I can’t tell the original news source or the translation, etc., but this one is worth reading a few times from various angles: Interview with Wang Xiangzhai

He gives some ideas on what to focus on in Xingyi, Bagua, Taiji – a sort of “reducing to essence” approach that I tend to prefer, and some insights into how they evolved or devolved from early on. I also like how he says he doesn’t know what people mean from “internal” and “external” – that is really great – one of the greatest internal masters doesn’t even talk about these confusing words as he doesn’t even know how these labels came about.

Also, saying he is friends with Yang Shao Hou and Yang Cheng Fu, and calling them masters of “original taijiquan”, he then goes on to harshly criticize “taijiquan”, describing and forecasting the same sad martial-less state it occupies today for the most part (apparently it’s been in a sad state for a lot longer than I thought):

As for dealing with an enemy in a fight, against a master-hand, please do not even consider it, if the adversary is not stiff and sluggish, even the famous masters of this boxing have no chance to apply their skills. These abuses are so big that ‘Taijiquan’ might soon become just a mere form comparable to a chess manual. For the last twenty years, most people who have studied this boxing have not been able to differentiate right and wrong, even if someone has been able to differentiate them, he has not been capable of putting it into practice. As for common students, most of them use their ears instead of their eyes.

So ruined is this boxing that it has become useless, this is really deplorable. I wish that the powerful members of this school would promptly and strictly clean it up, and attempt to develop it in the future. When the day of success comes, they will be held as the bosom friends of all the boxing fans. I dare to say that I understand ‘Taijiquan’ deeply, those who do not agree, can notify me or lay the blame on me, only the wise ones might understand. At the same time, I suppose those who have really gained something in their study of ‘Taijiquan’, when they read this, they will nod in agreement and cannot help laughing.

There is much more criticism of this art when the reporter tries to protest. That is not his main point as far as I can tell (he repeatedly states he wishes to advance combat science so it can improve in the future) but I found it surprising. He didn’t think highly of Yang Luchan either. He also laments that styles are fragmented and in their own ivory towers (my paraphrasing) and the teachers teach false things because they need to make a living but won’t test things out for real or humble themselves and keep learning from others — hmm, pretty much the same criticisms today yet internal arts enthusiasts are still hiding from these criticisms over half a century later. Once one reads what one of the most widely reported-as-great internal arts masters said, it’s hard to cling to that notion and believe in myths and “martial” arts that contain no fighting. He does think the so-called “taijiquan” is better than many other arts. He also says there are a lot of people from various styles with some profound achievements but they are mostly “one-sided” (not sure what that means but I assume “not complete” meaning not well rounded). The funniest parts are where he repeatedly says no one will respond to his invitation to come “compare skills” and “grant him instruction”. Well after he or his Four Tigers kicked everyone’s asses, who is left that is stupid or brave enough to try? Or who would be good enough to do so and would have little “face” to lose? If other famous masters had to protect their reputations why would they fight Wang? Can you imagine if there were no modern mma sport and Fedor issued this call to “grant him instruction” but the other top fighters are all teaching or bodyguards or otherwise having much to lose? How many people would go see him? That sounds like pretty much what happened. Too bad. Perhaps we’d know more about “the science of combat” and it might be further along. Maybe yiquan would have had a quick ascendancy for at least a brief time like BJJ in the early to mid 90’s after UFC’s 1-3. We’ll never know.

Notably, he does not level criticism at Baguazhang. He says his contemporary Bagua friend is not as skilled as Cheng Ting Hua, whom he saw briefly in his youth, but that students might still hope to grasp the essence by careful single and double palm changes. He held up Dong Haichuan, Che Yizhai, and Guo Yunshen as his top predecessors. His tone of sincerity and earnestness and attitude of “doesn’t suffer fools gladly, no bullshit” is very clear. The article leaves quite an impression even if one feels defensive about taijiquan or any number of Chinese styles he pretty much dismisses.

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