5.a.xxxiii.teaching-taijiquan-5-effective-methods Section

Teaching Taijiquan 5:

Which Taijiquan methods of teaching have worked most effectively?

written by Nick Gudge (August 2011)

This article is a brief piece about the overwhelming evidence for the use of the traditional method of teaching taijiquan and the responsibility of the teacherin encouraging he student to hold to this path.

Phrasing this question as I have, begs the second question of “Who has been trained effectively?” so we can arrive at the determination of what method was used to train those. What do we define as “effectively trained?”

What is an acceptable definition of ‘trained effectively?’

To me the simplest solution is to look to those individuals who unequivocally demonstrate a significant level of taijiquan skill. I am not talking about ‘premier league’ or ‘national standard’ I am talking ‘World footballer of the year,’ World Record Holder’ and ‘Olympic Champion’ type standards. There are only a very small number of people in history who have reached this type of standard.

In Chen Style taijiquan the fifth level of skill has been achieved by only a handful of people in the history of taijiquan and including Yang Luchan. In each generation there are only a very small number (less than a handful usually) who reach the fourth level. These are individuals who have putative fighting skills demonstrated repeatedly across styles and time. There are perhaps a hundred people who reach the third level. Although these also have significant taijiquan skills for the purposes of this article we will stick to those whose skill is unarguable.

Who has been trained effectively?

The current generation of fourth level practitioners, (Chen Xiao Wang, Chen Zheng Lei and Wang Xian,) all have been trained more or less the same way, from the same source, with the same requirements and understanding. I think it is safe to assume they have been trained effectively. That is not to say there are not others alive today who have been trained effectively but that for these practitioners there can be no reasonable doubt. (Note that there are plenty of unreasonable doubts formed by those with little or no taijiquan understanding or skill.)

So out of tens of millions of practitioners, hundreds of thousands of schools and the hundreds of different methods of teaching, only a small number of practitioners, have gained very significant skill. These three practitioners all came from one school, using more or less the same teaching method, and trained principally with one teacher (Chen Zhao Pei) and subsequently trained briefly with one other teacher (Chen Zhao Kui.)

What was the method used to train them effectively?

The method used was the traditional method of learning a foundation form and progressing through the various learning steps, improving understand and practicing for considerable time with great effort. (These steps are described elsewhere.) These three masters all offer the same advice: to gain gong fu requires three things: a good teacher, good understanding and good practice. (These three elements I have written about in three other articles so I will not duplicate my efforts here.)

The method used involved training the students through their middle to late teens without them giving up their practice. Encouraging them to do what was needed to make progress (i.e. prioritising practicing the foundation form) and not be distracted by others who were doing other things. These exceptionally skilled practitioners spent many years training in one form. (Not lots of forms.) They practiced many hours each day, sometimes as much as 7 or 8 hours per day, without fail. (Not when they wanted to or felt like it.) They did as their teacher instructed over and over again. (Not what they wanted to do or what they themselves thought was best to do.) They had one teacher: someone who could and did show them the subtleties that significant practice allowed to be revealed to them (not several teachers at one time.)

The burden of responsibility in the acceptance and direction of this teaching method must lie with the teacher. Only if the teacher leads the student to an understanding and an acceptance of this method and its efficacy is it possible that the student will accept the method and make best use of it. There are clearly many possible distractions and deviations possible and it is likely that only the student's respect for their teacher and the teacher's direct intervention and direction that will create the possibility for the student to stay with the method for sufficient time to gain results.

Nick Gudge is a student of Wang Hai Jun and teaches Chen style taijiquan (tai chi) classes in Limerick.


Other Teaching Taijiquan Articles you might be interested in:

Teaching Taijiquan 1 – Some Observations and Analysis (2 page article)

Teaching Taijiquan 2 – Motivation & Progress (2 page article)

Teaching Taijiquan 3 – Suggestions for Beginning Teaching (5 page article)

Teaching Taijiquan 4 – Why does it commonly not work (1 page article)

Teacher’s Training Outline (3 page article)

Six Stages of Training Taijiquan Skill (4 page article)

A Good Teacher (6 page article)

Good Understanding (3 page article)

Good Practice (3 page article)


More detailed technical information can be found in the first two parts of my four part series

Gaining Taijiquan Skill – Part 1: Theory (10 page article)

Gaining Taijiquan Skill – Part 2: Beginning – reaching Level 1 (10 page article)