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T'AI CHI MAGAZINE - October 2002
 

EDITOR'S NOTEBOOK > October 2002
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October 2002 - Editor's Notebook
For students of T.T. Liang, he certainly was a phenomenon. Over time he became a legend because of his skills and approach to teaching T’ai Chi Ch’uan. I only met him briefly when he appeared a couple of times at Jou Tsung Hwa’s Tai Chi Farm. Liang was living nearby in New Jersey at the time and I assume he came to the Farm to support Jou’s work.
In 1991 he also visited A Taste of China, demonstrating a sword form and push hands and also conducting a workshop. At the time he was 91 years old. He could still move around but he also spent a lot of time sitting.
In the early 1980s, some of his articles were published in what was then the T’ai Chi Newsletter. They were informative but broke no new ground. The articles stopped some time after Sophia Delza, a pioneer T’ai Chi Ch’uan teacher in New York City, wrote an article objecting to Liang’s practice of teaching T’ai Chi to music.
Liang replied, writing about the benefits of the practice. I don’t think he felt music was essential. But he felt it was helpful for students and he liked it so he used it. He also indicated that at a certain stage it was not necessary.
Liang was probably most notable for his outlook on life and his proclivity for having fun. Although I am sure he was very serious about T’ai Chi, he did like to introduce his own playfulness for the benefit of his students.
Don Miller writes in this issue about his experience with Liang. There is also an article by Dr. Peter DeBlasio Jr., who studied with Liang.

Too often the study of T’ai Chi becomes too serious, which can distort the perspective of T’ai Chi as part of the playfulness of life. While T’ai Chi can be interesting and intense, it doesn’t have to be grim.
Dr. Wen Zee was also someone who had a mission to bring what he felt were the real ideas about T’ai Chi to the West, and he was largely successful, even though he started teaching in the U.S. late in life.
He was intense in a very inward way, which sometimes led to misunderstandings. When he first came to the U.S., he had some unrealistic expectations, but he was able to adjust and settled in Tucson, AZ, where he taught successfully for some 10 years.
He was uniquely qualified to support the growth of T’ai Chi because he learned English in Shanghai at an early age and because of his medical training. And he loved Wu style T’ai Chi.
The last time I saw him was a few years ago when he traveled to Los Angeles and visited his friend Steve Levinson, who writes in this issue about his friendship with Dr. Zee.
Through Sophia Delza, a Wu stylist who studied with his teacher, he had heard about my publication and began writing short pieces for it as early as April 1982.
I met Dr. Zee the following year during my trip to China and he was very helpful in my meeting Fu Zhongwen and Gu Liuxin. Because of the wealth of material in this issue, I wasn’t able to write about him myself but plan to in the next issue.
Because of the circumstances of this issue, we could not include some of remembrances of people who studied with Liang and Dr. Zee. We will try to also include them in the next issue.

Liu Xiao Ling has good lineage in T’ai Chi Ch’uan and other martial arts and in the interview with him, he discusses what he feels are practical training methods for health and self-defense.
He was interviewed by Paul Ramos and George Harris, who are dedicated practitioners and have been active in teaching. I remember both competing at A Taste of China and other tournaments in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

C. P. Ong is a longtime practitioner who in this issue writes about peng jin. He first learned the Kwong Ping style, but in recent years he has been practicing the Chen style and hosting workshops by some of the top practitioners from China.
The understanding of peng jin is essential to the serious practice of T’ai Chi Ch’uan. Information about it has been relatively scarce in English until recent years, although Dr. Zee’s first article for T’AI CHI newsletter in April 1982 was about the advantage of jin over external force. Of course, peng jin is just one of many kinds of jin, but is probably the most important.

Brian Kennedy of Taiwan writes about a rare form of Xing Yi. Kennedy is a lawyer who has been living and practicing martial arts in Taiwan for many years. This is the second article he has written for T’AI CHI Magazine.

Zhou Lishang of Beijing concludes an interview with Li Lian about the Yang style applications frame. This last article is full of interesting explanations of T’ai Chi terms that are usually not available in English, although they are part of T’ai Chi culture.
All the T’ai Chi techniques, internal and external, have acquired subtle terminology that one often has to understand intuitively based on one’s form practice and push hands. Having names for these methods enriches their meaning.

Alex Yeo of Singapore concludes his report on the development of the Yang style, giving a perspective on the various views about how the style developed the way it did.

Dr. Paul Lam tells the story of a student having a difficult time adjusting to a traditional teacher of T’ai Chi Ch’uan and he discusses the benefits as well as the negatives.
Many people write about the importance of having a good teacher to make real progress in T’ai Chi Ch’uan. To a certain extent that is true. But what is a good teacher? Traditional? Non-traditional? Someone who tells you about your mistakes and then tells you just the right thing to correct them? Or someone who lets you discover how to solve the problem yourself?
A lot depends on what the student’s ability and expectations are. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Dr. Lam has some good advice on different kinds of teachers and how students can deal with their own development.•
 
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