Thursday, May 17, 2007

Something About My History: Part One

People often find it impossible to believe that I was ever initiated into Daoism. After all, Daosits are scarce as hen's teeth in China---how could a non-Chinese person from rural Ontario ever get involved in something so alien to his culture? To be honest, it does sound more than a little weird, so it's probably time I offered a little personal history. In the process, I thought I might write a little about the whole idea of lineages, cultural appropriation, and, the role of ethnicity in religion.

Let's start at the begining.

A couple decades ago I decided that I wanted to learn a martial art, and I ended up studying Taijiquan at the local Taoist Tai Chi Association club. I fell in love with taijiquan, primarily because it has such incredible and almost immediate results---even though I was not, and never have been, a terribly co-ordinated person.

I tend to be a "joiner" and whenever I like something, I tend to want to get involved in helping promote and build the group. Eventually, I started going to the head office in Toronto once in a while for instruction and I also spent a summer helping out at the Orangeville retreat centre as a volunteer when it first opened.

Eventually, I was asked if I would like to go to "the Temple". It was a little structure over the top of the Toronto taijiquan club. To participate we used to dress up in ornate, brocade gowns and participate in chanting services. These were nothing at all like my experience of either Christian services (incredibly boring and pointless) or Buddhist meditation (extremely intellectual and painful on the knees). We kneeled on benches and chanted phonetically-rendered Chinese texts according to the tempo of a cantor who beat out time on a wood block. Periodically he would call out "Kow Tow" and we would "knock head" on the floor before us. Written here, it may sound absurd, but it was one of the most enjoyable, holistic experiences I have ever had. The only thing I can compare it to is what I have seen of an American Black Gospel congregation holding one of their services where everyone gets totally absorbed.

At the time, the leader of the Taoist Tai Chi Association (Moy Lin Shin) was asking individuals if they wanted to "join" the temple. I thought he was looking for yet another way of squeeze money out of the members (there was a $300 fee), so I said something to the effect of "Great idea, too bad I simply cannot afford it." He came back to me the next time I saw him, raised the idea again and made a "special introductory offer" of only $30 to join.

I couldn't see any problem with this, so I agreed. Later on, I went through this ceremony that involved going to the head of the Temple with Moi Ming Do (an older Daoshi from Hong Kong that used to visit once in a while and taught meditation.) I was asked to Kow Tow several times and offer three sticks of sandalwood incense in front of an altar. I didn't have a clue about what was going on and didn't think very much about it.

A little while later I saw some things about the organization that I didn't really agree with, so I left.

I was totally surprised by the extreme reaction that came from Moy Lin Shin. I tried to teach taijiquan at a few places after I left the club, and he went to the trouble of sending instructors to tell these institutions that I was unqualified. This was understandable, if a bit weird. (He had a habit of doing this sort of thing, which was part of why I left the group.) What struck me as bizarre was that he went to the trouble of sending telegrams to all the Taoist Tai Chi clubs in the world in order to tell them that I was "persona non-grata".

I went on with my life, but kept doing tajiquan, meditating, etc. Years went by and I never really thought of myself as a "Daoist". In fact, I flirted with becoming a Buddhist, Sufi, Christian, or anything else as I continued in my own personal spiritual search.

Then along came the internet and I found a website called the "Taoist Restoration Society" (it no longer exists.) This group was set up to help Westerners learn about Daoism and help the re-emergence of Daoism in mainland China. In actual fact, the website seemed more than anything else to be designed to insult and antagonize the sorts of people who learned about Daoism from books like The Dao of Pooh. It did have the value, however, of introducing me to the whole world of academic scholarship that deals with Daoism.

One of the first things I noticed was a "Questions" part of the website that dealt with the sort of naive things Westerners ask about the religion. One person asked how they could become "baptised" as a Daoist. The response was that there is no such thing. I wrote in at that point and described the ritual that I had gone through and got the response that this was not a "baptism", but rather an "ordination". The implication was that I had not "joined a temple", but rather that I had been initiated in to a Daoist lineage. The difference is that there are no "ordinary believers", but only "Daoshis"---who are more like monks/priests/medicine men than the sorts of people who sit in the pews of Christian churches.

