I've put in my time and tried to implement the advice and instruction of a variety of teachers over the decades. It's also true that I have spent considerable time teaching other people's training methods and taiji forms [that's called "getting a good foundation". For many years, I tried to copy them in detail, to the best of my ability; however nowadays I am also as likely to practise solo forms and training methods that I have modified slightly as seems sensible to me in my physical twilight as opposed to those that I feel obliged to do simply because "that's the way I learned them".
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I have also modified some of the modern forms that I practise and teach but I am not talking about just making things up or passing off what I do as having been taught to me by some little-known master who happened to think I was "worthy of learning this secret material". I'll be blunt -- especially in martial terms -- if the material is too deadly to be practised or a little-known secret technique; than it's most likely bullshit in combative terms!
You could also argue that every martial system has started as somebody's "making things up" but I don't believe that I have that kind of genius or broad experience so I keep my changes modest. I simplify rather than change whenever possible. It helps that I am no longer associated with any teacher in their organizations so it is less necessary to do a standardized curriculum. I think I've earned the right to do this small amount of "personalization" after all these years of sweat, teaching and paying my dues in the way of injuries both minor and lasting [there's a price to pay for anything worth having!]
Oh, and it should be noted that I won't teach some of these solo forms to just anyone... they are mine "my preciousssss" and not suitable for beginners who should always learn the best traditional or authentic solo forms and training methods to which they can find access. That's the way to build a foundation: good materials, good design and good workmanship to build something that has substance and will last... and will support whatever fancy additions you may add later on.
It's also a good idea to remember the words of the 19thC American essayist, lecturer, philosopher, and poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson who wrote “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” That's as true in tai chi and bagua as it is in any other endeavour. You have to be enthusiastic about building your foundation and continue to feel that way even if your first effort collapses as a result of the first bad weather it encounters.
Copyright © Michael A. Babin, 2019