Hard hats indeed! Just my 2 cents, but at least this is a worthwhile discussion, I feel, of what we all do and how we try to do it.
And thank you for explaining the reasons why you don't lean! You are not alone in your opinion, although your fears as regards leaning are unjustified in my experience.
A point I didn't address earlier, Wu Chien-ch'uan's forms are a bit different from YCF's. The leaning is more pronounced. We still do train WCC's forms in our school, it is just that Wu Kung-yi's (or one very close to it) is taught first.
Wu Ch'uan-yu was the first one to introduce the Manchurian wrestling tradition, but it is done in STRICT accordance with T'ai Chi principles. Those principles really do help the effectiveness of the throwing game. Why should I hit someone with my fist when I can hit them with the floor? You don't throw, we throw, and no one has been able to stop us, even professional throwers. I have several former Aikido and Judo students, black belts, in my classes, and they are impressed with our groundwork, to say the least.
So not all leaning disqualifies a style from being somehow true to T'ai Chi, just the Wu style? Other styles have justified exceptions each time, but not Wu style?You've agreed that other styles do lean sometimes at least. Wu style just works it a little more. The Ch'en Fa-k'e photo that I saw was a very low sitting posture (even for Ch'en style!) rather like Snake Creeps Down, except he had one fist at his waist, Shaolin-style. He was leaning forward over his extended knee. If there are exceptions, many, documented, exceptions (heck, even Cheng Man-ch'ing leaned forward a few times, Step Forward and Punch Down comes to mind) why are they only for what you seem to think are non-leaning styles?
The Ch'en family, Yang family and Sun family (I've got a few photos of them all together like one big happy family, did they not mean it? Could they all be insincere?) did and do recognize Wu style as not just T'ai Chi Ch'uan, but an orthodox training style of same, and FWIW so has three successive Chinese governments in the last 100 years.
In the Wu style walking that I train, I can step backward quite well with all my weight on the forward leg. I even train the same step as a rearward heel kick. Comfortably (for me, at least!). And of course we go to vertical in the stepping. We train vertically at least as much as we do in an inclination. How did you get the idea that the leans are exclusively what we train? We "leaners" do everything that you do, and more, apparently. The walking is only two of the five directions, forward and back. It isn't for stepping to the side, Cloud Hands, Nine Palace, Ta Lu etc. are among the many stepping patterns we would train for that. I could step to the side FROM the walking quickly and comfortably, it just wouldn't be the walking anymore, it would then be some other pattern.
I quite agree with you about Push Hands competitions, your statement makes complete sense to me now. Competitions in general are a pain in the posterior. The technique required to decide a contest, technique in accordance with proper training, technique that we train to the point that it will be simple reflex, will almost always get us disqualified. Why bother? The late Wu Ying-hua told me once, when asked about it, that tournaments were mostly tolerated for promoting the school, or for a hobby, nothing more.
And for immobilizing the feet, the primary reason to do it is training, not fighting, to loosen the musculature, and stretch the legs evenly. I would never do any sort of freestyle like that, unless it was one very specific closing strategy in sparring. The parallel business is a specific training.
Ma Yueh-liang may have twisted his spine, I don't know. Wu Ying-hua's form that I saw didn't twist her spine. Also, in the Hong Kong style there is no twisting of the spine.
So, if a judgment of what is real T'ai Chi or not depends on a book, I guess that, personally, I will choose to believe Wu Kung-tsao's book over the one that you prefer. He (and his sister, son, nephews, niece, grand-nephew and grand-nieces) has made a better case to me, I'm afraid, than you have been able to. His commentary on the documents Yang Pan-hou gave to Wu Ch'uan-yu, supplementing the original documents themselves, is the Wu family standard. The Gold Book is a guideline, nothing more, and quite useless without a qualified teacher to physically demonstrate the principles mentioned therein.
Healthy conflict? The 5 families' mutual respect isn't healthy? Wow, I had no idea. It really sounds like you are saying that you would like to somehow directly impose your own personal view of T'ai Chi purity on what you believe to be the heterodox approaches of others to T'ai Chi Ch'uan training. You are espousing, nay inciting, the non-leaning faithful to rise up and physically coerce everyone in T'ai Chi Ch'uan whom you disagree with to train exactly as you would have them train or quit? Hmmmm. My definition, at least, of "healthy" conflict in this regard would be a conflict in self-defense, applying my technical abilities in order to maintain MY health in the face of what would be just such an apparently irrational, unprovoked threat. Your professed attitude, nonexistent in the traditional T'ai Chi families and their direct senior students, seems a little macho around the edges. Unfortunately, it is a very common positioning in this world, and is very likely to be just the reason that T'ai Chi Ch'uan was formulated as a martial art in the first place. It strikes me as an attitude that you brought with you to your training, an attitude that you would not have learned from the Ch'en, Yang, Wu, Hao or Sun families themselves, by your own admission.
If you are serious about desiring such a conflict, the Wu family are still very much in the public eye around the world. So you should certainly look up Sifu Eddie Wu. I'm sure he'd love to have you show him how what he is teaching violates real T'ai Chi principles. Maybe then he'll get a real job!
[This message has been edited by Polaris (edited 05-31-2003).]