As Cheng Jincai mentions in his opening paragraph of the cover article, the books about Tai Chi Chuan almost universally mention the eight basic techniques but few describe in depth the theories and principles. Cheng then goes about describing with considerable depth those theories and principles.
Of course, equally important and perhaps even less understood are the five other kinetic movements sometimes referred to as the Five Elements, which Cheng also discusses. Without them, Tai Chi doesn't work very well.
In his article, he quotes Chen Fa-ke, the famous Chen master of the first half of the last century, who said it is first necessary to learn the correct moves and then practice and finally to understand the details.
Learning the correct moves is the first hurdle for new and intermediate students. Practicing is the second hurdle, since it can become a clerical function if it is done routinely without much insight or understanding. Understanding the details, which Cheng discusses in the article, is where the essence of the art is learned.
Cheng as a young man studied with Chen Fa-ke's son, Chen Zhaokui, who taught in the Chen village and whose students included Zhu Tiancai, Chen Xiaowang, Wang Xian and Chen Zhenglei.
While Cheng writes about the eight basic methods in the context of the Chen style, they are part of every Tai Chi style and so the article has merit for all practitioners.
Wang Jurong was one of the bright lights of martial arts in China and in the U.S. In addition to being highly skilled she had a great spirit. At the tournaments I attended, she was always there as a presiding judge.
And she never abandoned her chair for what must have been a boring duty in case she was needed to resolve a dispute. She can never be replaced. She will be missed.
According to the legend, Tai Chi Chuan was first conceived of by Zhang Sanfeng while on a retreat at Wudang Mountain, a place sacred to Taoism. In this issue Zhou Lishang writes about Wudang Taiyi Wuxing Boxing, which shares the same roots.
She refers to the martial arts of Wudang Mountain as Internal Boxing.
What does this mean? She refers to it in the context of the Taoists' concern to preserve their health and train their character.
For many, the martial arts are always about physical self-defense, winning and dominance. But at some point, some people want more than that and then it can become internal boxing.
Many people use different terminologies to describe this internal work, but it is basically a resolution of contradictions in which there is a peaceful resolution with no winner and no loser.
Dong Ying Jie was a famous student of Yang Cheng-fu. When I mention his name to Tai Chi experts from China, they all recognized his name. In this issue is a text of 20 important points of practice that he wrote. It is translated by Alex Dong, his great-grandson.
The text is classical Tai Chi advice with some interesting insights. Usually, when the 13 kinetic movements are discussed they include applying them to an opponent. Here Dong says that they are used to direct and guide your opponent's energy, which has a different sense.
It is always interesting to read the writings of high-level martial artists to get their insights into the practice of the art.
Alex Dong studied with his father, Dong Zeng Chen and his grandfather, Dong Hu Ling.
He now teaches in New York City, where he has established a school, the Alex Dong International Taijiquan Association.
David Gaffney has another article from the Chen village, this time an interview with Chen Xiaoxing about the different aspects of the Old Frame (Lao Jia) and New Frame (Xin Jia).
He gives a very even-handed description of the two forms, which are the basic forms practiced by most Chen stylists.
David Gaffney teaches in Manchester, UK. He has practiced Asian martial arts since 1980 and is co-author of the book, "Chen Style Taijiquan: The Source of Taiji Boxing."
Flavio Daniele of Bologna, Italy, discusses the difficulty almost every modern practitioner has of re-interpreting the classic writings about Tai Chi Chuan. As he says, the classical books “are written with a specific terminology and a symbolic language, rich in metaphors, that needs to be translated and interpreted."
Daniele, who teaches in Italy and has written a number of books, gives some interesting examples that can help others in their approach to understanding some of the classic writings.
King Lam who operated a Tai Chi school in New Orleans for 22 years, writes about his experience with Hurricane Katrina. He lost three quarters of the roof from his school as well as damage to his house. He lost his position as a teacher of 29 years when the school system shut down and he had to relocate to Houston temporarily, where he met Cheng Jincai. However, he hoped to reopen his school in New Orleans in February.
Caroline Demoise of Chapel Hill, NC, has suggestions of how to improve one's practice. She discusses some key principles of learning that can be useful for beginning and intermediate students.
This is the 30th year of publishing T'AI CHI, first as a newsletter and then as a magazine.
Perhaps some time during the year we can find a way of commemorating. It started very humbly (it still requires a lot of humility) as a four-page newsletter.
The first issue was printed in a small neighborhood print shop by a man with a thick black beard who had a large mural of Che Guevara on the back wall. He didn't speak too much English, but told me there would be "no problemas."
Of course, there were but there always are.