In an earlier blog I had mentioned the idea that knowing the three internal arts to their completeness wasn't a realistic goal. I didn't mention that my master and myself have learned all three of the styles. After all, the movements themselves are so similar that some of the movements are almost mirrors of each other. So what makes it so difficult to know all three styles?
I wouldn't dare to tell the masters who claim to know all three styles that they are not legitimate in their teachings. Information wise if given enough time all of the techniques of every style can be learned. But there is a difference between learning a technique and knowing a technique. What my master mentioned before was no one could ever fully know the three arts. It would be the same as someone claiming they have three wives and know them all the same level of depth. Or a doctor who is a heart surgeon performing a surgery on the brain.
The reason being that even the three styles are very similar in mechanics, they are very different in application. Bagua uses the step to initiate every movement be it attack, defense or even a stationary step. You can stay in the same place to reflect or divert energy just as in Taichi, but many of the Bagua methods of dealing with a problem would seem to be "risky" maneuvers as far as Taichi is concerned. Also using Bagua with a Taichi mentality will cripple the possibilities of your Bagua's growth in development. Though in the beginning the arts may all seem the same, to go deeper in any of the arts you must make a choice. A tree can have many branches, but it can only have one trunk.
In a time of actual combat you will see that the masters who "know" all three of the arts actually favor one philosophy over the other. Combat in a sense is the only way to know how much an individual truly knows. Usually a master will feel comfortable with just a few movements when it comes time to battle.
That being said it doesn't mean that someone isn't able to teach you the seeds of the three arts. Just as an olympic coach can teach an athlete to far exceed his own ability because he is able to give the seeds and training necessary for growth. However no olympic athlete would be able to exceed in gymnastics and swimming on a professional level.
My master being the successor of the 5th generation of Gao Bagua has a responsibility of knowing all of the movements in the lineage. His father began training at 8 years old and taught for 40 years before passing away and leaving the art to his son. The earlier generations of martial arts masters didn't have a job in addition to their training. Meaning that they had an entire 24 hours to perfect and truly know the movements of the style. With thousands of movements to be practiced millions of times is there really time to know more styles? Only if you live to be 500 years old.