Tai Chi

I’ve kind of noticed on Youtube videos, something just doesn’t feel right when folks in the West try doing the Cheng Man Ching 37 form of Tai chi.

For one thing, there’s tremendous variation. Some of them don’t feel like tai chi at all. Some are outright sloppy, and don’t sink enough… Others do it as Cheng did it in his old age, and it’s bit disconcerting to see youngish men and women move like old men. To be sure, old Cheng could probably kick my butt, but it doesn’t feel right.

My own practice developed in the years before I discovered Youtube, learned from a book. I had nothing to compare with, but adjusted my form when knees and shoulder blades protested, and having some idea of strong leg stances from my Silat practice back in high school. My impression, having discovered Youtube and comparing to Tai Chi videos found there, is that style of my movements are closer to the Yang style which was the origin of Cheng’s style, he having learned Yang Style from fat Master Yang Chengfu and reduced the number of movements to develop his own…

Don’t know if it’s any better, but I seem to be practicing a truncated Yang style, or a Cheng-37 style as was practiced when Cheng was younger. It’s possible that as I age, my own form will evolve into something like “old man Cheng” style, but let that occur at the proper age!

Based on video evidence, Chinese practitioners of CMC-37 seem to perform it rather better, more like Yang Style with the number of movements reduced; but there seem to be fewer of them on videos than western practitioners with dubious forms.

The preceding observations seem to apply to Cheng-37 style only. For some odd reason, the other styles (Chen, Wu, Beijing-24) look just fine when Westerners do them, and not much different from how Chinese do them. Probably because their teachers actually come from China ( Cheng-37 style is in 4th generation in the West, with many Westerners teaching), have a bit more rigour in teaching, and based on what I see of their physique, most of the Westerners practicing these other styles seem to have some martial arts background prior to learning Tai Chi…

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