View Full Version : competition, sacrificing essential principles?

10-15-2004, 08:18 AM
I was intrigued by Marc's thread on competition. Yes, i do have the impression that the higher the kicks and the lower the stances, the more esthetic the moves despite instability of the stances are granted higher points.I had the honor to judge once ot twice, have won a few medals.

In one of your workshops did you show a video of a lady performing in a competition and how the principles have been sacrificed?

Marc(including Shark) And Stanton
Many competitors are either ballet dancers or artistic gymnasts like Melanie. Myself have been competing in figure skating during the Olympics in Munich 1972.

Yes, it's true that many people have competition in mind, teach this to older or less fit people which may cause a drop-out. Competition forms are standardized, easier to learn but also allow you less artistic freedom. But i think it can reach a high level, high internal energy and martial skills, apart from the proven health benefits.

What do you think?

What do you think?

10-15-2004, 10:29 AM

To develop the discussion, it is said ex-gymnasts, acrobats, etc., enter wushu for that same reason. The 'degree of difficulty' addition by the Beijing competition board (for lack of a better word) is usually an 'empty' (relatively speaking) one in that the extension is 'unnatural' in the 'traditional' form. Functional value (of posture) does not exist except for 'point accumulation' (a good thing for those concerned). I accept it but usually take those postures out or change according the physical level of the student.

The Beijing Forms serves as a good introduction. One thing I admire is the functional preparation in warmup exercise that the traditinal exercises may lack to develop muscles needed for low postures and high extended leg manipulations.

At best, wushutaijiquan forces the student to work harder at basic muscle building routines associated with other sports, and this is good in the presence of the new age soft feelings assocaited with some hippie tai chi (it all good for those who make that choice)

10-15-2004, 10:48 AM
Marc H. originally brought up the idea that there might be a set of 13-posture forms to convey the essence of each Tai Chi family style. I personally would love to have access to such sets not for health reasons or competition, but to simply experience the sense of what each style feels like. My first Tai Chi was in a several week long community college course; there wasn't enough time to learn a full set, but a 13-posture set of forms would have been doable, and I would have been well pleased with the learning. I know at least one video author publishes his own 10-posture sets for each of the main five styles of Tai Chi (I haven't seen them, though).

"Good" officiating in this area is very hard to come by, as there simply aren't a lot of masters who know what to look for (according to a couple officials I know who are asked to judge styles unfamiliar to them). If they didn't step up to judge, there would be no competitions. Some people, myself included, use competition to spur training to a higher level.

I'm very familiar with Irish dance competitions (where a local "Feis" can have 1800 competitors). Even highly experienced judges are vulnerable to scoring style over substance. Bill

10-15-2004, 10:52 AM
Inevetably the principles will be sacrificed for competion. Many people do tai chi for many different reasons. The spiritual and historical side of Tai Chi are as important as the physical side.

Many things from diving into a pool, gymnastis, ice skating and other martial arts are judged on a number of categotires. Judges seem to like a good show, which is not necessarly part of the principles of Tai Chi

My reasons for doing tai chi are health and social. I enjoy the social aspect of going to class and using these forums. It should be left to the individual as to whether they enter competitions or not.

As far as I am concerned tai chi is more than the sum of its parts, and I will leave the competition to those who like a good show!

Marc Heyvaert
10-15-2004, 12:41 PM

I just discovered that while I wasn't looking an interesting discussion was started over here :)

Ok, so many ideas I want to react to.

First the most important one IMO. Form is not that important, I mean the choreography. Some people swear by the traditional forms and totally despise the modern forms. I take a kinder view. In fact I find that you can take *any* choreography and work with it within the bounds of correct taijiquan principles.

Some things are really not that important. Let me give you an example. In the long form traditional Yang style (and also in the 40 competition style) you start with left ward-off followed with right ward-of (starting Grasp the Sparrow's tail). But there is a difference: the first ward-off is done with the other hand next to the tigh, the second is with the other hand hidden behind the ward-off hand. In the modern variation, the 88-form, both sides are symetrical, i.e. both times with the hand next to the tigh. Well, this sort of difference is mere detail, not fundamentally important.

