If you are new to the world of Asian culture and martial arts it will seem a little strange to talk about things like "Lineage" and "Credentials" - especially with respect to TaiChi.

Why Credentials?
The fast paced world we live in is full of imitations and superficial "eye candy" substitutes for the "real thing." We buy beautiful looking fruit and get home to find it is tasteless. Go on an Asian holiday and you will find that "Rolex" watches sell for US$10 (if you haggle) in Penang outside the Snake Temple! Now and again we hear of University lecturers or Corporate Managers getting sacked after a belated background check shows that their Certificates, though real, derive from impressive sounding Universities that don't really teach.

Dedicated Chen style Beginner (China)!

Most people we deal with are well-meaning and relatively sincere and open. However it is a hectic, crowded world we live in and it runs on "spin", "hype" and exaggeration along with superficiality, self-deception and wishful thinking in ourselves and others. The sad fact is that when we are "green newbies" (even when we deal with sincere people) the end result can be the same - we get "short-changed" and less than what we expected. So newbies have to be wary and an awareness of a teacher's credentials can help reduce the risk of time wasting mistakes.

A Beginner, almost by definition, lacks the experience necessary to easily judge the true value of a proposed puchase or committed endeavour whether it be the buying of a first car, a packaged World Trip - or joining a TaiChi Club.

The above, in varying degrees, are precious investments of your time, hard-work and even money. You want some degree of confidence that in 12 months time you will feel that you have not squandered your precious resources - that your watch still works and gives accurate time, that your new house is sound, that your teacher really knows their stuff. Unfortunately a Beginner, left to his/her own resources, will only get this sort of experience when it is too late for regrets!

Senior Citizens Class Howick 2003

Of course the savvy beginner, before any big endeavour/purchase, tends to enquire as to...
(1) the reputation of the seller;
(2) drag along someone with experience to advise them;
(3) apply their own common sense, intelligence and limited experience as best they can to the issue at hand.

A teacher's credentials or reputation can help you make an informed decision as to the first two of the three criteria just mentioned. You may like to read our lengthy article on "How to Pick a Good TaiChi Teacher." to learn other ways. Keep in mind that even good credentials are not an iron-clad guarantee of a good teacher but they are a jolly good starting point!

Isn't this a bit too serious?
Of course you might not care a hoot about learning genuine Traditional Chen style TaiChi! Maybe you just want a light hearted, low impact, group form of exercise which looks good, has unique health benefits and motivates you to keep it up. Well that's fair enough and you need not go into all this lineage/credentials stuff because almost any TaiChi, superficial or otherwise, will do a lot of this for you.

Yet we find that some people have de-motivating experiences with many TaiChi clubs because they feel they aren't "going anywhere" or lose confidence in their teacher's real skill level or teaching ability. Further, the full range of TaiChi health benefits cannot be aquired by learning the superficial "outer" movements. Someone with genuine traditional theory, skill and long experience needs to show you how to learn the "internal" movements - which is an Art.

World TaiChi Day (Auckland 2003)

TaiChi, especially Chen style (the original parent one), is regarded by Chinese not simply as a "martial art" but also as a cultural Art Form of the highest level. This ancient and practical Chinese learning regarding the human body and its defence, its movement and energy efficiency, its fitness and health - is as much a distillation of human wisdom as that knowledge collected and held by European Universities and Medical Schools or by professional Artists and Dancers. Even professional dancers seek out traditional Tai Chi teachers to enhance and balance their Western techniques.

So if you are going to take up TaiChi why not receive the full range of benefits (including its deepest artistry and health aspects) by learning the genuine traditional skills and techniques. You may like to read more from "What is Chen Style?"

Of Chen Village, "Lineage" and "Generation."
If you have read through the "What is Chen Style?" FAQ (frequently asked questions) you will understand that what is now called "TaiChi" evolved in Chen Village China. This remote village is still the "cradle" of the parent TaiChi form known as "Chen" style. It is full of highly experienced TaiChi enthusiasts and Masters - some of whom teach full time and pass on their hard learnt wisdom and experience to both Chinese and overseas students. TaiChi lovers from around the world regularly seek out this old fashioned village or its travelling Masters (eg the "Four Tigers") for extended periods of live-in training or workshops.

Chen Fa-ke

Chen style is no longer a secret art and has been taught openly since the 1928 (Beijing). However one must understand that, for practical reasons of time, student numbers, differences in student ability and bonds of affection, that the fullest teaching and the passing on of the highest knowledge cannot be communicated to everybody who learns. Masters tend to make extra commitments of time and energy to formally chosen students ("direct disciples"). Such "direct disciples" are chosen to be authentic "flag-bearers" or rallying points of a Master's tradition to assist yet another new generation of Tai Chi enthusiasts. Every newly recognised teacher becomes the next generation in a line of discipleship extending back many known generations.

"Chen Fa-ke" was a 17th Generation Chen Master (of the highest martial skill and repute - being handsome also helped). As he was also the oldest son in the leading family of Chen village he was by that reason the chief "standard bearer" of the family Chen Taichi Tradition.

Zhu Tian Cai (Auckland 2004)

Two of his senior students (also family members) dedicated their lives to passing on the Chen Teaching. They taught that group of Chen Village lads (and many others) now known as the "Four Tigers". They are now 19th Generation Masters and are the present living Standard Bearers of the Chen Village tradition.

Our club belongs to the lineage passed down by one of these Four Tigers (Zhu Tian Cai).

In conclusion, there is some helpfulness in a teacher being able to demonstrate connection to the Chen Village Masters or at least to a past Master of known repute and high standing. If a teacher can also demonstrate the depth of their association with this Master that strengthens their credibility further.