Chen Qingzhou has been interviewed several times by T’AI CHI Magazine and when I have spoken to other Chen stylists about him, they said he lives and breathes T’ai Chi.
It has been some nine years since he started coming to the U.S. and he said he was impressed by the students willingness to suffer, or eat the bitter. “They are very determined,” he said and added that the level of American T’ai Chi is going up.
He spoke a lot in the interview about the importance of listening to and understanding energy. He said this begins and continues while doing the forms as the student begins to sense his or her internal energies.
Of course, push hands is a method to sense and understand energy of the opponent and yourself. But practice of the form over the years is crucial to sensing and understanding energy, just as it is necessary to understand yourself before you can really understand others.
But what does understanding internal energy mean? This is important to know in order to be able to use the intent and mind to work with energy.
In martial arts, and Chen Qingzhou focuses on martial aspects, speed and strength are primary tools. But Chen said the highest level is being able to lead the opponent into emptiness.
Applying strength to defeat an opponent implies being able to overcome the other person’s strength. But if a person hides their strength or uses a minimum amount to divert the opponent, then the opponent’s strength can be nullified.
What kind of effort is required to acquire martial arts capability? Chen said the famous Chen Fa-ke did 30 repetitions of the form each day for 20 years. He said Chen Fa-ke’s pole shaking ability was so good that he could stick the pole into a haystack and by using chan ssu jin could then bring out the wheat with the pole.
Chen Qingzhou said that when he was training, he would do the lao jia form 20 times a day, as well as other daily training methods.
Of course, it should be understood that the repetitions should not be mindless. If one does not always try to improve one’s insight and skills during practice, then one could just be practicing and reinforcing mistakes.
Huang Sheng Shyan (Huang Xing Xian) of Malaysia was a T’ai Chi legend. He had schools in Malaysia, Borneo, Brunei, Singapore and Italy and was noted for his push hands skills. In 1972 at age 62, he defeated a wrestler 20 years younger.
Tiziano Grandi of La Spezia, Italy, who submitted the article, wrote:
“Huang met Prof. Cheng Man-ching in 1949 in Taiwan. Huang had studied White Crane from a Taoist teacher. He kneeled to Prof. Cheng and became a disciple after they had a friendly test of push hands and Huang found that Cheng was the first T’ai Chi teacher who was able to deal comfortably with Huang’s White Crane skills.
“Ben Lo, who was present in those early days, said Huang was already able to throw normal people 10 meters by using his White Crane hands. Because of this, Prof. Cheng refused at first to believe that Huang had not learned T’ai Chi before.
“But then Huang showed him the secret White Crane training manual handed down from his Taoist teacher. On the first page were the characters Sung, Sung, Sung (relax, relax, relax) and on the second, Yi, Yi, Yi (intent, intent, intent).
“Prof. Cheng saw that the systems were quite similar and that Huang had already achieved the first 10 years of T’ai Chi through his White Crane training.”
Huang studied under Prof. Cheng until 1959, when at Prof. Cheng’s suggestion, he emigrated to Singapore and later to Malaysia and set up a home in Kuching (Sarawak) on Borneo, where he remained for most of the rest of his life.
Grandi said that Huang emphasized the changes that occur in moving from one posture to another rather than just the postures themselves. Huang died in an accident at the end of 1992.
The third and last article by Zhou Lishang about the teachings of Li Yaxuan appears in this issue. In the interview with Zhou, Chen Longxiang tells about Li’s emphasis on being agile and empty.
Agility is easy to understand, but emptiness is a more difficult, cultural term. Being strong, proud and full of one’s self is the opposite of emptiness. But emptiness is not vacancy.
Of course, when someone has a certain amount of skill in T’ai Chi Ch’uan they will experience energy that feels strong. Being empty has more to do with inner calm and continually returning to a state of being relaxed, present and humble, without a lot of ideas about oneself.
Many forms of meditation use varying techniques that have returning to a state of emptiness and cultivating higher and deeper levels as their goals. The practice of T’ai Chi Ch’uan is one of the methods that can be used to do achieve this.
Richard Miller of Ann Arbor, MI, reports on He Jinbao’s Bagua and the important skill of walking the circle. Many of the Bagua concepts he discusses will be helpful to T’ai Chi practitioners.
Miller said He Jinbao of Beijing trained under Yin style Bagua Zhang master Dr. Xei Peiqi since 1971 and has been designated by Xei as the lineage carrier of the martial system. Miller said He Jinbao has shown his abilities in challenge matches with fighters from China and abroad.
Miller wrote about He Jinbao and the Yin style Bagua in the April 2002 issue of T’AI CHI Magazine.
Alex Yeo of Singapore writes about the value and, indeed, the necessity of practicing zhan zhuang for health and as a basis for martial arts skills.
Sometimes zhan zhuang is neglected by students because it is not understood. Martial artists are often focused on physical action. Zhan zhuang appears to be passive, when in fact it is very active internally, physically and mentally.
Gerald A. Sharp of Glendale, CA, writes about the eight doors and five steps as they can be applied in push hands. Sharp studied with the famous Wu stylist Ma Yueh-Liang in Shanghai. Sharp wrote in the April 2002 issue about T’ai Chi Spear.
Josephine Russell, a pseudonym for this writer, describes her experience using T’ai Chi as a therapy for Alzheimer’s patients. Even though the patients did not learn a form, some were able to follow the movements. She feels that even those that merely sat and watched got some benefit from the experience of observing the class.•