Hello Dr. X,
The format of this forum doesn't lend itself to the easy quote-and-reply format of news or email (and long-winded essays are therefore the norm
) but before I launch into mine I do want to correct a quote you took from me. You stated "So, then, how do we know how the forms should be applied? Pete R. offered the quote that you can find Tai Chi in other styles, but you cannot find other styles in Tai Chi. " While the words are close the meaning is almost opposite of my original. I said the old quote is that you can *put* Taiji into other systems but not *put* other systems into Taiji. Again, the idea of the statement is that the mechanics that are used in good and authentic Taiji can be used for brushing your teeth if you like, but if you put other mechanics into Taiji it is no longer Taiji. While the statement is from Taiji lore and so sounds Taiji-centric, it's worth repeating that it's the mechanics, and not the style that are important. Good Bagua and Xingyi should use the same underlying mechanics, etc., but if you find someone who does Flying White-Assed Monkey style that has mastered these mechanics, he's worth studying with.
The probabilities though are that the most demonstrative abilities lie with real masters of the 'big three' internal arts, e.g. Chen Xiao Wang and others mentioned.
And now let me delve into the meat of my long-winded essay. While I can't offer a way to communicate the concepts unambiguously, I did think of an analogy that may help to explain why it's so difficult and show the situation. Let me first apply the caveat that analogies are never perfect, but they can be useful to put across a concept.
Let's say we're talking about music. Mike (Sigman, by the way, not Sigma
) is a classical music enthusiast. We listen to rock
music, and have never heard classical music. Mike is trying to explain what a Beethoven symphony sounds like. Now we have a common fundamental set of notes and Western scales and harmony, just as in martial arts we have a common physical body and universal physiology. But no matter what terms Mike would use to describe the music, we may think we know what he's saying but we never will. If he says the music has crescendos, and gets softer and louder, goes from happy to sad, has a certain tempo and 'flavor', the only thing we can do is fill in things from our own experience. That's all anybody can do with something they don't have firsthand experience with. No matter what descriptive language is used, since there is no common reference for the language (a shared experience), we fill in from what we know. That's just the human condition. And when we do finally hear the symphony, it will not be a mix of rock ideas, it will be a different animal unto itself. Then if we try to explain it to someone else we will have the same thing happen. We have to recognize that without firsthand experience there is a very strong possibility that we do not have a good picture. This is true for most anything. How do you explain skiing to someone who has never been in the snow? (happened to me in real life). Remember thinking about sex when you were a virgin?
No matter what you thought of, the real thing was a uniquely different and total experience, right?
The greatest poet can hit the nail on the head if his reader has experienced the things he's writing about, but he's powerless to convey an experience through words alone. It's important to realize this limitation and understand that no matter how many words go back and forth, the strong possibility remains that the parties have different pictures in mind. Maybe some elements here and there, but that will be functionally useless without the hands-on.
We can take the analogy a bit further in another direction. Classical music 'purists' may have an attitude that their music is more sophisticated than what we rockers like.
I am *not* saying Mike is this way, BTW, though some of you may have imprinted that on the dialogues. However, objectively speaking they would be right. While rock music uses the same harmonies and Western scales, Beethoven is far more technically involved. Who today thinks he is more gifted in music than Beethoven? Objectively there is a level of sophistication and application of music theory that outstrips the rock I like to listen to. I can appreciate that. But I yam what I yam and likes what I likes. In martial arts terms, what people like CXW can demonstrate is a very sophisticated and evolved form of these mechanics. Does this mean they are 'better'? If you are particularly interested in these mechanics then yes, but I certainly don't think they will automatically make you into a super badass. Since these mechanics involve relearning your basic movement, it's much easier to just use natural movement and learn how to box and wrestle, and you will be an ass kicker in a much shorter time. But there is an element of that artistic appreciation involved. And you can do some pretty powerful stuff, so it's not just cool or artistic.
The other issue along these lines is the 'desire' to be 'internal'. My personal feeling is that this stems from asian culture and its theories on Qi. I'm a western skeptic, and quite frankly to me the idea of Qi as a demonstratable life-force or other weird energy is a bunch of malarkey until proven otherwise. I.e., the odds are vastly in my favor that neither Mooney nor anybody else will stand up to solid testing of Qi as The Force, and I will take wagers on that.
But, it is an interesting aspect of asian culture, and a part of martial arts history. I *wish* it existed. I wish Santa Claus and Superman existed too. Wouldn't life be more interesting? So my take on it is, I wish it were but I doubt it, but it's a neat idea and historically and culturally enriching, just like Santa. Think of the nice traditions and old movies you got to watch this season.
I accept it as part of the fabric of martial tradition, and historical the evolution of these mechanics was driven by the Qi model. On a more practical note it is still the language used by many asian masters, so if I want CXW to show me what he does I probably wouldn't say "forget that Qi B.S., just explain it in western terms".
Although there have been internal masters who reject Qi terminology as ambiguous and prefer western physics terminology. Getting back to the political aspect of desiring to be internal, I think this also stems from the importance of Qi in asian culture. If my art shows a more overt or sophisticated usage of Qi, you feel like a Qi-less wanker, which is not a good thing.
) So everybody wants to be internal. But if what you really want is to see and learn these advanced body mechanics, style is not the issue, only individual skill. There are many Chinese Taiji men that are not skilled in these mechanics, so again style is not the issue.
Now imagine that you've had this same experience of trying to explain Beethoven a hundred times, and every time the same sorts of discussions come up and people think they know what you're saying, then when they finally hear it they realize they built the picture from their own experience, and the real picture is a whole experience unto itself that they were not able to envision with near the accuracy they thought they did. You might be tempted to joke about wagers too.
Anyway I hope that gets across the general picture, and helps explain *why* these things have to be experienced firsthand.