Gary Liu asked this question:
I have been learning Chen Taiji for just over 2 years. One of the things that frustrates me is the seemingly unrealistic techniques and chin-na that would be unrealistic for self-defence. Felt like a waste of time covering and learning them. I have always looked for simple techniques and doing them well for self-defence purposes.
After reading your post here about practicing the concepts behind them, things fall into perspective a lot more. Instead of a chore, chin-na becomes an opportunity to learn to send force into the opponent to control his body (as opposed to control of a local joint).
The Cannon Fist routine was a lot more direct and aligns more with what I am looking for (I have learned short yilu and erlu forms - now learning a long yilu form). Though looking at your Hsing-I instructions, I wonder if I should be giving Hsing-I a go due to more direct and simple movements.
If you have time, I would be very interested in hearing your view on Hsing-I and Chen Taiji and whether it makes any difference learning which in the longer term.
That's an interesting question, Gary. I think the realistic nature of fighting applications may depend upon the quality and knowledge of your teacher. I've been lucky to have had some good teachers (Jim and Angela Criscimagna of San Diego, as the best examples) who really turned me on to tai chi as a fighting art.
Chen tai chi is tremendously difficult to do well. Two years isn't much time. I wouldn't get too impatient. Hsing-I is difficult to do well, too. Two years isn't even enough time to get the body mechanics down. You can fake it more with Hsing-I, however.
In the longer term, the true answer to this question is: whatever makes you happy is the art you should choose. But why choose just one? It's more difficult to be really good at more than one art, but it all depends upon your goals.
You might also look to see if there's another Chen teacher around. If there's a Hsing-I teacher, go take a class or watch one.
Within a month, I'll be launching a new website to teach these arts online. Something like that could supplement what you're learning from your own teacher, and you might be able to fill in the gaps in Hsing-I, Tai Chi or Bagua through the videos and techniques taught in the online school.
I would end my initial response to your question by saying that I absolutely love Chen tai chi. It's the greatest of all martial arts in my opinion (because it appeals most to me for some reason). Other people will feel the same about jiu jitsu or karate. I also deeply enjoy Hsing-i and Bagua. All three arts are closely related in the body mechanics and many techniques. But if someone put a gun to my head and told me to pick one art, I'd chose Chen tai chi. I'd choose Hsing-I or Bagua over Yang tai chi any day, but Chen is the King of internal arts. It's the foundation of everything I do, and it's a complete fighting art. The skills are so difficult to master, that you can forget about becoming a master, but if you even become "good," you will have achieved something to be proud of.