Fake Tai Chi Masters Rant

There seems to be an awful lot of fake tai chi masters out there and ironically most of the time they claim to be part of some elite lineage or “secret style”, one of the more recent ones i found

now to this guys credit he seems genuinely knowledgeable about chinese history, but his tai chi is cringeworthy to say the least.

I wonder if they realize they are practising bullshido and their teacher was probably a hack as well but they double down because they have enough gullible students, or if they really believe they are practising legit tai chi.

Most of the time these fakes tend to be the more vocal as well, writing long blogs about how their style is the correct one and other styles are fake, or in this case claiming to be the last “true chinese swordsmanship” i guess it is a strange way of self promotion.

Why is it that Tai Chi attracts so many fakes? it seems more so than other martial arts, is it because of the relative obscurity and lack of legit tai chi teachers in the west that it’s easy for frauds to set up a school and no one to call them out on it?

Whereas with more popular styles like BJJ and Karate there’s more competition from legit schools and more of a standardized system that makes it easier to discern frauds from the real thing?

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It’s cultural. If you confront people and threaten to unleash the real taiji, they’ll tell you not to do it. Both the real and the fraud are all from “secret” styles. It is pressure tested by heavy competition, but if you approach that community they’ll deliberately bullshit you and urge you to keep it BS as well.

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What about it is cringeworthy exactly? Traditional styles can (and often do) look crappy. If that’s his thing, then we should talk about lineage and stuff. Or do you think there’s something more to make it legit?

I can talk about history, but I don’t know much about traditional Taijijian technique. There might be some in my school, but I didn’t learn any yet, so my experience is limited to standard IWuF/CWA forms. If you’re comparing Rodell’s form to that, then yeah, it doesn’t fit the criteria for superior performance in championships. I would give him some points for the low leg stand, but his foot touched the ground (second video ~55s).

If you’re talking about the video with Kisu Stars, those techniques can be found even in standard taijijian routines – they’re probably “lan”, “jie” and “mo” jian.

I agree with the other points you raised and I want to discuss them, but let’s talk about “legit TJQ” first, shall we?

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His lineage is " Yangjia Michuan Taiji Quan", it claims to be the only “true” yang tai chi that was created by Yang Luchan and only taught it to 1 person, who then thought it to only 1 person, who then taught it to one person, and that person taught it to scott, and according to this style all the other yang tai chi is fake. (lol)

The forms look terrible like he got caught in a tourist trap and they taught him some fake pseudo tai chi without teaching any of the principles.

The “sparring” videos are all fake (look how the spear doesn’t even try to hit him) and show incredibly poor techniques like offhand next to swordhand and facing the enemy with the chest instead of the side exposing your whole body as a wider target as well as not being able to lunge because of it.

He’s probably not the worst of the fakes but i got in an argument with a student of him yesterday who tried to tell me that his school is one of the only remaining true martial tai chi schools, which i found most amusing after looking up the school and teacher in question.

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That’s classic bull crap coming from unsuspecting students, yes. Big McDojo vibes coming from that. That alone is shitty enough.

Anyway, Rodell claims his master was Wang Yen-Nien. There are other students of master Wang elsewhere, and Michuan TJQ seems to be well established in Taiwan. Lineage is pretty short too and kinda easy to look into, so I believe Rodell’s link to the lineage is probably legit.

However, I suspect this “only remaining true martial tai chi school” talk could have a political background – given the infamous “one country, two systems” thing and how master Wang’s school seems to be well-articulated in Taiwan, maybe his school got caught in the middle of the dispute about which China is best China, hence the “true gongfu” crap. (It wouldn’t be the first time in history stuff like this happened with TJQ, actually. Back in the 17th century, Huang Zonxi wrote an eulogy to a master of “internal” martial arts called Wang Zhengnan, citing the origins of said arts in Chinese Daoism, while leaving serious overtones of resentment against the Manchu rulers, i.e. foreign rulers. Stanley Henning wrote about that much better than I could possibly explain. His articles are available online and in print)

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perhaps the lineage is legit all the way back to Yang Luchan, but perhaps it is not, a short look at even wikipedia already raises a big question mark and the “secret style” BS smells of McDojo like you say:

the page on Zhang Qinlin (teacher of Wang Yen-Nien) says that Zhang was trained by Yang Chengfu/Jianhou (unclear who was teaching him)

" There he began his martial arts studies with [Yang Chengfu] under the supervision of his father, [Yang Jianhou]. During the initial years of Zhang’s training with Chengfu, he was only taught the publicly known elements of the Yang style disseminated to students outside the Yang family. After Zhang successful fought a challenge match against a famous martial artist from southern [China], Wan Mou, the elder Yang decided the young student had earned the right to learn the [Yangjia Michuan] teachings."

