…is a sentiment that is very much alive in real life, not just in old B movies.

An old joke goes, “How many tai chi players does it take to screw in a light bulb? Only one, but it takes 99 others to stand around and lament, ‘That’s not how we do it.'”

Maybe it’s because of its martial background, maybe it’s due to cultural influences, but for whatever reason, something about tai chi seems to lend itself to judgmental comparisons. There is something of a fixation with which styles, techniques, or teachers are most “correct”, “authentic”, or “effective”.

The thing is, the art of tai chi is self-correcting. The best teachers will develop the most influence, regardless of any judgments anybody makes about anybody else.

Another thing is, tai chi is different things to different people, and that’s okay. If tai chi spreads, it will be because of the benefits it provides, which is something that we all should support and encourage. More people practicing and teaching tai chi, even if it is not up to some particular standards of purity or rigor, makes the world a better place. Worrying about the dilution of the art is about as silly as worrying about gay marriage undermining the “traditional” family.

There will always be purists and dedicated experts who will preserve the ancient wisdom, which is as it should be. And the greatest benefit will come not from elite orders training secretly behind closed doors, but from passionate evangelists spreading the practice as widely as possible and bringing its benefits to the greatest possible numbers of people. And, as always, the art will continue to evolve.

One of the most notable modern tai chi evangelists, Bill Douglas, founder of World Tai Chi & Qigong Day, wrote about this in a recent newsletter:

“The more we can work together, the more we will expand Tai Chi and Qigong, which is why it is so important not to aggrandize these arts for ego, but for the betterment of global society at a time when stress is rattling people apart.”

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