Over the next few months I will be posting Pearls of Wisdom about the Yang-Style Short Form lineage as taught by Professor Cheng man-Ching that preserve the integrity of tai chi while expanding beyond what may be expected to be its norm. There are many things that I have learned from students/disciples of the “Professor” that sometimes contradicted each other and yet still pointed to an understanding of this art that is far deeper than any one of them…
This is the first posting…
Although many frown upon tai chi being viewed and learned as a martial art, the martial arts is its foundation. Sure many of the martial techniques are to be masked while in practice so that the energy of the form is not dominated by muscle energy, because that allows for the cultivation of dynamic internal force. However, at the same time it is true that the martial application provides the shapes for the energy movement within.
Two forces that interplay throughout the form are the interchange between yin and yang; ebb and flow; winding and unwinding; contraction and expansion; peng and lu. There is a direct relationship between the winding force and yielding to an opponent’s aggressive force. In addition a timing of unwinding and issuing force that follows.
Although purists might think that one should never think about the martial application of the form, I believe that the application can be a playful point of interaction that helps one understand the dynamics. This does not mean that I think practitioners should spare… Self defense does not always have to be equated with fighting. However, push hands and application (without the sparring) can offer a beckon of discovery.
Below is a letter that I sent to Maggie Newman – one of Professor’s American students whom I have had the privilege of being under her tutelage from time to time.
September 2, 2010
It was such a pleasure to be under your tutelage again. You have had a great influence in my t’ai chi journey. I often speak of the lessons learned from our interaction to my students. I also tell the story of an encounter with you that taught me how one’s t’ai chi form mirrors one’s attitude and posture in life.
As you can tell by my perseverance I am a dedicated student of not only t’ai chi, but of the lineage of which we are connected. Although I did not have direct learning from the Professor, I been fortunate to be learning from his students – each holding different characteristics of the art that he taught. As he was a genius in my eyes – fully expressive of the complexities of the art of t’ai chi ch’uan (TCC), I have learned that no one student of his has embodied all of what he shared. One goal in my study has been to develop as comprehensive an understanding of this lineage from the “Professor’s” perspective – through his students.
Although unique to some of the instructors/disciples of the Professor, William C.C. Chen expresses a unique perspective through his lenses. As t’ai chi “ch’uan” is a martial art, I have greatly benefited from and continue to learn the application of this art from him and could not have grasped its mechanics from a better teacher.
William C.C. Chen has always been his own person, playful, explorative, and soft. Of all the Professor’s students William C.C. Chen’s form is the most flowing while at the same time dynamically quiet. I truly feel that his great relaxation and flow in form were qualities that were ignited from his study with the Professor.
The martial aspect of TCC is not as important to me as some of the direct health and mental benefits; however, as a woman, it is a confidence in my prowess that aides my sense of well-being.
I bow to you in an expression of love, dedication and deep appreciation.
P.S. I share this video I made, on the Professor’s Eight Methods, with you as a gift; so you will know that this, small in comparison to what I have received over the years, contributes to preserving the Professor’s teaching and that it not be lost; and in appreciation of the knowledge of the Eight Methods which Tam Gibb’s and you shared with me and others who studied with you both at Naropa back in the 1970’s.