I eventually gave up on this website because of a couple characters who dominated the site, but in the interim something called "Google" had been invented. This allowed me to do some name searches on Daoism and came across a paper written by a Phd candidate by the name of Elijah Siegler . (It appears that he is now an assistant professor at a college in the USA.) I wrote to him (the wonders of email!) about my experience with Moy Lin Shin and he contacted me and eventually came to my home to interview me as research for his thesis on Western Daoists.

I learned some very interesting facts from Elijah. One of which was that Moy had only initiated a few people for a very brief time. (The most famous is Eva Wong---who has translated many books on Daoism for the Shambalah Press.) This explains why Mr. Moy made such a big deal of my leaving the Taoist Tai Chi Association. No doubt he considered initiating me into his Temple as an enormous gesture, one that I had thrown away without any consideration!

38 comments:

The Imugi said...

That's quite a story! Have you ever considered contacting Moy Lin Shin again? Or maybe a better question would be: Had you understood the implications of the "ordination" ritual, would you still have left?

Bill Hulet said...

Mr. Moy has since died. However, I did attempt to square things away.

First of all, I contacted the Fung Loy Kok Temple and they were willing, but they made some demands that I didn't think were terribly healthy (a large donation plus I had to quit any other taijiquan organizations), so I decided to not bother.

I did think that some sort of gesture would be a good idea, however, so I gave a financial windfall to a Daoist nunnery in China. Afterwards I had one of those "numinous dreams" that are so important to Daoists. It involved Mr. Moy giving me a correction in my taijiquan. I saw this as reconciliation---even if I no longer am involved with the Fung Loy Kok.

As to your hypothetical question, I don't know. There were and are elements of the Taoist Tai Chi Association that I still think are unhealthy and I can't see myself "holding my nose" over the long haul. But I might have been more interested in pursuing Daoism through other venues a little earlier. One of the things I have found out through study is that there is a tradition that even though Daoists are initiated by an individual teacher, once that door has been opened the Master doesn't have the right to close it. In other words, people in my situation have a right to continue with their study and look for other teachers. Which is exactly what I have done.

(This was one of the things that I don't like about the organization I left---it keeps the membership in the dark about other schools of taijiquan or Daoism.)

The Imugi said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences, Bill. I'm glad you managed to patch things up with Mr. Moy. I know I certainly don't like to leave loose ends hanging around, especially when it comes to religious/spiritual matters.

I can definitely appreciate your stance on the Taoist Tai Chi Association; I am not a fan of religious *institutions*, myself. I feel like they can be as competitive as corporations, sometimes, competing for "believers" the way companies compete for consumers. Anything they can do to discredit other "brands" (or keep people in the dark about other brands), they can, and will, do.

Anonymous said...

This is an unfortunate tale, showing a serious cultural miscommunication between you and your lineage. You were accepted via the "baishi" route of initiation, but just taking baishi does not entitle you to teach as a master of the lineage! It's only the first step. Even more, it sounds like this group went out of their way to include you, maybe risking losing face in the process. They did, and then you loaded on insult to injury by deciding to break the oaths you "unwittingly" made as a dizi and teach before you were certified! It sounds like they really bent over backwards for you, even with the contribution, and you still have little respect for your master? If you were in over your head, why didnt you ask more questions?

You ecclectic westerners see these organizations as voluntary ones that you mine for what you want and leave the rest. Chinese have some idea that joining a society means a sort of fealty "zhong" and allegiance, like Guangong made, that has disappeared from the West.

Bill Hulet said...

You are quite right about the cultural differences between Westerners and Easterners. But the knife cuts both ways, Moy Lin Shin should have made some effort to understand Western sensibilities, which he clearly did not.

But I am not just a "Westerner", but also a Master scholar. And as part of my training I have learned to take a lot of Eastern descriptions with a grain of salt. It is true that there is a strong stream of authoritarian, patriarchal lineage stuff in modern Chinese society. But there is also a historical, anarchistic stream---especially in Daoism. People did travel around looking for different teachers to learn from. And it is also clear that there were many cultural innovators.

