This month’s cover article brings Chen Zheng Lei back to T’AI CHI Magazine for the third time. He was first interviewed in October 1997 and then again in December 1998.
He is one of the most important guardians of the Chen style tradition and is regarded in China and elsewhere as one of its top practitioners.
In 1997 he spoke about the keys to successful Chen practice and in 1998 he discussed the role of the mind and the development of inner skills.
This time he talks about the role of the long pole in developing integrated strength, as well as a number of other topics important to T’ai Chi practice.
He is a modest man with many skills and sets an example for other teachers in the way that he presents himself.
Chen is a member of the 19th generation of the Chen family. He has had a host of important positions, having been head coach of Wenxian Chenjiagou Taijiquan Promotion center, vice chairman of Henan Province Martial Arts Association and has been named one of the “10 Top Martial Arts Masters” of present day China.
Chen teaches the full range of the large repertoire of empty hand sets, push hands, self-defense applications and weapons. Yet he said that having learned many Chen methods, he finds that all the gongfu is right there in the Chen first routine.
Zhang Lu Ping was an important T’ai Chi teacher who learned many styles of martial arts in China, including the five main styles.
He had a reputation for high level push hands skills. Unfortunately, his life and teaching were cut short by an illness that he felt was caused by the meager diet he was forced to live on during the repressive period of the Cultural Revolution.
Jim Sturnfield, a long time student of Zhang, and Zhang Huan, Lu Ping’s son, write about Zhang’s insights into the five main styles of T’ai Chi Ch’uan and how this information can be used in one’s practice, regardless of which style a person practices.
It is not unusual for masters to imbue their style practice with elements of one or more other styles, while still retaining the external form and the integrity of the internal aspects of their style.
And some, of course, do more than one style, while retaining one as their most important style.
Hiu Chee Fatt of Malaysia adds additional dimensions to T’ai Chi push techniques. He writes about the other skills that have to be implemented to set up the push to make it a high-level push and not just external force.
Last year he wrote an interesting article about peng energy. He has been practicing martial arts for the past 15 years. Among them are Taekwondo, Shaolin Five Animals, Yi Quan, Yang T’ai Chi Ch’uan and Chi Kung.
Daniel K. Wong of Western Canada has previously written for T’AI CHI Magazine about his Yang style teacher, Yang Shao-chung, and his experiences learning from him in Hong Kong.
Wong’s article brought to light little-known information about the skills of Yang, the eldest son of Yang Cheng-fu, and also some of the training methods he used.
This time he writes an interesting article about his Bagua teacher, his Bagua studies and and how to practice basic Bagua steps.
Dr. Paul Lam of Sydney, Australia, a frequent contributor to T’AI CHI Magazine, writes in this issue about cultivating and integrating yi, qi, and jing into T’ai Chi practice and ones life. T’ai Chi is internal in the sense that it is not just muscles and bones at work but inner energies, awareness and certain spiritual insights.
There are layers under layers under layers. Once you reach an inner layer, it becomes an external layer to the additional layers you know are underneath.
Dr. Lam writes about some important aspects of internal practice, using the mind, energy and primordial essence that are often underused or misused in T’ai Chi practice and daily life.
Gerald A. Sharp of Glendale, CA, who studied with the famous Ma Yueh-Liang in Shanghai, writes about T’ai Chi spear, its development and use to cultivate particular kinds of energies.
He takes us through a step-by-step learning process with the spear. The pole and the spear are related and their forms are said to be similar in their routines but vary in their character.
We don’t often have two related weapons articles in the same issue, but the fact that these weapons have become available here for students to learn indicates the growth of the art in the West.
Five, ten or fifteen years ago, there was little or nothing available about poles, spears or swords. Almost all that was available to students then was basic empty hand forms.
Now there are also short sticks and staffs and fans and what have you, all contributing to the individual practice and to the overall growth of the art.
Alex Yeo of Singapore writes his third article about the development of the Yang style. He gives an introduction to the little known Yang Funei T’ai Chi Ch’uan, which includes a wide variety of training methods.
It is valuable to know of the many variations of the Yang style. These variations are a function of Yang style’s strength since it fostered so much creativity.
It is natural to learn one style’s version and become convinced of its superiority without really having any exposure to another version. The same is true with other styles.
Of course, some styles or versions are better than others. But each has some strengths that everyone can learn from. And it is always best to have an excellent teacher and an excellent set of forms and skills to practice.
But the requirements for learning change as one develops and what was excellent at one stage may not be at a later stage. In the end, it is each individual practitioner’s own effort, not the teacher or the form, that determines how good one can become.•