I don't know that there is too much actual, real, meaningful debate as to the skill level of Yang Cheng Fu. There are those who like to denigrate people who will always say that "so and so's skill level was not up to that of his brother/father/uncle fred/aunt mildred/cousin zeke/various and assorted monkeys, etc., etc., etc., ad nauseum. However Yang Cheng Fu's bonafides have been established beyond anyone who is reasonables doubts.
I could carry on about his accomplishments, but we've listed them here over and over again on this forum so if you're really interested fish around a bit and look 'em up.
I've been in schools that propounded on the philosophy of "no pain, no gain" and they used to hit us on our meridians and knock us around and generally trained roughshod methods that were supposed to make us feel jin and ting and ding and who knows what else.
It doesn't really work very well, from my personal experience. While I learned to accept and redirect pain of a pretty high degree, I didn't really learn very much Tai Chi Chuan. While I learned to get in the hurly burly and wrestle with the best of them, it was, in a nutshell, hard style methods we were using and not Tai Chi Chuan as it is generally recognized.
Now, some of that is my general slowness in the uptake. Some of it was the general poor knowledge of the teachers of the various schools, most of whom were, indeed, mostly hard style guys who took a few Tai Chi classes, self graduated themselves to Sifu of Tai Chi, and then began to teach.
The fact of the matter is, I never trained real, genuine, honest to goodness Tai Chi Chuan, in my personal not so humble opinion, until I began to train with my teacher, Bill W. of the Louisville Center. I THOUGHT I was, I seemed to be, these various and sundry "teachers" told me I was...
But now that I've seen, felt and have even slightly, only at the most beginner level, begun to actually train TCC do I recognize what was happening before.
If YCF watered down, filtered out or lost any skills, I'd be greatly amazed. The training given via his son and great-grandson, that we are receiving today, is the first indication that someone out there is most definitely NOT hiding anything from us and is genuinely teaching, in a very quiet, purposefull manner, what I've heard referred to as the "real deal".
I think those of us fortunate enough to be training with the certified Yang Cheng Fu Centers under the guidance of Grand Master Yang Zhen Duo and Master Yang Jun are the luckiest Tai Chi Chuan practicioners in the world. These guys don't blow sunshine up your wazoo and tell tall tales of daring do by some Master of the past or great uncle of renown to beguile all of us into complacency, they are instead moving forward and teaching at a consistent, even pace in the best possible way they know how.
Yang Cheng Fu did something that no other past Master had yet done. He standardized the system of teaching that had been handed down to him piecemeal (hey, I can't spell, so sue me) by his predecessors. He took the teachings of his family, that I'm sure came down to him one bit at a time, a piece here, a bit there, and he put it all together into what he, with his many years of training and hands on experience, felt was the best possible way for future generations of students to learn the art he was the lineage holder of. He taught this method to so many people, so well, that his name is still legendary to this day in the martial circles world wide. His students and sons have gone on to continue training their students and sons in this same manner. Selflessly and with great patience for the snarky masses who find it necessary to denigrate what they cannot understand, these sons of YCF have been doing this for longer than I've been alive and they have passed that attitude, skill and transmission style on down to the current lineage holder of the Yang family name. He, in turn, has gone on to establish the Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan Centers, mandated levels of training to teach at these Centers, and is still moving forward with the plan his great-grandfather came up with long before he was born.
Does one need push hands to learn martial apps? Absolutely not.
Does one need push hands to learn the real meaning of Tai Chi Chuan, martial, health, all of it? Absolutely.
One can be an excellent martial artist, and still have no idea what push hands even is. So "necessary". No. An excellent training tool to help you learn the real meaning of TCC?
Without a doubt.
How do I know this? Because Yang Cheng Fu, Yang Sau Chung, Yang Zhen Ji, Yang Zhen Duo, Yang Zhen Guo and Yang Jun all have said so and continue to say it is.
That's good enough for me.
One day, I'll even uderstand why. Right now though, all I need to know is that the guys who allready know why say it's so.
Again, that's good enough for me and it should be good enough for anyone with common sense.
How many of these guys who go around saying snarky things about Yang Cheng Fu's skill level have ever squared off with the man?
That's about how many I thought. None. So until they can put someone in front of me who has crossed hands with Yang Cheng Fu and beaten him, with documentation to prove it, I'm not too interested in what their assesment of his skill level might be.
I'll just keep doing as our Grand Master and Master Yang Jun tell me to do. And I will continue to do so even if, by some miracle, someone with the authority do do so puts the word "Master" in front of my name. Because these guys family were Masters of TCC LONG before I was a gleam in my daddies eye, or anyone else alive in this world today for that matter. Their families made sure they got the whole transmission, and now they are being kind enough to teach that to the rest of us.
Let the nay sayers say what they will. Who cares? For my part, I will listen to the guys whose lives have been dedicated to passing on this art to the rest of us.
There's my rant for the day. Sorry if I carried on a bit.