McDojo Article on Wujimon

I just caught wind of an old post on Wujiimon about the McDojo phenomenon. Although the post didn’t mention Taijiquan or belt systems for Taiji, the commentators invariably thought that was the topic under discussion (interesting, no?)

Some interesting points were raised. Wujimon himself clarified,

I really don’t see how belts would apply to taiji, though some schools have them. I agree with you. […] taiji is an evolving art and things will change as it passes from hands to hands. I know the yang family (via Yang Zhenduo) has a standardized grading system. I’m not sure how it works tho.

Although there is some honest concern about (let’s be honest – we changed the subject :)) Belts in Taiji, there is also a lot of prejudice and misunderstanding. As Wujimon observed, the Yang family now has a grading system. It’s easy to confirm that the Chens are talking about levels of development as well. I suspect that this whole situation arose because there is no leader (i.e. no centralized authority) of Taijiquan. Even Chen Zheng-Lei is quoted in Tai Chi Magazine (March 2007?) as saying Taijiquan has no official Zhang Men Ren (read Chen Zheng-Lei’s full article online at ChenWired – registration required). It has been said that Taijiquan now belongs to the world. This does not mean anyone can teach whatever they want and call it Tai Chi, it means that you need to find a good teacher and learn from him the teaching method of his transmission.

With this we finally hit the nail on the head. What is really under fire is The Whole Legitimacy Thing:

At a minimum, it’s inaccurate and just plain wrong to identify oneself as studying or having studied a koryû art, unless the ryûha headmaster would agree that this is in fact what you’ve been doing. (-from

Who owns Taijiquan? There is such a vast amount of difference between different lineages, even within the same style – that it has become nearly impossible to reunite Tai Chi under a common roof, or belt system for that matter. Even within major styles there have now arisen so many variants that the styles are being renamed after the specific geographic area or school which practices them.

Obviously this is all of particular interest to me, since I’m working on a taiji belt system of my own. The purpose I had for my belt system is the exact opposite of the common concerns. Instead of looking for a way to market and hook students, which would get away from focusing on refining the form, my belt system has a core goal of ensuring that the form is refined and to ensure progress by carefully monitoring it. Your mileage may vary.


3 Responses

  1. […] recently, I received a ‘pingback’ on my Do You Belong to a McDojo article from Renli on McDojo where the author proposes implementing a Taiji Belt […]

  2. Hi Renli.
    The post you’re referencing on my site is: Do You Belong to a McDojo.

    Anyhoo, I think a distinction should be made between a grading system and a level of development. Sure, we could easily assign a certain rank to a particular level of development, but the hard part is, how to we assess someone’s level of development? It’s easy to assess things like form choreography and alignment, but to me, those are ‘beginner’ stuff.

    I’ve been a ‘beginner’ for over 7 yrs and still have a long way to go before I consider myself an intermediate practitioner. How do I know this? Did someone tell me my level? No. I graded myself as I believe taiji to be a lifelong path of learning.

    In looking at the Yang Family ranking system, the ‘Advanced Rank’ required a minimum of 6 yrs. To me, this is way too early to designate someone as advanced. Rank should not be placed upon time, but upon effort and development.

    I wish you luck in your pursuits! You’ve taken on quite a challenge and I look forward to hearing more about your taiji journey.

  3. Hi Wujimon 🙂 Thanks for stopping by. You have a nice blog.

    You are right that it is difficult to assess a student’s grade. It’s something only his sifu would know, and of course the student himself. In truth the entire thing came up in my mind as a way to belt-ize the five levels of taijiquan. I thought to myself, if I split each level into the foundation required to achieve that level, and the final push to achieving it, then it would be about 10 levels, which seems good for a belt system. Although, the why.. In truth it’s just an academic concern, for us in our daily practice this doesn’t really matter. Perhaps if I open a school one day (in the FAR far future) I might use something like this. Then again, maybe I won’t..

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