Discrepencies between the translation of S.L.T's book and the form as taught by his daughter S.J.Y

Tim's Discussion Board: Tai Ji Quan : Discrepencies between the translation of S.L.T's book and the form as taught by his daughter S.J.Y
   By Jeff Docherty (Unregistered Guest) on Wednesday, March 17, 2004 - 03:47 pm: Edit Post

I have been taught Sun Style T'ai Chi by a teacher who studied directly with Sun Jian Yun and when no longer able to attend his classes (after 2 years) relied on SJY's instructional video with a translation by a chinese colleague and also a poster of the from by Sifu Wing Lam. These sources are fairly consistent with one another.

I have continued to practice on a daily basis for 5 years.

After studying and scutinizing Tim's translation of the original documents by Sun Lu Tang numerous discrepencies are apparent!

Which is in equal measure of great interest but also a shock! I do not know if I should follow my present form as outlined by SJY or attempt to make the changes I have found in the book, because they would appear to be the unadulterated and original form.

So my question is how and why such modifications have come about and are the differences in posture significant.

I will outline some examples for you:

Chapter 3 section 1, p.76, lines 8-10.
The sources I referred to earlier have the hands raising initially straight to chest level before lowering and rising again up to the heart. They do not lower from the Dan Tian but from the chest.

Chapter 8 section 1, p.85. lines 5-8
this suggests the hands pass one another left palm facing the back of the right hand. The above sources show palms facing one another.

Chapter 38 section1, p123. lines 11-14
SJY. moves her right hand into its final position on High Pat on Horse directly in place after completing the left phase of cloud hands, clearly without moving the right hand back to its original position, to the right hip then directly up to chest level as you suggest.

One more! Chapter 58 p146, lines 4-8.
SJY does this movement much differently in terms of footwork and with only one separate circling of the hands. The translation refers to a separate circling of the hands, then a simultaneous circling followed by another separate circling of the hands.

There are other differences I have encountered but I will leave it there for now and await your response!

With thanks Jeff

   By Michael Andre Babin on Thursday, March 18, 2004 - 10:28 am: Edit Post

I had relevant internal arts experience when I started studying Sun-style from videos and used, among others, Wing Lam's instructional tapes to learn the traditional set.

Having had Tim's corrections in person last Fall, there were many differences -- some subtle and some not-so-subtle -- between the way he taught the form and the way I was used to doing it based on what I had seen in the videos, including that of the late Sun Jian-yun.

Similarly, when you compare the photos of Master Sun in the book that Tim recently translated to what Tim teaches and what the other experts teach; there are many differences in detail.

Furthermore, if you compare these versions of the traditional set with the many versions of the competition version you will find that the variances of skill and performance are even greater.

Perhaps, it is more important to focus on learning from a good source rather than finding the "authentic" method. I know that this tends to be an obsession with many taiji practitioners but it can be counter-productive in the long-run.

Having had to 'start over' in the Sun-style has been very beneficial to me -- if more than a little frustrating -- and I think that it is safe to say that it is important to get away from trying to rediscover EXACTLY how Master Sun did his form as he, and his genius, are long-dead.

A good live instructor, like Tim, with considerable martial skill and a direct link to the source of the style is much better than reading a book and trying to decipher why forms change over the decades as dependant on the various strengths and weaknesses of those who subsequently teach the same form.

   By Jeff Docherty (Unregistered Guest) on Friday, March 19, 2004 - 06:05 am: Edit Post

Michael thanks for the comments.

Of course if I had access to a 'good live instructor' I dare say my q's would have already been resolved, that is why I've accessed this forum! I only have my previous training and the aforementioned sources as a reference.

In response, I am sure that it is clear that the 'exercise' itself is more concerned with cultivating mental factors such as mindfulness, deep relaxation and awareness of the mind-body process. But those factors can be developed through various means without recourse to a specific type of T'ai Chi training.

My point is that to follow a structure, a framework such as Sun Style, there is a need to remain faithful to the form otherwise practice becomes divisive to the point we're all doing our own thing and the form is lost and its reason to be, diluted.

Also it needs to be acknowledged that presumably Sun Lu Tang Tang had v. good reasons for the particular postures and movements and went to great efforts to formulate his T'ai Chi in such a way for a purpose. It would be reckless for this to be thrown away.

Also its just too convenient to ignore the reasons why the form has changed it's too self-serving.

I'm sure we can't stop change but it would be in our best interests to document or account for these modifications.

Regards Jeff

   By Michael Andre Babin on Friday, March 19, 2004 - 09:37 am: Edit Post

I agree with your comments 100% and it is important to find a teacher with skill at both doing and teaching who learned from "the source" or as close as possible to the style's source.

In the long run, though, it is very difficult to sort-through what is available until you have considerable experience yourself and also know what you are looking for from whatever variation of the art that you are interested in.

I would imagine that it is also very difficult to translate Chinese into English that is true to literary intent of the original as written by Master Sun and that the photos in a book will only reflect the form as he was teaching it at the time that the photos were taken. Forms tend to change over time and experts will often be teaching something quite different from their original inspirations at the end of their teaching careers.

For example, the Yang-styles of Tung Fu-ling, Chen Wei-ming and Fu Zhong-wen were all quite different in detail although each of these recognized experts were taught by the same man -- Yang Cheng-fu -- at different times in his teaching career.

Each was a unique expression of the same source. One is not better or worse than the others in the long-run, just different.

   By Jeff Docherty (Unregistered Guest) on Friday, March 19, 2004 - 10:47 am: Edit Post

Yep, as maybe and I do appreciate what you're saying.

My own thinking was that here we are with the only founder of a style who had written a comprehensive instruction guide. Effectively a statement saying that in his experience (which was considerable!) his understanding can be condensed and best expressed through this particular form. This is it and it's enough in itself. The fruition of a life's work.

I would have imagined that nobody would have felt that they were a high enough authority to start altering his scheme of things. Or that they had a right to modify it.

If others had different expressions and ideas then these could be satisfied in a free form of their own making perhaps as training exercises. Should we not do 'our' own thing without piggy-backing his.

Is there not some vague notion to follow Sun's form faithfully for its own sake,to retain its inherent integrity as well as the quality of our own practice.

I'm beginning to sound too consevative for my own liking!

Regards Jeff

   By Michael Andre Babin on Friday, March 19, 2004 - 01:50 pm: Edit Post

I guess that we would have to be able to actually see the late Master Sun Lu-tang practise his form to judge how far the various modern expressions of it have wandered ...

I think it is safe to say that anyone currently teaching and practising some variation of that form who doesn't have a very strong background in internal style martial skills will not have much hope of coming anywhere close to the martial skills that are implied in the postures and movements of the Sun-style traditional set.

   By Jeff Docherty (Unregistered Guest) on Saturday, March 20, 2004 - 08:34 am: Edit Post

Well I suppose I'll take heart from the fact that the practice of the form is only a device to access the core principles laid out in the Classics and not to worry unduly about the forms variations.

Tim's book was something I stumbled on recently and rather surprised me with its differences! I feel that reading it has given me something of a dilemma.

I'll probably experiment and try out some of the changes over a period of time and see what I can integrate. Maybe I'll get a feel of them.It's hard to ignore something once you've discovered it exists!

It'll be my old Sun style with a twist, although I'm in half a mind just to stick with my current form as I don't have to think about it, it flows pretty well which is a good stage to get to!

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