The important issue to understand is that if Daoism is simply an aspect of Chinese culture, then what sort of universal truth claims can it make? That is, if it has no trans-cultural truth to it, then isn't at best nothing more than artistic baggage like national costume or ethnic cuisine? Conversely, if there is an intrinsic Truth to it that transcends culture, then it doesn't belong to one particular nationality. And if it does transcend China, then Westerners have a right to develop their own understanding.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you are still following this- the last entry was 2007 - but read on and any reply would be interesting to consider and think about-
I too have stumbled upon the TTCS, and the branch i am in is in a big enough city, but is also isolated and the people, while earnest enough, too much even, considering the actual knowledge most of them carry with them, -
well, basically, it has all the hallmarks of a cult, somewhat innocuous, not quite the kidnapping sort, more the ‘i’ll be your friend if you do whatever i do and the way i do it too’ sort - but a cult nonetheless- a tea pot which must not taste any other tea, an archaic rendering of the spine reverently pointed to on its wall, with no knowledge whatsoever of its meaning either originally or how it has been superseded, calling things in a foreign tongue with no real, deep knowledge of translation or transliterated intent, nor implication - in short they are doing the same thing to Taoism that the foolish and credulous have done to western religion, all in the name of wanting to belong, and wanting it simple -

there is one older gentleman who really has some quality, and one younger man who might be both warrior and monk/philosopher, if he goes to some other masters (note the plural)

Now, and at other times, i admit i am working things out in my head in front of you, -

i 'discovered' this location about a year ago, but shied away after speaking with the woman who was at the desk. "Baptists" i thought to myself, ‘holy rollers, snake handlers, in-tongues speakers’ - balderdash in religious robes, dress up and costume party - a travesty, in short - the drag of group dynamics for the weak of mind and a false unguent for the lonely of spirit - also the money thing - ‘string you along’, ‘the nine circles of belonging’ (and ‘contributing’), the special retreat, orange kool-aid in orangeville-
how silly, why am i here for a while?
not to steal, but to take what is not theirs to hold away from me or anyone else
pay to talk to the spirit, pay to learn what cannot be taught -
i am here to follow along but make my own trail-
but enough about me, i am here to question their integrity as well
what a collection of bodies in bad shape!
and the women really should practice separately most of the time- the sexes do and should move differently - there must be something special they should do among themselves, just as the men should also honor this necessity
and what a bunch of lazy pot bellies - there are right ways and wrong ways to breathe, and then there is the unconscious way - which is also a wrong way - you know, asleep at the wheel

there are too many women in this branch, too much in control, and too ignorant of whatever tai chi is and more into making some kind of nest - so of course vipers come in, because each one wants her own certain kind of nest, and no one looks outside -

because of all this, i have made up this vignette of moy’s untimely ‘trip to heaven’, may the man rest in peace if he is actually gone, but circumstances make it look like an arranged ‘retirement’, and he is ensconced in great comfort and luxury somewhere on the grounds of the palace in orangeville - i mean for the great health benefits touted by these folks so loudly, it is ironic that ‘the master’ passes away at about not too old, certainly not ancient, as a master should attain - and ‘accident’ kind of implies someone was not really attentive to his surroundings, yes no?

a little more to follow in next post, thank you

Anonymous said...

continued from above because i wrote too much

more about me - thank dog this is not treated as a martial form by these people - i treat it as a moving meditation, and it is full of subtle body movement - but you should see the little marionette’s dance they make out of certain walk-around steps, a stiff-legged tight little circle following drawings in a book rather than what the human body does - those turned in steps are dangerous to the body, put one at a real disadvantage were it an actual fighting form and are so incredibly ungraceful - much of the movement these poor folks do lacks fluidity, jerky little movements from pose to pose, without repose, without breath, and not very conscious either -
how do they do it-
-with the money they pull in, anything could be gussied up, and there is a lot of very facile friendship offered

why am i there - i find it hard to trust an artificially strict asian, although i would like to find one who is both authentic and westernized, and the floozy white people who try to teach in some jane fonda jack lalane style are just pathetic -
plus, i have an attitude - i have years of professional dance which was based on breathing and is a form which took dance to be communication, not form - i.e., not concerned so totally with prettiness or pure acrobatics, but athletic, in the sense of excellence, and that every little movement has a meaning, so one is dealing with a sort of physical grammar, movement does not follow upon itself just because it is possible, but because it is meaningful- therefore one takes upon oneself the chore of educating one’s audience, rather than merely entertaining them

one final thought - from my point of view-
those people, mostly men, but also some dangerous women, who want to make this into a fighting form have no idea, no right idea, about it - they don’t understand the cultural context that made defense necessary and how turning defense into offense was quite a trick
These same people would also like to find the striking fist of Buddha, and of course for them the bleeding heart of some Jesu is always worth fighting for - it’s a cultural sickness - avoid those who think that way, for they will attack you for not attacking them

how long i stay or how soon i go depends on a lot - i want to learn the whole form, the '108', and use it for my own purposes - which are, as i said already (didn't?) a walking meditation

The Cloudwalking Owl said...

