Monday 10 October 2011

When East Meets West

I finally got to see Jon Braeley's interesting film about the Chen Village.

I was struck by two comments on the differences between Chinese and Western students - one I would completely agree with and one I strongly disagree with. First, Chen Xiaowang, who has spent many years teaching in the West, said that Western students pay more attention to technical details within the forms - the exact hand position, how far to turn the body etc. Chinese students, he went on, pay more attention to feeling and sensation. In a recent facebook debate about style differences one guy summed up what many Westerners believe when he declared that "Qi is crap"!

So have all those generations of Chen Village practitioners since Chen Wangting's day been deluding themselves? Bodyguards like Chen Changxing and fighters like Chen Fake. I don't think so! Chen Zhaopi, teacher of Chen Xiaowang, Chen Xiaoxing, Wang Xian, Zhu Tiancai, Chen Zhenglei et al listed ten different classifications of Qi - but then what would he know? 

The second comment, which I would take issue with, was made by Chen Bing - after opening his new school in Chenjiagou  he quickly concluded that Western students are not able to and do not want to, train hard like their Chinese counterparts - "in the West people train for health ...or for fashion"! - so as a result, he said, he trains Western students differently then Chinese students. Where has this misconception come from? Look at all the other Asian martial arts practiced in the West - Thai boxing, Judo, Ju Jitsu, Taekwondo etc ... or the modern Western combat sports like boxing and wrestling ... these Western students seem capable of training hard!


  1. well i personally know some Westerners who do practice pretty mucking hard! And i know there are Chinese "masters" who believe they've achieved enough and now it's time to sit back and cash in on it. The more analytical Western approach is not only a disadvantage, ideally there should be some sort of balance between the two approaches - CXW says "half thinking, half feeling"!

  2. There is a danger in speaking in generalities which I think was exactly what the 2 things you took issue were doing. Certainly there are a great many people in the west playing taiji that took a short course somewhere and do some movements just for health... Yes they don't work hard but that isn't all of us ;-) Also those who are beginning to learn taiji tend to want to fixate on exact hand positions etc... but once someone who is serious begins to understand that true taiji is principles not "moves" they search for the "correct feel".

    The above of course is just my opinion ;-)


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