But then the page on Yangjia Michuan Taiji Quan says he was trained by Yang Chien-hou with no mention of Chengfu/Jianhou

Also funny that his page mentions that the teacher withheld the true teachings from him for the first years, so even if the lineage is legit I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that many legit teachers withheld the true teachings from westerners (like scott and so many others i can name: Dan Docherty for example Dan Docherty Tai Chi demonstration - YouTube or Walter Toch Exclusive GM Walter Toch selfdefense from Taiji Chen live ! - YouTube) they did not deem worthy and perhaps this is why we end up with so many fake westerner teachers that have a legit lineage but none of the skill to back it up.

Another interesting note about the above is that they all happen to be westerners from the same generation (started training in the 80s when kung fu suddenly became popular and westerners travelled to the east for training), again I don’t find it a stretch to think that they were taken advantage of by being taught bullshido in return for their western money, after all they had no standard to judge the kung fu by because it was such a novel thing.

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Conflicting info may be a sign of McDojo, but not always. IMO, if the lineage is legit, the worst problem is out of the way. That being said, there’s still the problem of them selling their product as the only true martial (?) TJQ. If that’s really the case, wow, I just have no words LOL

I watched the videos you linked. Taiji demos are shit. If they just showed the standard trad form or some yang xiaojia it would be much more interesting. In this day and age you either gong sau or you don’t. You either own your shit and teach student how to fight with full resistance, or you don’t. Chen Ziqiang and other good coaches kick serious ass in tuishou. Good TJQ practitioners can wrestle pretty good. That’s the way I try do it too, at least.

I guess I’m circling back to the other point you raised in the original post. People get hypnotized by some weird TJQ coaches because Taiji is old chinese magic gymnastics that’s also a “secret super weapon fo da streetz”.

I have to argue that, despite being a martial art first and foremost, Taijiquan is extremely efficient as a therapy, of course. However, if you want to market your stuff as effective for self-defense, SOME aliveness is absolutely necessary. Wrestling rules for Tuishou training would be a good start. Hell, even fixed-step Tuishou would be a good start.

Another problem is we don’t usually see a lot of people really interested in TJQ for martial application. In my experience, the people who do Taiji and get interested in combat often take up Sanda or Shuai Jiao, or both. With the guys who trained with me, I would go over forms just as a warm up, some wrestling and shuai jiao basics, some clinch swimming, then tuishou sparring, free-step, like they do in Taiwan. It looked a bit like lazy freestyle wrestling but we did our best. Anyways, it never took long for people to completely switch to taiji forms only or Sanda and Shuai Jiao only.

I wrote all this crap just to say that some coaches will go where the money is, and it looks like most people want to live the dream of chinese magic gymnastics that’s also a “secret super weapon for da streetz” – it’s all esoteric bull crap, and people love it as much as they love to snort snake oil, or essential oil or whatever. And the people looking for effective martial arts are already taking up BJJ and boxing – they see no point in taking part of the struggle that is making TJQ a martial art that can be used in live settings and MMA (or “rebuilding” it, maybe). One can argue that if it just turns into lazy freestyle wrestling mixed with shuai jiao, why bother with it if there’s already Judo, BJJ, Sambo etc? That, of course, is a question for serious practitioners of TJQ (as a martial art) to answer. We either do something about it, or it won’t make sense to call it a martial art anymore. Me, I like it too much to give up on it, that’s why I keep trying.


I’ll wade into this as a student of so many “this is the style” styles, including Tai Chi, but I’ll be concise.

Legit Tai Chi works wonders, when performed in the right place at the right time. The iinternet is never the right place or the right time.

