nice place to go on a Saturday morning, but the benefits become more intense the more you put into it.
Having practiced at the Quiet Cultivation International Centre in Canada, I got a lot of exposure to the deeper side of the organization and the art. We get a lot of workshops and lessons from advanced instructors - direct students of Mr. Moy - who have been practicing for around 40 years. There are lessons for tai chi sword, sabre, lok hup ba fa, and even xingyiquan at the International Centre, and (in addition to the short-term workshops and occasional long-running courses) these arts are reviewed after almost every regular tai chi class among groups of practitioners. A common question: are these arts practiced ‘martially’? The emphasis is on health, but there are obvious applications that are demonstrated (you won’t know how to swing a sabre around properly without having an understanding the purpose, despite the importance being the meditative ‘extension of the spine’ instead of combat. Intention is an important part of learning the moves of course). The sabre form is probably my favourite. There are a lot of parallels to Yang style actually, especially when you see the subtleties and flow in the movements of really experienced practitioners.

So I’m not completely sure how in-depth the practice of the art goes in more remote, satellite locations around the world, but I know the International Centre provides an amazing atmosphere for strengthening the form. (Also throughout the TTCS all instructors, beginner, continuing, and advanced, are volunteers).

Again, on the topic of the martial applications of the moves, the 108-forms won’t be taught for fighting. A lot of the moves are performed in bow stance, and things like external harmonies between hands and feet, elbows and knees, turning at the hip, pushing into the ground for ‘rooting’/outward reaching with intention, etc etc… are emphasized, but since the nature of Mr. Moy’s form is to cultivate better health, the stretching present in these main 108 moves wouldn’t be too appropriate for martial arts (clearly).

Another misconception is a statement to the authenticity of the actual ‘Taoist’ content. The TTCS doesn’t force the philosophy in your face. You get involved with the Fung Loy Kok temple if you want to! They have a strong affiliation with temples in China/Hong Kong like the Guangdong Chi Wo Tan (not to mention the first Fung Loy Kok temple was on the grounds of the Yuen Yuen Institute in Hong Kong), and get visits from monks who perform Taoist chants, etc in the temples on special events. There are also regular lunar ceremonies and other Taoist/Confucian/Buddhist rituals. It’s not like if you want to learn tai chi, all of a sudden you’re wearing Confucian robes haha. It’s a volunteer thing to get exposure to a lot of the more overtly spiritual practices and meditation techniques.

The final misunderstanding is that the TTCS is opposed to other forms of tai chi. They just choose not to practice other forms in their halls out of respect for Mr. Moy, and to keep his form unchanged. I have basic experience in Chen and Sun styles, and that never interfered with my learning of Taoist Tai Chi. I just kept my other practices outside of my work with the TTCS. I’ve never personally witnessed any resentment towards other forms.
If you want to get a good idea of what the 108 moves look like, check out the video of Mr. Moy performing the set on youtube. I wouldn’t rely on pictures or other videos around the internet personally, because I see a lot of them that misrepresent the style and break basic principles (overextending the knee, in-stepping, unnatural tension in the back, squeezing in the chest/shoulders when extending arms forward, etc).

Anyways, I just thought I’d let you all see some insight into the TTCS based on THE FACTS from someone who has experience with the art and some others. I never understand why the TTCS gets ‘hate’ just because it’s new and not traditional. They’re a harmless, almost completely volunteer-based group that have introduced thousands of westerners to tai chi and other internal arts.

Another good element is the TTCS Health Recovery Program. I’ve volunteered with a few and you see all walks of life there. People with physical and mental illnesses get a lot of relief from the art. It’s really nice to see that. Seeing people become more in touch with themselves and find balance is something that should be present in all authentic tai chi, am I right? ;b

And if you don't think this modern qigong/lok hup-influenced form is true tai chi, so be it. I can understand that view, but there are some undeniable physical and psychological/spiritual benefits that come from this practice when you get exposure to the depth of it.
 

jks9199

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I'm curious; you say that beginners are often taught by instructors-in-training. Are they supervised as they teach? I personally never want an inexperienced instructor teaching a beginner without close supervision because too many errors and bad habits can creep in then be cemented by not seeing things done properly and practicing it. I'll use students to teach new students -- but I'm watching and I monitor what they teach to be sure it meets my standard.
 