"Yah pays your money, yah makes your choice".

No one's perfect and we all bring our own personal baggage to whatever we do.

Some people think that taijiquan isn't a martial art and just want some sort of minimal exercise plus an excuse to get out of the house and drink tea with others of like mind. There's nothing wrong with that.

Other people feel the force of life bursting through their veins and want to do taijiquan as a martial art. They are as good at that as their creativity and hard work let them. If it is good exercise great. If it results in getting into stupid fights---that comes from them, not the art.

Take what you can from the club. If you can't see anything more to get and you don't feel like you want to give (or they want to receive), then move on.

rufus said...

I am surprised by the venom of some of the people writing about the taoist tai chi society. Mr. Moy did indeed pass away. i know the man who worked on him through the night he passed in the hospital. I met Mr. Moy when i was 16 and have done Tai Chi off and on for years, and as much as i agree that institutions are by nature annoying the foundation of the form that Mr. Moy created is quite special. The idea that he would be hiding somewhere is laughable if you knew the man. The form itself is a modified yang form incorporating lok-hop, sing yi and bagua with chigung postures. it is his recreation of the original monastic form and is quite special. As in any institution take the good and leave the rest.

The Cloudwalking Owl said...

Rufus:

Good to hear from you.

I think the best way to understand this stuff is to see it as an example of how "wild history" is created. I've noticed myself how Moy Lin Shin has been transformed from "Mr. Moy" to "Master Moy". It's almost inevitable that part of the process involves a splinter point of view that would see him as some sort of devil hidden master. ;-)

I do think that there were elements of Moy's style that did create a lot of annoyance with him. He was an authoritarian who tried to completely control the "tai chi life" of everyone in the club. This meant that he had a lot of the trappings of a "crazy wisdom type", like Chogyam Rimpoche down in Boulder Colorado.

As for the taijiquan, I don't really agree with you 100%. I don't actually believe that it is originally a monk's art, as the history of the art seems to be fairly well mapped out as coming from Chen village and being modified by Yang Cheng-Fu to take the form that Moy taught. One of the things that bugged people about Moy was the way he created this "mystical" history stuff about the taijiquan he taught. It also bugged people that he took such umbrage about anyone who tried to do independent research into taijiquan.

As I've stated before, I don't want to tar the existing group with the politics that exists decades ago. All I was trying to do was explain my existence as a Daoist.

Anonymous said...

Interesting bio! It's actually hard to find any independent info on Moy Lin Shin, it seems most writers worship or hate the man.

I understand that people want to let the past be past, but it ends up that noone will really know the full story - the winners write the history books after all. It seems some of the people who knew him well have stepped into the background and say little beyond the official line, if anything at all.

Ultimately I agree its best to look to developing what benefit you can health-wise and move on or step back when things go too far. But if more can be said it would be good to find a middle ground why things went this way.

As the Buddha said - the more attached you are, the more it will hurt when it changes or shows its true self. I guess that explains why there is so much passion and politics in the Taoist Tai Chi Society - he must have been very charismatic.

Good luck & best wishes to you.

Xin said...

Thank you everyone for all of your opinions. I came across this website after some friends and I decided to search the web for the reason Moy Lin-shin died at the age of 67. I respect Bill Hulet for his impartiality and openness, and the gentleness of his opinion which is not intended to aggravate or provoke. I think he has taken away much learning from the experience, and hope his life has improved by it.

As to the mystery of Moy Lin-shin's death... It seems the issue is much more political than I had imagined. Rumor, enemies, agendas... Who was the real man, and what were his goals? To be honest, I don't care so much anymore. That time is past- his sun has faded, and unless it reappears someday, I do not think much is to gain from dwelling on it. The organisation today is not the same as the one it started as- it has changed and evolved over time. And if I find something worth learning from that organisation, then I shall do so. And when I find my learning plateaus, I will seek new teachers as I continue my personal journey of martial education.

