Do not easily believe much of what you read in books, or on the internet about Chen Tai Chi Chuan. Lots of the information out there serves to support commercial interests of some kind. I have no great remedy for this situation, nor do I insist that you believe me. The best approach for those who want to have a real picture of the art is to take as broad a look as is possible at what is out there and make your own decisions. Mine are based on my own bitter and sweet experiences in martial arts.
Talking can never replace practicing, no matter how informative.
Teachers that don’t themselves practice may be difficult to learn from.
Teachers that say they are the only real one are lying, period.
Teachers that do not play (tui shou or anything else) with their students are not the most useful to learn from. If they are not playing it is because either they don’t have the needed skill, or they don’t want to look bad, or they claim to not want to show the secret art….the only secret here is that you never know what is going to happen when you play with anyone. Without learning to improvise in gongfu, you have nothing. Some people may not play with you because they simply dont like you, and I cannot help you there.
Anyone who calls THEMSELVES grand master is either not too knowledgeable or misrepresenting facts, there are no more grand masters in Taijiquan. Besides which, such a title if self appointed or referenced attains the highest level of basic ignorance of manners in Chinese martial arts, which is a bad sign on its own. Rule #1 for those who know something is, dont brag about your own skill. “Mastery”, whatever that is is supposed to be determined by others not by ones’ self.
Teachers that hide or withhold their art may state their reasons for doing so, but basically it is because they either; don’t actually know it, don’t know how to teach it, are afraid that someone else will “steal” it because it is not very deep or it is all they have.
There are no great secrets in Taijiquan. Some teachers like to make it seem that way so that people will worship them, but the only secrets are good instruction, diligent study, and committed practice. I have met so many practitioners and teachers who have this problem I cannot count, but the really skilled practitioners were quite generous because they could not have cared less what someone saw.
Deep internal art is so hard to learn that there is no way it can be stolen. It must be earned. The ones who have much are not worried about showing it; one can see the movement but still need the years to develop the method.
generally the best people to learn from are those who have a good attitude about the art, they are excited to show it off and get others excited about it. I must add, however, that there is no substitute for knowledge either. 98% of practitioners that I have run into including so called famous masters and even ”grand master”…aiyah…had all of 0% of actual gongfu, but mouth gongfu was in full force. If you find someone who is a real challenge to deal with as a human but has great gongfu, you may have to endure that, it is better than a clue-less teacher who makes you feel good and takes your money.
Business and gongfu have little in common. teachers need to make money also, but the vast majority of teachers in the west are much more committed business people than they are gongfu practitioners. Just because someone says they are great, means nothing. In fact in the Chinese tradition if they say they are great, they probably are the opposite. The truly high ones have got to be humble because they have the experience to know that someone is out there who can beat them even if they are good. It is mostly talk in the west and in some cases in the east as well now.
Many people talk about the years spent practicing or teaching as a credential for true gongfu… This can be good or it can be bad. If they have been practicing for 2 years and they are teaching, this is a problem, but if they have been practicing 20 years the wrong way, that is no better. 3 years correctly is better that 50 years incorrectly.
Be aware that Gongfu groups are like any other social group. Often they are made up of people seeking guidance gathered around a teacher. These groups take on family dynamics that in too many cases are quite unhealthy. Many teachers are absorbed in the psychological power they hold over their students, and students are entranced by their parent worship. That is the negative side.
In some cases the social bonds may be a lot healthier, but students do seem to get quite invested in having their own teacher be GOD for them. After a fair amount of time is spent with a teacher students will often be totally unwilling to even examine the possibility that what they are studying is not the best or even terribly wrong, because that idea threatens an identity they have constructed within this group.
This cult mentality threatens true gongfu progress as well as personal mental health. So in regard to this, keep your eyes open, watch your own behavior, is this you? If so RUN! …no really keep your eyes open and don’t be afraid to see something better than what you have been committed to.
Progress in Taijiquan at a high level requires an open mind and heart. Those that are too intent on winning and not able to cooperate in an exploratory way with others are never going to learn anything beyond a short technique that does not plan for possibilities beyond the first change in combat. Having a selfish or willful attitude will seriously hamper cultivation of Qi or physical skill.
Unfortunately the modern world of Taijiquan is rife with confusion. Some people think they have the real thing but it is only a watered down fourth hand version, others know they are fakes, but misrepresent themselves for profit. It is most beneficial to find someone who is willing to admit what they lack..that is not too likely of course, but preferable. Above all, it is better to do something and stay healthy than be jaded and inactive. It is not always necessary to have the best if it is not available.