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flyingjundao

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The beginner instructors do have to have a certain level of qualifications before they are permitted to teach. When I say 'instructors-in-training', I mean these beginner classes help these new instructors in developing skills and learning to eventually teach continuing classes. Also you'll find in beginner classes there are usually one or two other experienced practitioners providing input as well as being 'corners' for the beginners to watch when they're practicing. Looking back, the beginner classes are really learning experiences for the 'corners' too. I didn't find myself developing bad habits in the first 3 months of tai chi from those classes. My beginner instructor was well-trained. I've pushed hands with a few beginner instructors during continuing class, and there is definite confidence in their form (based on what I've seen).
 

Xue Sheng

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Speaking as a longtime Traditional Yang Guy (Tung Lineage)...the 108 form had many applications for fighting as well as a lot of qinna.

I have never seen a Taoist Taiji Society Yang long form that was all that good, could you point me to a video of a form that you believe is good.
 

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Hi FlyingJunDao,
The first misconception I’ve heard about the TTCS is that instructors are not well trained. From what I’ve seen, this is based on people only being exposed to beginner instructors
If you can not teach a beginner how to properly root, how to sink, song, what the 13 postures and how to apply them among other things that a person should be learning then the instructors are building a bad foundation in my opinion.

In continuing classes, foundations are really emphasized,
In the first 3 months you don't give them a strong foundation which most schools put a greater emphasis on building a strong foundation and fixing bad habits.

xingyiquan
I am interested to hearing more about the Xingyiquan you practice.

108-forms won’t be taught for fighting
Then the understanding isn't very deep then. Read Dr. Jwing ming Yang's book Taijiquan theory.
Another misconception is a statement to the authenticity of the actual ‘Taoist’ content
I don't have any problem with there being a connection to a Taoist temple with the organization but lets call a spade a spade and not make something what it is not.
There is no and never has been any Taijiquan ever called simply "Taoist Taijiquan" There does exist lungmen pai and different sects within the Wudang schools that teach a version they called Taijiquan.
because I see a lot of them that misrepresent the style and break basic principle
I have seen Master Moy's video. I think a lot of people will think it is good until you see someone like Chen Xiao Wang or Chen Bing when you hear them talk about the health aspects of Taijiquan it goes beyond loosen up the hips it goes into the Dan tian rotation it gets pretty high up there for those guys who are big on martial.

I never understand why the TTCS gets ‘hate’ just because it’s new and not traditional.
I personally don't hate it my sifu's do not hate it. Even if we did what does it matter people will still do it.

And if you don't think this modern qigong/lok hup-influenced form is true tai chi, so be it. I can understand that view, but there are some undeniable physical and psychological/spiritual benefits that come from this practice when you get exposure to the depth of it.
True Taijiquan is found in the Taijiquan classics, by the words and teachers before us. It is found in the theory and practice they taught. If something does not fit that then
who knows what it is. Does Taoist Tai chi fit that I don't know but from a Chen stylist, Baguazhang stylist and a Xingyiquan stylist I don't think it does as the classical ways
provide a better foundation in my opinion.
 
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flyingjundao

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Here's a pretty good video of the Taoist Tai Chi 108 form: Our Founder Master Moy demonstrates Taoist Tai Chi arts. - YouTube
As you can see there is a lot of obvious stretching, like a single whip (for example) has some lean-forward. I know that breaks the basics of Yang, but that's the nature of Moy's style.. Its physical health implications are found by new students fairly quickly; it is a very accessible form for that reason. None of the stretches are unnatural/too 'yogic' though. The intention of the stretch is for strengthening inner organs like practices of qigong. The psycho-spiritual benefits come gradually.
Other movements in the form like wave hands like clouds, snake creeps low, and golden rooster are more recognizable Yang. I know some people who started their training with the TTCS and eventually made the transition to traditional Yang fairly easily.
I wish there was a video of the lok hup online. I know that would showcase Mr. Moy's skill more than the 108 Taoist Tai Chi. I never knew Mr. Moy, but I've seen some of his students (the current advanced instructors) lead lok hup sets and it's impressive.
 