Thanks again for all your discussion gentlemen. It really helped me come to this conclusion.

taoist mlountaingeezer said...

Hi...I've been a student of Taoist Tai Chi since 1995. I was originally attracted to the "Taoist" descriptor but soon discovered there was almost no interest in Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Tao Te Ching, or natural simplicity. I have been a philosophical Taoist since 1970. The tai chi practice has been and continues to be beneficial.
I have mainly stayed out of the way of the leadership politics due to its obnoxiousness. One day I wrote a savvy paper on the "Principles of Tai Chi Instruction" to address some inappropriate instruction practices. I attributed it to an anonymous Taoist from ancient times. I slipped it into a poobah meeting without being seen. The poobahs had a fit. I took ownership and wrote apologies for the sake of our local group.
The parochial nature of the TTCS is silly. Immature. I am interested in other forms, and practice a Chi Gung form very privately...never in the TTCS studio.
I was able to study with Eva Wong for a while, until she was expelled. This was a weird and disconcerting loss. I benefited greatly from her attention. Her expulsion was not in accordance with any Taoist principles, but seemed quite consistent with authoritarian structures.
As a discipline, it has its virtues. As an organization, like all others, it has its structure for continuance, and its pettiness for its absurditarian drama. So, what else is new.
I practice the tao in as many places as I inhabit, and bit by bit I am getting it.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to find this discussion. I learned the tai chi form through my local chapter of the Taoist Tai Chi Society about 15 years ago, and stopped attending when I discovered the demands of fatherhood. I returned to the group about a year ago as circumstances changed to allow me more options with my time. Thus, I found myself with the opportunity to see the "before and after pictures" of the organization.
At first, I noticed little change. I quickly remembered the form, and the instruction and corrections were based on the same fundamental principles of body alignment that I remembered from my previous experience. My flexibility quickly improved, my knees stopped hurting, and my lower-body strength increased - benefits of practicing tai chi when it is competently taught. The meditative nature of the form started to come back to me, too. All of these positive experiences, I believe, are attributable to the integrity of the people involved.
At the same time, I continued to do my own reading and research in the areas of taoism, tai chi and other martial arts. This was never discouraged in the local group.
Then I started hearing about another side of things. The local group had been under some pressure to engage in fundraising efforts for the regional and national organizations, and to do volunteer work for the regional facility in a nearby city. Our lead instructor had been dealing with this pressure, and was finding the personal financial requirements of travelling to attend workshops to be too much. He also was discouraged by the declining quality of instruction at these Instructors' Workshops.
Our local chapter has recently ceased to be officially attached to the TTCS, and is now affiliated with the Canadian Tai Chi Academy - which was set up by senior students of Moy Lin Shin after leaving the society. There is no pressure to raise funds for the larger organization, and the local group is encouraged to strive for autonomy and to provide tai chi instruction to the community as it sees fit.

So here I am, a middle aged retired farmer, in better shape than I've been in for years, and getting tossed around the room (during 'push hands' practice) by splindly women in their late 60's.

While I'm at it, I'll recommend "The Watercourse Way" by Alan Watts for a profound and clear examination of Taoism.

The Cloudwalking Owl said...

Good to hear from you. I'm happy to see that people are working together to promote taijiquan. The group you joined looks pretty good. I suppose my only quibble is to continue to talk about "Master" Moy. I know that since he's died this is pretty safe (your group no longer has to deal with his weird behaviour.) I also know that by having a groovy authority figure to refer to, it makes it easier to organize.

But having said that, I think the whole process of having "Masters" to organize around simply prepares people to slavishly follow people. I think it is much more healthy to accept that the most we can have are "teachers" and the movement comes from the collective work of many people over many years.

Either way, it appears that you're on the right path, IMHO.

Anonymous said...

Still making a mean french bread, Bill? btw, the FLK robes were simple blue "confucian" robes, not ornate brocade. Just sayin'.

The Cloudwalking Owl said...

Anonymous:

My memory may be playing tricks with me, but I do seem to remember ornate, embroidered robes for the Temple when I got involved. Later on, I do remember seeing nothing but the blue robes. But that was after my time.

Anonymous said...

Aahhhh, the TTCS. What a bunch.

Like the previous comment, I also left for a few years when I had two young kids. When I came back I gave it a good shot to continue but eventually saw clearly (in my heart) that I had no place there.

