"Traditional kung fu, incorporating different styles such as Wing Chun, Shaolin and Tai Chi, though still popular, has been in decline for decades, because of a one-two to the head, first from Maoism and now from commercialism. Youths with smart phones and short attention spans have no time for breathing exercises and meditation". The article concluded that: "Many Chinese people still have a soft spot for the history and discipline of traditional kung fu. But, as in many areas of modern China, the new, the brash and the million-yuan cheque pack a bigger punch".
|An 8 year old Chu En Sian (2nd from right) pictured about 1935|
People often justify this simplification with reasons like - "the more people who know about it the better",, "students are not able to do the traditional way", "in today's busy world people just don't have the time", "once they start doing the simple way they will realise how good it is and then get serious", etc etc. But honestly, how many people who are only prepared to do Taijiquan if it is simple ever go on to do the "real" thing - not many (IF ANY)!
As Mdm Chu said, every aspect of the traditional arts is there for a reason - following the rigorous traditional method a firm foundation is first laid down. When I first travelled to China in the 1990s to train with the Chenjiagou teachers I asked many of them what I needed to do to make the best progress. Invariably the teachers said "practice Yilu". That was what they and generations before them had done. With the establishment of a firm foundation the scope for improvement in all aspects of Taijiquan is unlimited. Done in the time-honoured way Taijiquan maximises the potential of the human body, increasing both the health and martial capabilities of those who really dedicate themselves to it.
|Chen Zhenglei's 1st International Training Camp Hebei 1999 - 10 days of intensive training of Yilu and Tuishou L-R David Gaffney, Liu Yong, Gou Kongjie, Chen Zhenglei, Davidine Sim, Fang Xiangdong|
Look at the sayings passed down for generations:
"Drink the water of Chenjiagou your legs will surely shake"
"You must be prepared to eat bitterness"
"One day's chill doesn't result in three feet of ice"
"One day of practice, one day's skill"
"Three years, small achievement; five years medium achievement; ten years, great achievement"
"Don't go outside the door for ten years"...
So, no it is not easy! It is complicated, physically challenging and to get real benefits it needs long-term committment! But, for the reasons mentioned, I believe that the traditional way, with all its complexities and demanding requirements, is needed more today than ever.
I'd like to plug the website of the Journal of Asian Martial Arts
This is a great resouce with a section dedicated to traditional Chen Taijiquan. Currently there are 15 articles about Chen Taijiquan:
Three Techniques of Dantian Rotation in Chen Taiji: Internal Energy Techniques and Their Relationship with the Body’s Meridians by Bosco Seung-Chul Baek
Tensegrity: Development of Dynamic Balance and Internal Power in Taijiquan by Michael Rosario-Graycar and Rachel Tomlinson
Chenjiagou: The History of the Taiji Village by David Gaffney
Overlapping Steps: Traditional Training Methods in Chen Village Taijiquan by David Gaffney
Dripping Oil onto Parchment: Traditional Taijiquan Form Training in Chen Village by David Gaffney
Comments on Selections from Chen Xin’s Illustrated Explanations of Chen Taijiquan with Commentary from Chen Xiaowang by Stephan Berwick
Going Beyond the Norm: An Interview with Chen Taiji Stylist Wang Xian by Asr Cordes
An Introduction to Seizing Techniques in Chen Style Taijiquan by Yaron Seidman