Tips for friendly Taiji exchanges
By David Chen, 2003

Through the years I have had the opportunity to visit many groups of Taiji practitioners. I enjoy meeting Taiji enthusiasts with different styles and lineages and I am often inspired by these exchanges. One cannot help but be motivated by a masterís life-long dedication to his or her art. I try to use these experiences to improve my practice; absorbing what is useful and correcting any weaknesses. I believe this helps me reach toward a higher standard in my art.

Here are some guidelines, based upon my personal experiences, which encourage friendly Taiji exchanges:

  • The goal is to open our minds and our vision in order to stimulate the quality of our practice.

  • Joining in with a group through a connection or an introduction is the ideal; avoid cutting in or you will receive a cold shoulder

  • Make notes after the visit, try to record your thoughts precisely; those thoughts always deteriorate or are exaggerated after a period of time.

  • Always respect other styles; you may defend your own lineage, but never criticize or compare the differences.

  • Try to be humble and show your willingness to experiment with the ways of others.

  • If you have armed yourself with ego, so will they; then it becomes a challenge instead of an exchange.

  • Look for quality of skill instead of result.

  • Sometimes you have to participate in a demonstration in order to get the flavor of their style; but never play tricks during a demo.

  • Seeing is not believing; donít leave without politely asking for a hands-on demonstration.

  • All masters believe in themselves, so thereís no point in comparing others in front of them.

  • Donít take their words seriously if they claim they are undefeated.

  • Try not to measure the best or worst gongfu by your own standard; it is subjective according to your level.

  • Winning can sometimes be in the eye of the beholder, especially when there are no witnesses.

  • There are 4 degrees of "exchanging skills:"
    1) Sensing & light pushing.
    2) Pushing & throwing.
    3) Joint-locking and tripping.
    4) Full contact.

  • Play defensively in their territory. Agree on the rules before you play---mild or full contact---and always be alert for losing control during the play.

  • Always be apologetic if you "accidentally" uproot the master--- especially to someone Chinese, and particularly if it happens in front of his or her students.

  • Always present a gift in thanks for their hospitality; the value of the gift should match your appreciation.

  • Your attitude represents your teacher.