Afterwards I started to see The Society differently. I started to question why some administrators of a purported spiritually-based organization are making upwards of $100 000 a year. Why does an organization that makes a profit of $1 000 000 every six months (planetary-wide) not do more for the world other than build a few schools in some poor country?

Anyway, I got involved about a year ago in another form of tai chi and I can also see how poor the instruction is in the TTCS. The feeling of liberation due to the lack of the cult-aspect of the TTCS is truly amazing.

When I left the TTCS I had been doing their form intensely for 15 years. And, yes, I did meet Mr. Moy.

Thanks for the site and the discussion. Peace.

Anonymous said...

Wow that was quite a read.

I am currently a member of the TTCS and have been for 3 years. I know little of the nature of Master Moy, or of the workings of the Society outside of my local branch. I do know that I am not forced to raise funds for anything, my monthly dues are voluntary and I am not kept from studying Taoism on any level. What the TTCS has done for me is provide me with at form of Tai Chi that relaxes my body and my mind while improving my flexibility and balance and that is enough for me. So I can only say that we all must do what brings us peace and to revile another person's way can bring no true peace to yourself whether you are Christian or Taoist.

The Cloudwalking Owl said...

"to revile another person's way can bring no true peace to yourself whether you are Christian or Taoist"

So are you saying that if someone is critical of say cannibalism, mass murder, pederasty, etc, that they will never have "true peace"? What is the difference between being critical and "reviling" something? I would suggest that people make critical assessments of various social groups and individuals all the time. Mr. Moy certainly did.

Anonymous said...

A few points:

1. There are 2 types of robes worn in the FLK. One is blue for Confucianism and the other is red/black for Taoism.

2. Anyone who is serious about either tai chi or about spirituality should not stay in the TTCS too long. They ambitiously, and I would say dangerously, try to mix the two together. An organization focussed even on just one such aspect requires a master. So the result is very weird since they have neither a tai chi master nor a spiritual one.

The TTCS is therefore a fine long term place for folks who are not too serious about either. It's a great place if you want to stretch your body and socialize. It is especially good for people in advanced age or those with physical handicaps as the tai chi set is easily adapted.

Anonymous said...

That's me!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Moy was a simple man with a good heart. Some of us acutally learned an internal art from him that is uncommon in today's environment. As he said," There is the organization and there is the practice". Make sure you know which one you are focusing on. One is health, the other . . .

ChoPingCIT said...

I am one that has chosen to follow the path, I do not follow blindly.

I take everything at face value, as a westerner with an automotive background I question everything looking for a hidden agenda. I also understand that we are all emotionally driven beings and at times those emotions trump logic.

Master Moy's goal was to make Taoist Tai Chi available to anyone that wished to learn. That is still a fundamental of the TTCS.

I see a bit of a blurred line here between FLK and Taoist Tai Chi and Taoism.

I would say. Choose your path carefully, do not follow blindly, be aware of there may be pitfalls and there certainly will be bumps in the road to achieving your goal.

One thing, I have spend a considerable amount of time at the International Taoist Tai Chi Center. It is true Master Moy is there, his remains are in the Columbarium, I visit him upon entering and before leaving the center. :>)

Anonymous said...

well, this is just grand. i"m very pleased to return to this blog after quite a while and see that it is still hosting a worthwhile conversation about the pros and cons (maybe the yin and yang?) of taoist tai chi. lately i've had the feeling that some kind of politic has been working it's way through the system. there is a distressing amount of what feels like change for changes sake in the forms. the religious element is gradually strengthening. i have been rather obstinately hoarding the old t-shirts that are being replaced by the flk merchandise. feels like the power structure is evolving into something a little less comfortable in the shadow of mister/master moy. i extend much gratitude to you all for pointing me to the canadian tai chi academy. pity about all those old ttc t-shirts, though...

ChoPingCIT said...

Some time ago as I was doing research on the Taoist Hermit of the mountain and I found this quote "in some 2000 years there have been only two constants in Tai Chi, #1-one foot at 90 deg. the other at 45 deg. and #2-is change".

Sometimes change for the sake of change my be for the sake of mental calisthenics, make the brain work harder less dementia or deeper moving meditation. :>)

I'll comment on FLK after clarifying some things concerning CRA changes after the first of the year.

Have a great holiday.

