COMPARISONS ARE DIFFICULT
It is hard to compare a teacher from one school with one from another. In some schools a teacher may only know the short form, i.e. simplified "24" form or Cheng "37" form. Others may know the long form, weapons and pushing hands. The number of forms one knows may not be meaningful either. I have seen those who just practiced and taught the short Cheng Man-ching form who had exquisite skills, they had first rate pushing hands skills and did a excellent subtle form. Then there are those doing long forms and those who have studied a dozen other forms, i.e., "Form Collectors", who were sloppy and technically deficient, with no real skill.
What does that mean? More is not necessarily better. "Form Collectors" usually have sloppy technique in the terms of all their forms start looking alike, even if they are not supposed to. Some have good overall skill and may be good at sparring or pushing hands. Learning a system is the better method, i.e. a coherent concept based art. There are some benefits to learning a complete coherent system where each part is related to the other, as opposed to just learning a form here, and another there, and just collecting unrelated forms. In a System one is moving up and gaining depth as one learns. In learning unrelated forms one is moving sideways, and maybe even conflicting in concepts as different styles may have different postures.
In the Seattle CTCCA/NWTCCA school, some students trained with a series of other instructors and then Tchoung, but did not gain any real skill (kung-fu). They jumped around a lot and never spent enough time anyplace to really let it sink in. The amount of time one spends taking classes does not necessarily mean there is any good quality learning taking place. Some had preconceived notions of what tai chi chuan was when they came to class and did not modify that notion, even in the face of a great master showing them what the art really was. It did not fit their fantasy. They did what they wanted, and it showed. Others spent more time drinking tea than training (one Canadian Teacher calls them the "Tea and Cookie crowd") and that showed too.
While there is a correlation with amount of study and skill, there is not an absolute relationship between the time spent doing the art and skill. Just as there are painters who have painted all their lives and are just average, there are people who have practiced tennis, tai chi, or basketball all their lives and not gained any great skill, but they should have some. This is the same in all sports and arts. To make any other assumption is getting back to the mystification concept, a magical technique or as the master manipulator tells his mystified student, "One day when you are ready I will teach you the secret ." That is your signal to run to the door. In reality when you study long enough you will understand the subtleties and they will no longer be as magical. (If you feel a little uncomfortable now you better start looking at your teacher/student relationship and your belief system.)
Reasons for this magical thinking are many, such as some people having a lack of belief in the scientific method or dont trust the modern. Others are just superstitious and they suspend disbelief. Often they do not recognize the placebo effect when it occurs. They may suspend logic, or they are just being gullible, some people are close-minded to western science and others believe anecdotal, hearsay and fabricated evidence as truth. For example I had a discussion about a peng chin (jin) with a tai chi teacher. I told him what I thought was going on physiologically in terms of grounding and the flow of energy/force, but it did not seem like a good answer to him. So he went to a well respected University biomechanics department to get an answer. After their analysis, he told me that they told him the same thing I that I told him. He still did not like it, I think he was looking for a magical answer for something that could be explained easily with science and logic. Emotions and needing magical interpretations often overcome clear thinking and good judgment. Remember because you believe something, does not make it so. Opinion is not a substitute for thought and research.
You may want it to be magical but it may be explained in more mundane ways. I maintain, if you like an art that is reason enough to do it, you dont need to fabricate anything about it. Of then what seems like magic is just very subtle skill, sensitivity or "energies" that those who do not have that subtle knowledge cannot understand.
As master Wang Xuanjie said, " his skills may seem miraculous to those with poor discernment, who make a mystery of him myths originate in ignorance, poor discernment and inexperience. A person who happens to get the essence of shadow boxing, and yet is unable to comprehend often feels mysterious about things more abstruse. When he becomes more experienced and well-informed, he will see the light and do away with all mysterious beliefs." (Dachengquan, p.29)