In Philosophical Perspectives on the Martial Arts in America, Carl B. Becker, a specialist in Asian philosophy and ethics, compared the typical approach of Western and Eastern people to training martial arts. An interesting point he made was that Western culture usually approaches martial arts and sport in general in terms of “play and recreation”: Fun, enjoyment, self-improvement, health etc being some of the common reasons given by individuals for taking part. Easterners (the article spoke specifically about Japanese), in contrast, would often respond with that they were training a valuable discipline. Obviously there are some serious practitioners in the West and lightweight practitioners in the East, people are people after all.
Applying this to Taijiquan, for the most part it is portrayed as gentle, relaxing and an easy option. Leafing through a magazine in the dentist’s reception the other day, I saw “Tai Chi” described as - “An enjoyable way to pass an hour during the hectic busyness of the real world”. Real Taijiquan training can be a lifelong journey of personal cultivation and development. But it does not come without paying the price of sweat and discipline. Following are comments by Deng Xiaofei, Zhong Lijuan and Wang Shili, three branch instructors of the Chenjiagou Taijiquan School describing their thoughts on the Taiijiquan journey:
Deng Xiaofei: “When I was young my shifu said wushu (martial art) is also kushu (bitter art). It is bitter and dry – but you need to eat this bitter every day. You have to endure the loneliness and persevere until one day you can use what you learn".
Zhong Lijuan: "Learning Taijiquan is like preparing to build a house. You have to start with digging the hole and doing the piling before you can do anything. The piling time often takes a lot longer than the building time. But once it is established you can build not just one storey but ten, twenty, or even a skyscraper. Therefore, all of us who have vowed to train Taijiquan do not just want the obvious rewards or be dazzled by momentary fame but hold a good attitude and persevere with our training until real gongfu is acquired".
Wang Shili: "People who persevere until they are old are very rare. It is not even one in a hundred or one in a thousand. It is very scarce – people who persevere a lifetime. It is not a matter of wanting to be part of a trend or a fashion, but the attitude should be:
Live until you are old
Learn until you are old
Train until you are old”
As long as life goes on, then training should go on".
|Deng Xiaofei - A "martial art" is also "bitter art" that must be eaten every day|
Published in August - Chen Taijiquan : Masters & Methods