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flyingjundao

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I am interested to hearing more about the Xingyiquan you practice.

I personally haven't learned the hsing-i form yet, but there's another thread on here that talks about someone's experience at one of the TTCS' intensive workshops: http://www.martialtalk.com/forum/54...jiquan-tai-chi-qigong/64898-ttcs-hsing-i.html

True Taijiquan is found in the Taijiquan classics, by the words and teachers before us. It is found in the theory and practice they taught. If something does not fit that then
who knows what it is. Does Taoist Tai chi fit that I don't know but from a Chen stylist, Baguazhang stylist and a Xingyiquan stylist I don't think it does as the classical ways
provide a better foundation in my opinion.

Thanks for your input. I still really want to deepen my understanding of classics! That's definitely on the road ahead, but I also really value the benefits I've gotten from the TTCS so far and I can see myself continuing to practice their style for a very long time. :)
 

Xue Sheng

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I mean no offense but...Sorry, Its not good, no opening and closing no awareness of center and the punches that stretch are similar to Southern Wu but are not using proper structure

Good Yang Style
Tung Fuling (eldest son of Tung Ying Chieh)


Tung Kaiying (eldest son of Tung Fuling)


Southern Wu (Eddie Wu, head of Wu family taijiquan)

You should read The Ten Essentials of Taijiquan from Yang Chengfu and then look at the Video of Moy


The Ten Essentials of Taijiquan
Narrated by Yang Cheng Fu
Recorded by Chen Wei Ming

From the book "Yang Style Taijiquan" by Yang Zhen Duo

1. Straightening The Head
Stand straight and hold the head and neck naturally erect, with the mind concentrated on the top. Do not strain or be tense; otherwise, the blood and vital energy cannot circulate smoothly.

2. Correct Position Of Chest And Back
Keep the chest slightly inward, which will enable you to sink your breath to the dan tian (lower belly). Do not protrude your chest, otherwise you will feel uneasy in breathing and somewhat "top heavy".
Great force can be launched onlly when you keep the vital energy in your lower belly.

3. Relaxation Of Waist
For the human body, the waist is the dominant part. When you relax the waist, your two feet will be strong enough to form a firm base. All the movements depend on the action of the waist, as the saying goes: "Vital force comes from the waist". Inaccurate movements in taijiquan stem from erroneous actions of the waist.

4. Solid And Empty Stance
It is of primary importance in taijiquan to distinguish between "Xu" (Empty) and "Shi" (Solid). If you shift the weight of the body on to the right leg, then the right leg is solidly planted on the ground and the left leg is in an empty stance. When your weight is on the left leg, then the left leg is firmly planted on the ground and the right leg is in an empty stance. Only in this way can you turn and move your body adroitly and without effort, otherwise you will be slow and clumsy in your movements and not able to remain stable and firm on your feet.

5. Sinking Of Shoulders And Elbows
Keep your shoulder in a natural, relaxed position. If you lift your shoulders, the qi will rise with them and the whole body will be without strength. You should also keep the elbows down, otherwise you will not be able to keep your shoulders relaxed and move your body with ease.

6. Using The Mind Instead Of Force
Among the people who practise taijiquan, it is quite common to hear this comment: "That is entirely using the mind, not force". In practising taijiquan, the whole body is relaxed, and there is not an iota of stiff or clumsy strength in the veins or joints to hinder the movement of the body. People may ask: How can one increase his strength without exercising force? According to taditional Chinese medicine, there is in the human body a system of pathways called jingluo (or meridian) which link the viscera with different parts of the body, making the human body an integrated whole. If the jingluo is not impeded, then the vital energy will circulate in the body unobstructed. But if the jingluo is filled with stiff strength, the vital energy will not be able to circulate and consequently the body cannot move with ease. One should therefore use the mind instead of force, so that vital energy will follow in the wake of the mind or conciousness and circulate all over the body. Through persistant practice one will be able to have genuine internal force. This is what taijiquan experts call "Lithe in appearance, but powerful in essence".
A master of Taijiquan has arms which are as strong as steel rods wrapped in cotton with immense power concealed therein. Boxers of the "Outer School" (a branch of wush with emphasis on attack, as opposed to the "Inner School" which places the emphasis on defence) look powerful when they exert force but when they cease to do so, the power no longer exists. So it is merely a kind of superficial force.

