I get a lot of feedback and questions regarding this topic. How can I see that my Wudang school is traditional or real? Is Wudang too much commercial like Shaolin? How can I identify real Wudang tradition? Let’s take a look closely:
Wudang is not Wudang
There are three main groups which have separate teachings and different philosophies. Sanfengpai is 100% focused on traditional Taoism teachings. While Xuanwupai and Longmenpai can show signs of Neo-Confucianism. Which is not a bad thing at all, one must decide for himself what you want to learn. Sanfengpai is usually a little more expensive than the others because they also have a bigger reputation in Wudangshan.
Why do I have to pay? Is there no free monastery?
Wudang temples are a part of Chinese government. Wudang schools are however private institutions. Foreigners are forbidden to become Taoist priests and in the temples there is no Kung Fu training for priests. The official Taoist association is only available for Chinese people. Wudang schools are not supported by the government. You have to pay for everything, so the school can continue to live on.
Chinese students pay half price
This is true for most Wudang schools and it is no secret. Chinese people usually pay less than 40-50% of the normal price. Every school has a slightly different pricing and in most cases the Chinese students also need to work for the school. Collecting firewood, cleaning the school, washing or preparing food are some examples. Chinese people think that foreigners are very rich and so they tend to raise the prices for foreigners.
Traditional class vs foreigner class
Traditional classes are a teaching concept based on old Chinese principles. You might be familiar with it watching Kung Fu movies like Jackie Chan. Foreigners usually cannot take traditional classes because it is feared to be too harsh and inhuman for someone out of Chinese culture. There were some experiments with foreigners in traditional classes but most of them failed and did not provide the expected results because of the lack of discipline. Foreigner classes are usually a lot more easy-going and the results need much longer time or can never be achieved at all. Three years in a traditional class might be considered equal to 10 years in a foreigner class, but if the student lacks the discipline he might never be able to develop a certain degree of skill. In most cases the long-term foreigners get financial support by their parents and lack the mental preparation for traditional training. There are usually better results if the student saved the money on his own and prepared himself mentally for a long time.
Fancy movements vs traditional movements
There are some Wudang school which focus on performances and some focus on traditional movements. For beginners this is hard to distinguish. Performance based schools usually do a lot of flapping with the body, while the internal is mostly empty. The whole appearance looks very restless. Traditional movements are based from stillness and go with the Tai Chi principles. Also in strong and fast movements you can see a proper control in every step. The difference is that performance based movements are much easier to learn and do not focus on proper gravity shifting like in Tai Chi. In the traditional movements everything is controlled by the Dantian (energy-center).
Wudang is not something you can find by traveling to Wudangshan. The real teachings will not be presented to you on a plate. The essence of Wudang you can only find in your heart. There are some traditional schools but most of them are very careful towards foreigners. Only because you paid a lot of money do not expect them to open up to you. The progress is only depending on yourself even if you happen to be in a more commercialized school. If you are planning to be a long-term student you should learn Chinese and take a little interest in Chinese culture and history. Wudang is at risk to go down the same path as Shaolin. Wudang martial arts is not something that should look overly fancy, it is a practice for yourself and should not focus on appealing to the outside.