Anonymous said...

The neijiatao blog on Wordpress has a pretty thorough vetting of Moys history, his style's history and it's tie in to some Hong Kong IMA types from earlier/mid 20th century.

The Cloudwalking Owl said...

Interesting.

http://neijiatao.wordpress.com/

However, I would suggest that it is far from a "pretty thorough vetting of Moys history, his style's history and it's tie in to some Hong Kong IMA". I do not see any citations or references, and the blog is totally anonymous.

The one thing that I do notice is that the phrase "Master" is associated with Mr. Moy. When I was involved no one ever called him "Master", it was always "Mr.". I do not know Cantonese, however, so I do not know how some of his Chinese students might have referred to him---.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately that type of "vetting" is typical of My. Moy's legacy and it will only deteriorate as time goes by.

That said, Mr. Moy's "tai chi" is excellent in my opinion. It is extremely difficult to do well.

The Cloudwalking Owl said...

Dear Anonymous:

Whomever you are, I have to point out that I have never heard any expert in taijiquan say that Moy's version of the Yang style is all that good. That's just a fact.

I know that it doesn't even want to deal with self-defense, so I won't harp on that. But I will say that IMHO that the only thing that keeps martial arts honest is the ability to compete with others in an match. Without live push hands and free sparring, arguments about quality are just empty.

As for health benefits, I have no doubt that doing any form of taijiquan is better than no exercise at all. But the extreme elements that Moy style does (the wildly bent over posture that I have seen taught) is universally seen as a bad thing by anyone outside of the group. That too is a fact.

You take your money, you make your choice----.

Anonymous said...

In response to your 3 points.

What other styles have been said to be very good according to what tai chi experts?

'Tai Chi' is a general expression. Yes, you are right in what you say if you use the traditional definition of it (martial art). That is, Moy's tai chi would not be considered a tai chi at all. But there is a world of arts out there that deal in 'tai chi' where it would be defined more in line with 'chi kung'. Which is the art of studying the 'flow of chi/energy'. In this sense, Moy tai chi excels and I do not need an 'expert' to tell me that. And if you do, then please stop calling yourself a 'Daoist hermit'.

The extreme elements you refer to are but exercises employed in order to achieve a certain goal (i.e. opening a joint or loosening a limb). Once that goal is attained that exercise is no longer needed. The form in the long term contains no such extreme elements. That said, one of the big weaknesses of the TTCS is that its size does not mesh well with the variable nature of the form as described above. What results is that an inexperienced instructor (which make up 90% of their instructors) will attend a workshop only to come back to teach an extreme form (or an over-simplified one) for a very long time. So effectively the form can indeed "become" bad but it is not inherently bad.

The Cloudwalking Owl said...

Well, it's certainly the case that "the art doesn't make the man, the man makes the art". Bad teachers teach badly. I might suggest, then, that the basic form that is taught in the TTCS is ultimately Yang style and if someone practices it diligently and intelligently, it can be as good an entry into the world of taijiquan as any other form.

The concerns that people who teach in other styles generally have is with those particular elements that Moy added to the basic Yang form---those stretches. Personally, I don't think that they are a good idea for specific health reasons. But as I have said before, "you pays your money, you takes your chances".

Just as importantly, I am not a fan of hero worship and religious institutions in general. I don't think that the elevation of Moy Lin Shin to sainthood by many TTCS members is helpful for their development as human beings. I have no control over what other people think, but I do have this blog where I can share my opinions.

Thanks for you intelligent comments---.

Anonymous said...

I can go further. Not only is Moy tai chi not a tai chi in the martial art sense it is also not tai chi in the sense of having its origin from a tai chi style at all. It is not a modified Yang style. It is actually based on the principles of Lok hup ba fa but with the choreography (external form) of Yang tai chi.

Moy tai chi has the following main characteristics:

1. Lok hup ba fa internals
2. Yang tai chi choreography
3. A non-static form based on the practitioner's health needs
4. An emphasis on turning and stretching

The Cloudwalking Owl said...

Hmmm.

Well, let's just say that I'm a little skeptical about this----.

jundao said...

(PT 1 of this comment) -

Wow this has been a really long thread! I'm pleased to see an honest critique of Mr Moy's tai chi and organizations from people who actually knew him.
I have had the privilege of living next to the Orangeville centre all my life and I began taking tai chi last year. I quickly found that the tai chi form taught there (the 108 moves) is sort of a means to an end. ...I'll explain as I go...

