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T'AI CHI MAGAZINE - October 2004

EDITOR'S NOTEBOOK > October 2004
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October 2004 - Editor's Notebook

October 2004

Qian Zhao Hong doesn't fit the stereotype of a fighter or a top push hands practitioner. George Xu of San Francisco served as translator foran interview with Qian and describes him as one of the top fighters in Shanghai and one of the top fighters in all of China.

Qian comes across as a pleasant man about 5 foot 10 and 160 pounds. There is no swagger nor fierce eyes or rippling muscles. No, he is definitely not the Bruce Lee type that appears so often on martial arts magazine covers.

At his level of martial arts development, he emphasizes emptiness. Push hands with him and you can't find him. The moment you try to find him, he has found you and you are lost.

He has trained in Xingyi, Wu Dang Tai Chi, Chan (Spiral) Tai Chi, and a number of other martial arts that he learned beginning as a child in a Shanghai neighborhood called Wushu Village, where many martial arts masters lived and taught.

George Xu said every neighbor was a martial artist. “Everybody knew how to fight.” He started about the age of 8, beginning with Xingyi and it has remained a part of his core training.

George Xu said Qian is still willing to learn from anyone and re-examines and cultivates his understanding and skills continually.

Born in 1947, Qian has had more than 10 teachers and Xu said they were mostly in the relationship of friend rather than student because he was so good. Some teachers felt it was better to have him as a friend than as a student because he was such a good fighter.

Xu said Qian's softness comes from the experience of seeing masters fight. “He feels the high level fighter/master is empty and soft, even when the master is small and the opponent is large.”

His own softness and emptiness are apparent in doing push hands with him but behind that softness and emptiness there is instant access to great strength.

Xu said that 30 years ago, Qian was a tough fighter, very strong until he learned that softness and emptiness made him better.

Wang Peisheng, who died last month had a hard life. But he loved martial arts and Chinese culture.

I first met him in 1983 while visiting China. He and Zeng Weiqi came to my hotel room in Beijing for an interview. Zeng spoke excellent English and was an acquaintance of Sophia Delza, who lived in China in the late 1940s and studied Wu style with Ma Yueh-Liang.

Zeng had collaborated with Wang in writing a book about the Northern Wu style Tai Chi Chuan and a 37-movement Wu style short form.

I was on the last leg of my trip and pretty sick at the time, but I remember him demonstrating emphatically that in the Brush Knee and Twist Step when the right palm presses forward it does so because it is brought forward by the movement of the left arm brushing over the knee. He did this with his characteristic intensity.

I met him again and interviewed him when he came to Pat Rice's A Taste of China in 1993.

He started martial arts at an early age and the articles in this issue about him describe his studies and teaching.

Someone had told me that Wang had a difficult life and he had spent time in prison because of a problem with the government.

In Wang's book, published in 1983, it mentions that he was born in Hebei province but spent most of his time in Beijing. Then it diplomatically states that “he was away from Beijing until 1980,” an 18-year absence.

Actually, he was in jail for 17 of those years because of a personal vendetta by an government official during the Cultural Revolution. Other martial arts masters were also jailed or killed during that time.

People who today are unhappy with their progress in learning Tai Chi Chuan, have no idea of the hardships and devotion of many of the masters during their lives.

Richard Johnson, a student of Chen Zhonghua (Joseph Chen), writes about the use of the elbow and hand. These are subtleties that are important for form and applications and representative of similar subtleties in other parts of the body.

Daniel K. Wong, who studied Yang Shao-Chung, considers the problem of dealing with an opponent from different angles. He has found that the Yang style Da Lu practice helps to deal with different angles for defense.

A friend once told me he was teaching Tai Chi in a Karate studio and a “crazy guy” came in and attacked him. He said he pivoted into a Da Lu corner pull and floored the guy, ending the attack.

Zhang Quanliang tells of important Bagua standing postures for improving internal energies and structure. This is the third and final installment about Bagua principles and techniques. At the end of the article, some paragraphs that had been left off the end of the second installment are printed.

Gerald A. Sharp interviews Zhou Zhan Fang and gets an interesting take on softness overcoming hardness. Most people cannot accept or understand this concept and or cannot let go of the feeling they get from using their strength.

Strength, physical and otherwise, has always been a valued commodity from the time humans lived in caves and before.

Alternative strategies are always worth exploring.

Rob LaPointe discusses how to teach the philosophy of Tai Chi in classes. There are people who, as he says, call to find out if the teacher teaches the philosophy.

Strangely, people who are interested in the philosophy often cannot accept it when they hear it.

There is also a very strong letter to the editor from Professor Jonathan Shear, who objects to Alex Yeo's comments about meditation in a article in the June of T'AI CHI Magazine. I did feel it was necessary to respond to his remarks after his letter.

Differences of opinion about meditation can be at least as fierce as those concerning the best way to practice martial arts or whose skill is best.

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