Q: : If you train under a family "name" (e.g. Yang), are you guaranteed to inherit the knowledge of the forms and the internal principles of Tai Chi Chuan, and attain the level of understanding of the predecessors of that family?
A: : There is no doubt that training under an auspicious name provides a degree of radiance and bragging rights with respect to the system practiced. But, does it guaranty the understanding of the absolute principles of Tai Chi Chuan? In Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan, one has to understand the principle of "Peng Jing" energy & its martial aspects. Knowing many chuan forms, chi gong forms, etc., without the understanding the "Principles (Chuan Fa)", means very little in Tai Chi Chuan.
As I have said many times before, Peng Jing is the key to Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan. Everything that we do (chuan forms, push hands, chi gong forms, & solo exercises) is intended to cultivate chi & nurture Peng Jing.
Of course, family bloodline members of a particular "name" system may argue that, as a family member, they necessarily receive all the information & knowledge of that system. Furthermore, they may argue that, because they are a family bloodline member, we should automatically assume that they know and understand both the forms & the principles. Again, from my own experience, that one has inherited a good portion or all of the system & the methods does not guaranty one will fully understand the inherent principles of the system. Additionally, I have seen that training many years with a master doesn't guaranty an understanding of the essence of the master's system. At one time, I, too, thought that being a family bloodline member or a long time disciple would offer a greater chance of attaining the true understanding of the principles & the skills, but my belief was unraveled awhile back.
Attaining the true understanding of Tai Chi Chuan can only be guaranteed by studying with a knowledgeable (forms) & skillful (chuan fa) master. However, of equal importance, one's study must be dedicated and true. The student must be both faithful and honest, patient and display great perseverance. One day's practice can only produce one day's gain. But with many days of proper practice....
Sadly enough, these days it seems many potential students and current practitioners, be it due to the rampant commercialism of tai chi chuan or simply due to limited exposure to honest men who themselves lack the understanding of the true principles, only care about finding a school with a family "name" itself, rather than a school that strives to proliferate the knowledge and understanding for which the family was famed in the first place.
What's in a name?