However, when I see athletes stepping out so far out that (1)their bow-stance is nearly on a line, (2) their back-foot is not flat on the ground but the inner side making contact and the outer side slightly off the ground (3) they have trouble sitting back in the next movement, hence being unable to fully distinguish full and empty, I think it matters a lot! An example not to be followed up! Of course the real champions are those who can pull it off and remain faithfull to the principles. :)

About short forms. The first section of the long form was traditionally the short form for beginners. For the Yang style that is the sequence of the first 13 movements shown here (modern flavour) :


But the modern PCR short forms are fun to do. I have a full description of the 8-form on my site with animated gifs ripped from a VCD by Si Tan Chen (I make some publicity for this excellent VCD, so I guess it's ok to quote this video material :) )

Have a look (click on the position names) :


I try to teach too...I have general training sessions with one hour of basic exercises, pole-standing, silk reeling, etc. Also a lot of basic stepping, so like doing series of 20 brush knee twist step + 20 repulse monkey + 20 wild horse + 20 fair maiden, etc BTW, in a wood nearby we have a jogging track with little markers every 100 meters and for a time I did this basic stepping there, 100 meters of each. Great exercise!

And I have special lessons where I teach specific forms. But the deal is that these are lessons, practice is something that everybody has to do for him or herself. It's strange that some people have trouble accpeting the fact that only practice makes perfect...I know a lot of people who come to classes every week or even twice every week without ever practicing at home. Personally I think it is because there is too much stress on the forms nowadays. It is difficult for a lot of people to actually 'perform' even if they are at home and alone. Stressing static position training and other exercises like pole standing and silk reeling may actually help.

Well that's enough for now.


10-15-2004, 01:42 PM
What I would like to see:

For competition purpose, each person develops a form (based on a specific style) suited that they believe will 'score' points. The PRC view is that everybody should do the same form the same way, etc is a fallacy.

Just like gymnastics where individual choreography is what determines a better routine, not an external group saying you must do this or that or else no score. Though there is degree of difficulty, if you are consistance is the basics the score will be higher all around. idea only?

What the judges will look for:
1. Poise
2. Balance
3. Stability
4. Focus etc

Marc Heyvaert
10-15-2004, 01:49 PM
Hi Stanton,

Well, these 'free form' taijiquan forms exist. I have seen some of these... One example: kick with right heel, really high, keep the leg there while you sink down on your left leg, until you are squatting on your left leg, the right leg still horizontal with the ground, then a sudden jump from the left leg, turning 180 degrees, landing on the left leg again, rising and kicking with the right heel a second time. High marks and a round of applause.

No kidding, I definitely don't want to see more of this.

Take care,


10-16-2004, 08:36 AM
i 2nd bill,i would love to see some film of 13 forms of the major styles;are they meant to be performed consecutively? without pause? in what order? i think that's pretty damn fascinating;remember,there ARE only 13 basic moves in t'ai chi.
you can't sacrifice principles (if you're talking about t'ai chi principles) in performance or otherwise;or you're doing something wrong.
soraya,there are many different avenues of thought concerning t'ai chi in competitions;one,is that the mere act of competition is anti Daoist philosophy.
as for what marc claimes he witnessed....????????
i guess in this case the saying applies,"looks nice but is not t'ai chi."

Marc Heyvaert
10-16-2004, 11:23 AM
Hi 'shark',

Well these 13 forms (nothing to do with the basic techniques) are meant to be used for demo purposes, showing distinctive movements of each of the 5 major styles.

I have the list of the form for Yang style and some photographs. I know for certain that the form already has been finalised for Wu Yu Xiang style, but I have no other info. The list with the movements is on the 'Ask Dr. Lam' part of this forum.

As for these 'special' free forms. I have a link for you that can help you visualize the sort of thing I saw.