7. Coordination Of Upper And Lower Parts
According to the theory of taijiquan, the root is in the feet, the force is launched through the legs, controlled by the waist and expressed by the fingers; the feet, the legs and the waist form a harmonious whole. When the hands, the waist and the legs move, the eyes should follow their movements. This is meant by coordingation of the upper and lower parts. If any part should cease to move, then the movements will be disconnected and fall into disarray.

8. Harmony Between The Internal And External Parts
In practising taijiquan, the focus is on the mind and conciousness. Hence the saying: "The mind is the commander, the body is subservient to it". With the tranquility of the mind, the movements will be gentle and graceful. As far as the "frame" is concerned, there are only the Xu (empty), shi (solid), kai (open) and he (close). Kai not only means opening the four lims but the mind as well, he means closing the mind along with the four limbs. Perfection is achieved when one unifies the two and harmonizes the internal and external parts into a complete whole.

9. Importance Of Continuity
In the case of the "Outer School" (which emphasizes attack) of boxing, the strength one exerts is still and the movements are not continuous, but are sometimes made off and on, which leaves opening the opponent may take advantage of. In taijiquan, one focuses the attention on the mind instead of force, and the movements from the begenning to the end are continuous and in an endless circle, just "like a river which flows on and on without end" or "like reeling the silk thread off cocoons".

10. Tranquility In Movement
In the case of the "Outer School" of boxing, the emphasis is on leaping, bouncing, punching and the exertion of force, and so one often gasps for breath after practising. But in taijiquan, the movement is blended with tranquility, and while performing the movements, one maintains tranquility of mind. In practising the "frame", the slower the movement the better the results. this is because when the movements are slow, one can take deep breath and sink it to the dan tian. It has a soothing effect on the body and the mind.
Learners of taijiquan will get a better understanding of all this through careful study and persistant practice.
 
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flyingjundao

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When you say 'proper structure' that's from the outside looking in. The TTCS does actually focus on a lot of those factors outlined by Yang Chengfu such as relaxing the waist, lowered elbows/shoulders, and of course continuity and tranquility, but they are subtle. I understand where you're coming from, but to call the organization/form bad based on watching that video is a bit closed-minded.
It is a stretch of the imagination to call it Yang, and it shouldn't be called Yang. If I wanted to practice Yang, I'd do it! haha The purpose of this post was just to acknowledge that there is quality tai chi taught at the TTCS. I like it there, and I don't think it's worth ignoring, especially if a beginner is looking for an introduction to tai chi and Taoism.
 

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Hey Xue,

I know the road with the Xingyiquan and the Taoist Tai chi society I was hoping there would be something additional then from the previous thread with Dapoet.
 

oaktree

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Hi Flyingjundao,

The classics are an excellent thing to read I think everyone who is learning Taijiquan should read it as well as some of the books written by the masters or translations done.

I have been to actual Taoist Tai chi society classes the teachers for the beginner class just had no substance. When someone wants to practice the internal arts with me the first thing we go do is stance training or zhan zhuang. We go over rooting we go over song we go over peng roundness, left to move right before we do forms.
Often times when I do my form with my teacher he makes me stay in that posture while using his finger to make me sink deeper and deeper, he might push me left or right to see if I am balanced this is all things someone starting Taijiquan should be learning because they build a proper foundation.

Learning the form then going back and working on all that I think is double work in my opinion. I once went to a Taijiquan class were everyone was Chinese they practiced the Yang 24 form, a fan form, and a sword form. I practiced the Yang 24 form with them because they invited me to but I was not interested at all in the fan form.
They enjoy their Taijiquan class it has no push hands no applications little to any foundation but yet they like it and I think if they like it great it doesn't make a difference to my Taijiquan I will say if you are a beginner to Taiji and Daoism then read and research the material.
 

