Someone published a quote (founder Yi Quan) Wang Xiang Zhai from his 1940s interview, which included his thoughts on Tai Chi. It’s pretty clear, straightforward and to the point. Read:
Wang Xiang Zhai on Taijiquan (from an interview in the early 1940s): As masters of the original Taijiquan, I should recommend the brothers Yang Shouhou and Chengfu. They are my friends and I know that their Taiji has some knowledge of mechanics. But out of a hundred students, none of them gain its essence … and yet it is still one-sided, because the ability of intuitive perception has long since died out. Originally, Taiji consisted of three fists, Wang Zongyue changed it to thirteen positions, and was later decorated to one hundred and fifty positions. This is the cause of the distortion. Sticking to mechanical movements, looking for beautiful positions and confusing them for martial arts fame … that’s terrible. Such a person cannot understand boxing for life. If a person sees such a performance with insight, he will be sick for ten days. As a means of protecting health, Taijiquan reduces the spirit and discomforts the practitioner. In combat, it damages the training limbs and torso and causes the useful body to become a mechanical and stiff thing – it’s nothing but a waste of time. As for the training method – here punch, slap your palm there, kick left and further right – it’s pathetic and laughable. When it comes to dealing with the enemy in combat: please don’t even think about it. This boxing is so devastated that it has become useless. There is much more, but I am embarrassed to say them.
He doesn’t think much about Tai Chi, but there are a few things to consider.
- Wang built the brand – Yi Quan – in a commercial environment. Determining what makes you different / better than your competition is the first stage in building a brand.
2. I don’t do much of this idea of ”three old fists” history. I think it’s a link to the three old fists of Xin Yi (information on Jarek’s website), which he assumes are of Tai Chi Chuan origin, but there’s not much of a link I’d see. Or if so, it’s very weak.
3. I think he criticizes the Tai Chi training method more than art. The Yang brothers seem to be highly valued, but it is their students and training methods that he considers bad. Wang has never been a fan of form training.
4. I think we need to consider what happened in China in 1940. China never (and still does not) have a free press. If it were published, it would be in line with the political direction at the time.
“In 1940, the Japanese established the Wang Jingwei Collaborative Regime with the capital in Nanjing, which claimed to be a legitimate ‘Republic of China’ in opposition to the Chiang Kai-shek government, although its claims were severely limited because the puppet state controlled a limited amount of territory.
Chinese nationalist army soldiers during the Yellow River flood in 1938
The united front between the Kuomintang and the CCP had beneficial effects on the afflicted CCP, despite Japan’s continued territorial gains in northern China, the coastal areas, and the rich Yangtze River Valley in central China. After 1940, conflicts between the Kuomintang and the Communists became more common in areas outside Japanese control. The Communists expanded their influence wherever opportunities arose, through mass organizations, administrative reforms, and land and tax reform measures in favor of the peasants and the spread of their organizational network, while the Kuomintang sought to neutralize the spread of communist influence. Meanwhile, North China has been politically infiltrated by Japanese politicians in Manchukuo through facilities such as Wei Huang Gong.
So while this whole conflict with Japan is going on, I think the general trend is to westernize and modernize China and abandon the older traditions that have hampered China. This interview – focusing on newer scientific methods of martial arts – is in line with this trend. Japan was also very interested in adopting Western military methods and building an empire, as the British did.
5. Yang Shao-Hou and Yang Cheng-Fu died in 1936, yet Wang talks about them as if they were still alive in the 1940s, so something is wrong. This interview is either falsified or was conducted long before it was published in the 1940s.
6. You can get a better idea of his larger topics by reading the whole interview.