Visit the HeiZhiHong_Taijiquan.rm link. It is 7.5MB and you need the real_one player. There are other interesting videos on this site, all in .rm-format, all competition, but a lot of external styles.

Take care


Marc Heyvaert
10-16-2004, 11:30 AM
Hello again,

On the same page as above there is actually a better link.

Look for the performance of Kong Xian Dong further down the page. It seems to be some new flavour of the competition 42-form.

It is 12MB though.


10-16-2004, 01:51 PM
thanks marc,unfortunately my primitive webtv software
won't allow me to access such things;this appears to be primarily a wushu site isn't it?
it always makes me nervous when people talk about wushu and taiji in the same breath.
the wushu we see today is a sort of decorated kung fu for entertainment, influenced by peking opera and fueled by acrobatics.
there was a time when taiji appeared under the heading of wushu;today that could be seen as inappropriate.
(but that's another diatribe) thanks for your
interesting posts and web references

Marc Heyvaert
10-16-2004, 10:42 PM

Originally posted by Shark
it always makes me nervous when people talk about wushu and taiji in the same breath.

Yes, I can see what you mean. But the fact is that taijiquan *is* part of wushu and it is firmly embedded in the structures. So if wushu goes olympic, taijiquan will be part of the accepted routines, although it will only be part of the women's routines...

But don't let that stop you to continue with taijiquan on another level and within another context. It doens't stop me either :)



10-17-2004, 06:33 AM
it won't,because there is no other context;it's a shame the Chinese have not held fast to their traditions and allowed wushu to turn into circus.
if anything has been misconstrued or misinterpreted in the West it's Chinese martial art.sadly the Chinese,for some time,have been persuing the same path

10-17-2004, 09:13 AM
Thanks Marc,

I am aware they exist and they are OK for those who follow. I am not an enthusiast for that type of opera known as acrobatic modern Beijing opera wushu but I do enjoy the athleticity reminiscent of that type of entertainment for the masses.

What we may term traditional may not have been that in the first place but change is always and will be.

Jacques Derrida (concept of deconstructionism) position is that a thing rarely is what we say it or believe it is Emotion to the subject/object, degree of understanding, level of maturity, time, place, etc all affect the reality. Again, all 'isms' can be abused like the subject/object that is being looked at. SO to each according to his own.

10-17-2004, 01:33 PM
beijing opera wushu?.....hmmm has a nice ring to it,stanton you just may be the creator of a new legendary style of kung fu (soon we'll be calling you grandmaster)

10-17-2004, 09:37 PM
Tx for your input, Marc, your links are simply refreshing!

As to my part I think i never was interested in competition due to many reasons but just would like to try and have my own experience. My teachers GM Chen and Mr. Jan said the same thing about competition i.e. against Tao philosophy but they won quite a number of prizes.

I try and Melanie does the same: we try to give a good show and make our performance look impressive. But why does it look impressive and why are we able to lift up our leg very high or go into a natural low stance? Because we do breathe well, are well-relaxed and focused and maintain stability, the difference between yin and yang.

Beijing opera is just a good fun show and has nothing to do with real wushu.

10-18-2004, 07:11 AM
well now just hold on to that there mule team soraya;sometimes communication around here can be compared to two styrofoam cups attached by piece of string;by "peking opera influenced"i was referring to modern wushu's often used costume and makeup scene as well as their acrobatic or dance like performance

10-18-2004, 09:20 PM
In my haste i don't always read posts when they are not clear to the point. I think i misunderstood Stanton's post in the first place. It was about international wushu competition turned into a Beijing opera like costume and acrobatic show(similar to shaolin show) rather than showing real skills. As I said one can still impress with esthetic movements by adhering to the principles but unfortunately some judges are more impressed by figure skating techniques, beautiful costume and attractive looks

10-18-2004, 09:30 PM
Sometimes when I'm not in Sydney my server is quite unstable which allows me to stay online just for barely more than 3 min