Xue Sheng

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When you say 'proper structure' that's from the outside looking in. The TTCS does actually focus on a lot of those factors outlined by Yang Chengfu such as relaxing the waist, lowered elbows/shoulders, and of course continuity and tranquility, but they are subtle. I understand where you're coming from, but to call the organization/form bad based on watching that video is a bit closed-minded.
It is a stretch of the imagination to call it Yang, and it shouldn't be called Yang. If I wanted to practice Yang, I'd do it! haha The purpose of this post was just to acknowledge that there is quality tai chi taught at the TTCS. I like it there, and I don't think it's worth ignoring, especially if a beginner is looking for an introduction to tai chi and Taoism.

Been at this a long time (Yang style) and to be honest yes I can. There is no opening or closing of the chest and back there is no thought of the center at all. And yes I know there are much smaller motions in Yang than Chen (for example) but it is not there in the video you posted, sorry. If you like it and your happy with it that's great, I wish you all the best, but do not expect me to agree, it is just not that good.
 

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I was a member of the TTCS for about five years before leaving the TTCS to work with another group doing the same thing. I also have a number of friends who are still members of the TTCS. So I come from a bit of experience here.

I was once in the position of the OP, and once believed as he/she did. I was an instructor for a time. I have an instructor's manual. I've heard everything that has been written here: the story that has been passed down has been pretty consistent over the years.

Most of the grassroots members are very nice.

There. I was kind.

P.S. If anyone wants to discuss the movements, here's Moy Lin-Shin himself:
Tai Chi, Moy Lin Shin
 

East Winds

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I really did try and stay out of this thread. Honestly I did!! Taoist T’ai Chi is what I would call “Happy Holiday T’ai Chi”. Until it comes out of its cocoon and recognises and integrates with other T’ai Chi forms and schools, it will remain in isolation and be ridiculed. Don’t take up Taoist T’ai Chi, take up line dancing. Less harmfull and every bit as good. Sorry Mograph, unlike you, I can’t find anything good to say about it!! Been a member and continuing Instructor and worked with Moy and Eva Wong, I am happy to discuss any specific points about the form.

Very best wishes

Having
 

Xue Sheng

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I was a member of the TTCS for about five years before leaving the TTCS to work with another group doing the same thing. I also have a number of friends who are still members of the TTCS. So I come from a bit of experience here.

I was once in the position of the OP, and once believed as he/she did. I was an instructor for a time. I have an instructor's manual. I've heard everything that has been written here: the story that has been passed down has been pretty consistent over the years.

Most of the grassroots members are very nice.

There. I was kind.

P.S. If anyone wants to discuss the movements, here's Moy Lin-Shin himself:
Tai Chi, Moy Lin Shin

I really did try and stay out of this thread. Honestly I did!! Taoist Tai Chi is what I would call Happy Holiday Tai Chi. Until it comes out of its cocoon and recognises and integrates with other Tai Chi forms and schools, it will remain in isolation and be ridiculed. Dont take up Taoist Tai Chi, take up line dancing. Less harmfull and every bit as good. Sorry Mograph, unlike you, I cant find anything good to say about it!! Been a member and continuing Instructor and worked with Moy and Eva Wong, I am happy to discuss any specific points about the form.

Very best wishes

Having

I was actually wondering if the two of you had seen this thread and wondering when you would comment...thanks
 

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I was actually wondering if the two of you had seen this thread and wondering when you would comment...thanks
Are we that predictable? ;)

Well, along the lines of EW's suggestion, when the TTCS decides to join the rest of the taijiquan world, with a spirit of humility instead of arrogance, the rest of us will welcome its participation. Its current attitude comes from the top down, and can be changed at any time, but that would cause the current leadership to lose power, and that is the last thing it wants.
 

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I had hoped that flyingjundao would have come back to this thread, but no doubt, like other TTCS members who have contributed to this board, he/she has been "warned off" by a "higher authority" not to take part in any meaningful discussions with people from other Taiji forms in case their own Taoist form becomes contaminated. It is a great pity that they are prevented from doing so. My own school has made several attempts to interact with the TTCS but have been rebuffed sometimes quite rudely!! We invited them to come and take part in a Taiji public awareness event and demonstrate the TTCS form and were told in no uncertain terms that they did their own thing and were not in the least bit interested in the event. Perhaps someday the attitude will change and as Mograph says, they will be welcomed with open arms.

Very best wishes
 
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