I began volunteering with the FLK temple, and that was a pretty awesome experience that introduced me to Taoism, leading me on a long path of performing rituals, reading plenty of books sold at the gift shop (lots of Eva Wong, the Tao Te Ching, etc.. And beyond the gift shop, Chuang Tzu) all recommended by one of their instructors. However, I found I learned more about taijiquan history outside of the organization than within it... Independent research, etc.

So, I began to get a bit disheartened with the organization and I generalized this as a fault in their teaching overall. This was until I dug deeper and trained with students of Mr Moy; some of the people that helped him in (for example) modifying the Yang 13 sabre form into the one they teach... (It's a fun little set actually).
But outside of these advanced classes, the problem is, it took me a year to even be taught the fundamentals of rooting. Only now am I grasping the intention-based movements and potential applications (although, to be clear, this 108 moves should be exclusively for moving meditation). One instructor I met said that they went 7 years without learning rooting...and they were already an instructor. This was perplexing! I just HAD to find out the origin of these organizations and what happened along the line.

jundao said...

(PT 2 of this comment) -

It turns out the 108 moves was Mr Moy's way of preparing students to learn the zhu ji liuhebafa set of Liang Zipeng. The foundation exercises the TTCS practices are meant to be like Mr Peng's Three Treasures of Southern Yiquan: the danyu, toryu, and zhan zhuang. They all help build strength in the dantian and reinforce energy currents in the body. These are the "qigong elements" added into the 108 moves that people are always going on about.
You should see some of these advanced practitioners do lok hup ba fa though. It's obvious how that was Mr Moy's passion, and the simplified Yang 108 was the "internal arts 101" class...
I asked around if there were continuing classes in lok hup ba fa as opposed to the $1000 week-long workshops (yeah, that's a hell of a price). There are none, although occasionally an advanced instructor will teach a 10 week course.
This made me shift my attention to Google to search for lok hup lessons, as by this point I've fallen in love with the potential for flow and power in those movements. I stumbled across independent students of Mr Moy (and Mr Sun Di - a fellow student of Liang Zipeng) who teach lok hup ba fa and even the xingyi-linked quan of Sun Di, all at an internal level. This group is the Zhong Wen Taiji Academy. Has anyone here worked with them? I think they're affiliated with the Canadian Tai Chi Academy.


Anyways, FLK TTCS has been a great introduction to Taoism, tai chi, and other neigong and I do not regret the time I have spent there, because there are wonderful people. Great meditation. Powerful teachers. Undeniable health benefits! I just wish the emphasis of the TTCS was focused and the teachers would be all fully equipped.


An added note: they've never put down other forms for me. One of my classes has even had conversations about experiences practicing other styles in the past. TTCS does not practice other forms simply out of respect to Mr Moy (whose unfortunate passing was caused by an infection, by the way).

So I'll probably train with that academy in the Toronto region (it's actually run by the ex-president of Mr Moy's Gei Pang Lok Hup Academy - the internal arts school in memory of Liang Zipeng), because the zhu ji lok hup is really intriguing to me. I may also like to try traditional Yang taiji to get a perspective from outside of this lineage.

jundao said...

(PT 3 of this comment...sorry) -

And I'd agree with Anonymous about those characteristics of moy tai chi. Externally, it is Yang, internally, it is based on liuhebafa (assuming a practitioner reaches that level). The degree of external stretching is based on the needs of the practitioner, as there are no real external "back-arching"/"knee-straining" stretches inherent in the moves. When done properly, there should be none of these problems. If an advanced instructor sees tension in someone's movements, he/she will help them change their toryu (for example) and involve different external movements. However, an inexperienced instructor may see this and supplement these strange movements into the tai chi.

The Cloudwalking Owl said...

Jundao:

Great to hear from you. This is exactly why I write a blog. It is great to hear an intelligent discussion that helps people learn more about something that they are interested in. I have an ambiguous relationship with the TTCS. On the one hand I believe that when I was in it (and from what others have said still does to some extent) it had some unhealthy institutional elements. But on the other hand, it has done a tremendous job of exposing people to a wide range of interesting things that some of them went on to explore on their own.

I bow to another traveller on the Way!