HEBRON, CT Could Don Tien, central driving force of Taiji boxing for untold years, in fact be dead? That is the question which today vexes Taiji boxing authorities and practitioners the world over. Though there is no substantiated evidence of The Don's death, and though authorities continue to insist that The Don's leadership is still being strongly felt, yet the rumors persist.
The most persistent and persuasive of the rumors of The Don's death have been emanating from pastoral Hebron, Connecticut, where New Frame, a radical break-away faction of the oldest of the Taiji boxing families, recently established a branch headquarters of the syndicate, often referred to facetiously as a "school."
New Frame is not a new movement. It has been around since the mid-twentieth century. The principles and practices of New Frame (also known as Xin Jia) were developed by Chen "The Master" Fa-Ke, for the sole purpose of forcing the taiji boxing community to rethink all aspects of power distribution from within. From the beginning, New Frame called into question the role and importance of Don Tien as a leader, and, while conceding that The Don has a role to play, they have been adamant in demanding that the role be de-emphasized and redefined.
Radical though the thinking of New Frame was perceived to be, the movement always maintained a low profile, quietly promoting its new way of thinking, patiently working to gain acceptance within the established tenets of the taiji boxing community, working to retain friendly relations until recently.
Now, with the idea of The Don's death gaining acceptance, the time seems ripe for considering change in both thinking and leadership, and New Frame has seized the opportunity to make its presence and its controversial ideas felt. Their signature cry of "Xiao jie ling jing!" (lead with the extremities) is being heard with increasing frequency throughout the Taiji boxing community, infiltrating into even the most conservative purlieus of the Art.
New Frame is shaping up as a force to be reckoned with, and many of the old
guard among the community find the New Framers and their constant talk of The Don's alleged death a source of frustration and disquiet.
One particularly unsettling presence is reputed capo regime of the New England "school" of New Frame, known, appropriately, as "Teach" Sanchez so called because of his scholarly demeanor and the delight he exhibits when quickly and thoroughly "educating" those who are ignorant of the principles and practices of the New Frame movement. "The Don has been dead for years," he states emphatically. "Xiao jie ling jing, that's what I teach."
When asked if he could produce proof that Don Tien is dead, Sanchez would say only, "Isn't it obvious?"
Sanchez's "Seventh Gate," widely known as "Joey the Wall," had this to say: "When Teach told me The Don was dead, I didn't believe it. But, hey, they don't call him 'Teach' for nothing, right? I'm convinced."
Other members of Sanchez's growing coterie echo Joey's sentiments, but it's the newest member, Tony, "The Engineer," in whose words The Don and his supporters will find much reason for concern. "Hey, how important can this Don Tien be?," Tony asked. "Before Joey brought me into the school, I never even heard of the guy. Is he dead? How do I know? But, yeah, Teach says so, and I believe him. You know what I think? Even if he ain't dead, he's history!"
Dead or not, The Don's power and influence will continue to be felt throughout Taiji boxing for years to come. The Don still has legions of supporters world-wide, and it will take more than unsubstantiated rumors to change that.