What Tai Chi style is the most popular? Which class elements are disliked the most? Why do people start Tai Chi? How do they prefer to train? Read on as we skim over the highlights of the Tai Chi online survey.
Tai Chi Survey Results 2017
Probably the least serious of all the Tai Chi surveys to day, but the insights may hint at the future direction for this ancient, yet confused art.
Q1: What style of Tai Chi do you Practice?
In first place comes good old Yang - 50% of you state that you practice some version of the Yang style. In joint second place came Cheng Man Ching and the Chen style. It appeared that some people were a little confused with the naming of styles, believing Cheng Man was of the Chen style, whilst others classified him as a Yang practitioner - which was clearly his origins. Others rightly attributed him to having developed his own style.
So why are people confused about names. Or are the names too similar sounding? Why do people get confused about this issue and if so can we make it clearer in our teaching? Who isn’t explaining the different styles clearly? Is it people like me? Is it your teacher? Perhaps the answer is - does any of it matter? Do names have much significance really or is it that we just think they do? Read more about names in Tai Chi here
In 3rd place, limping behind the others came Wu, Sun and then, finally, Lee style - nothing wrong in coming in last though - just look at the meaning behind Step back to repulse the monkey, and the Taoist idea of leading from behind and you'll soon realise that charts have little significance in the great order of all 10.000 things.
Meanwhile, back to the survey - 2% of those responding admitted to not practicing Tai Chi at all. Interesting. Others styles mentioned were the Beijing short form, two more versions of Chen - this time added as separate styles, which makes it all very confusing indeed - and others said they practised only Qi Gong. Finally, someone added the Northern Wu is the Bambi style - which - though Ive never heard of - sounds the sort of style i wouldn’t mind learning.
Not being familiar with any of these means nothing of course - however if you are making it up, or you are combining different styles let me know - I'd be keen to interview you for a future post or podcast.
Q2: Why Do you practice Tai Chi? In order of selected importance…
Can we conclude anything of significance from this question? Well it was no surprise that the majority of respondents replied with health as their primary reason for practising, but Philosophy as the second! That did throw me. Plus, only 1/3 of respondents replied that they practiced Tai Chi as a martial art. And of those did anyone understand what a martial art was?
This may be simply that those that completed the survey were less interested in the martial aspect, or it may reflect a wider movement away from the martial, something that has been borne out in other studies - perhaps in the face of the popularity of MMA or Instagram, Im not sure which.
Q3: Which aspect of the class do you enjoy most/which Least?
Not surprisingly, in first place for popularity of class aspect is the Form. This was followed by breathing and then partner work - which doesn’t surprise me as I base so much of what I teach on partner work, but I do know many others that don’t. So maybe this will send out a message to teachers everywhere to include more of this in their classes. Why? well, there is a tendency to move inwards with Tai Chi, to retreat within yourself and your practice. This is often seen in Form practice as people go off at their own pace irrespective of where others are in the sequence. Partner work challenges this notion of the the importance of individuality and reminds us that we are only really testing out or skills when we work with others.
Interestingly, philosophy and history comes next then sword (though this was before I launched the Online Sword Training Course), then push-hands, martial, stick, fan and finally - in last place - as though it were an unwanted growth on the skin of the art - competition. Perhaps because competition is seen as antagonistic to the concept of harmony that this element is placed at the end of the list. Perhaps, because it has not been explained well or demonstrated effectively outside a winning/losing scenario (which is not very Taoist when you think about it). What do you think? Comments below please.
Q4: How do you improve your knowledge?
Regular classes, reading books and watching youtube videos was by far the most popular choices. Workshops and online training was in joint second, whilst in 3rd place, meet ups and practice with others. Finally, someone insightfully mentioned that they learn most by teaching others,
This was an astute reply, how soon did you begin to teach your art? Some claim that 20 years apprenticeship is still the minimum requirement, but generally, these days we start a little earlier. I like to give my students responsibility for showing newcomers some basic techniques as early as possible. Nothing quite encourages them to digest a lesson if they have to show it someone else. They might even adapt it or improve it. Now, wouldn't that be interesting? Either way, the idea of learning from each other rather than from a hierarchical leadership structure reminds me of the politics of what we do.
One respondent added that “I commune directly with the TAO! I dig into the genetic memory of all living things to retrieve lost fighting styles, and recipes for tapas! Not sure what we can learn from that other than Tai Chi is clearly a broader church than even I had thought.
Q5: What brought you to Tai Chi
These answers were difficult to categorise. Many people came from other harder martial arts, some from less harder arts like Aikido, some from really soft practices like meditation classes, others came straight from their GP’s surgery. Some came with a desire to do a movement art that would aid balance, co-ordination and lift the spirit, others simply because they accompanied someone else and got hooked by watching the class.
Other reasons quoted were - Watching others performing the Form, watching kung fu movies, or reading a book. Overall, the answers were many and mixed. We think we can categorise newcomers into those interested in health, martial or spiritual, but the many reasons people take it up are clearly broader than we imagine.
Conclusion (It's ongoing)
So what can we learn from this survey?
Well, it was hardly a massive survey, but what makes it useful is that it is global - results came in across the time zones and were not confined to a style, a school or a specific teacher. I see 3 clear conclusions that we may draw:
Tai chi is clearly changing in the 21st century. How far the traditional schools reflect these changes is debatable, but we shall see how they play out over the next few years. Thanks to all those that contributed to this years survey. Want to join in the next survey. Subscribe here and be added to the list.
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