This was the first time I’ve seem someone’s demo using Jian vs. long spear, but my first impression was the dude with just the Jian is royally fucked no matter how good his Tai Chi is.

Anyway, my justification for this is based on a combination of Shaolin staff fighting technique, range, and ability. Gordon Liu, this guy is clearly not. But he’s trying to be, that’s what’s important. Maybe he’ll luck out and actually pick a fight someday.


nice rant, while i do agree that taiji (especially the wudang/shaolin brands) tends to attract a ton of “secret super weapon for da streetz” type people and is often too shrouded in mysticism and new age snake oil, i also think that legit tai chi has some value for self defense and has the benefit that practising tai chi is very low impact which important for longevity, but these skills develop more slowly than external style like bjj and mma.

And because it is a martial art based around harmony and inner peace i think if it is used offensively “super weapon for da streetz” that the intent and mindset will be wrong and therefore the execution will suffer as well, on top of that the legit tai chi masters seem to be very humble, quiet and respectable people which is probably also part of the reason why we do not see tai chi masters compete in MMA tournaments, they already achieved inner peace and have nothing to prove. (although i’m sure some MMA artists do tai chi on the side and noticed positive benefits on their MA in general from it)

This sounds like nonsense. It should develop about as quickly as BJJ if you just do the tai chi.

sorry i might have worded it poorly, the point i was trying to make is that a 1 year amateur boxer will probably win against a 1 year tai chi student, but the outcome might be different if both study for 20 years.

something like “easy to learn, hard to master” might apply to boxing, but “easy to learn” probably doesn’t really apply to tai chi.

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Tai Chi is one of the oldest martial arts to reference physics, recognizing that for every action there’s an equal and opposite whatever.

"When Chuang-tzu was dying, his disciples wanted to give him a lavish funeral. Said Chuang-tzu

‘I have heaven and earth for my outer and inner coffin, the sun and moon for my pair of jade discs, the stars for my pearls, the myriad creatures for my farewell presents. Is anything missing from my funeral paraphernalia? What will you add to these?’

‘Master, we are afraid that the crows and the kites will eat you.’

‘Above ground, I’ll be eaten by the crows and kites; below ground, I’ll be eaten by the ants and molecrickets. You rob the one of them to give to the other; how come you like them so much better?’ "

No. In one year the tai chi guy should be able to beat the boxer. Its not a hard style and it doesn’t take twenty years to learn. I could teach you combat tai chi in like six months.

that’s the first time i’ve heard that, what is the name of your school and what style do you teach?

I don’t have one. But I teach taiji chin na if I wish to display it or if people ask. You just run it like dirty greco and it shreds limbs. I also like crane for similar reasons. Yes, it works against BJJ black belts.

who was your teacher? do you have any videos? genuinely interested.

I started with a DVD tbh. If you know how to grapple, you just run it. Its just another wrestling style. If you chill on the mats and just run it without mentally saying NOW SWITCHING TO SHITTY TAI CHI it’ll work. No one does that with folkstyle.

I don’t have any videos of it though. It just looks like weird judo anyways. Great style standing or on the ground for people who like to grapple.

I’ve always been impressed with Chen ZiQiang 陳自強.

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LOL. I’ve read this one before.
This is pure gold.

  • Do you have any advice on how students can cultivate their dantian?

Students should not try too hard to cultivate their dantian. This is something that comes with practice and cannot be done just through their conscious will. If you practise taiji regularly, your awareness of the dantian will gradually appear with time. For example, the sun and the moon rise naturally every day without your effort. If they don’t appear, you shouldn’t make yourself exhausted or worried about it. It should always happen naturally.


He’s great.

Nice article. There’s so many people obsessed with the dantian thing that I couldn’t help but laugh. I believe he’s basically saying: “just shut up and train, stop obsessing over this”.

But my favorite part of the interview was this one:
“[…] if people regard taiji just as a health exercise, they don’t understand taijiquan. If you want to learn real taiji, there is no distinction between methods of training to develop the martial aspect or to improve your health. The two are one and the same. If people think taiji is something other than a martial art, it just shows that they misunderstand the whole concept.”

He’s a good fighter – I believe he’s more than competent to back those words.

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