Duan Zhiliang is a very interesting man who was born in Beijing and lived in the Forbidden City from a very early age with his family, who he says were doctors to the Emperors for many generations.
Despite his age, he is very strong in his legs and torso and had no problem taking various deep postures or balancing on one leg. He said he still practices every day and gives lessons in addition to his work as a doctor.
This was in spite of his age being estimated at 97. A book published three years ago listed him at 92. It was difficult to get a definitive year of birth from him during the interview.
But he did say he was a doctor for a few years to the last Emperor, Pu Yi, who was born in 1906 and named Emperor at 3 years old but was soon deposed, although he continued to live in and out of the Forbidden City.
One of Duan’s hosts during his visit to the U.S. was Jiang Jian-ye. Duan likes to eat but is not fat and could nap in a second although he said he does not sleep much at night.
During treatment of patients at workshops, Jiang said Duan was never tired and was never drained even though he worked many hours during healing workshops.
Fu Sheng Yuan said good Yang T’ai Chi skills develop after practicing three rounds of the traditional form on a daily basis.
Fu, whose father was Fu Zhongwen, lives in Australia but has taught numerous workshops in the U.S. and other Western countries.
The last time I interviewed Fu Zhongwen, he told a story of being in a meeting of martial artists in Beijing and of there being a minor disagreement. Fu said he offered to settle it by taking a bow and arrow stance. If someone could make him budge his back foot, they would win. But no one took him up on it.
During the interview, Fu, who had a very friendly personality, threw off a quote from the T’ai Chi classics about strength coming from the heels.
I didn’t get him to explain it but took it as a challenge to find the meaning myself.
Like many of the classic writings, there was more than one level of meaning to the quote.
Fu Sheng Yuan, like his father, is a traditionalist. He doesn’t care for newer forms based on the Yang style, like the Simplified 24-movement form. Among other things, he objects to having to rock backward on the front foot before stepping forward with the other foot. He feels it breaks the flow of energy and continuity of movement.
Brian Kennedy writes about bodyguards in Old China. He is a California attorney who has lived in Taiwan for about nine years. He teaches criminal law for the Ministry of Justice. He is a Xing Yi practitioner.
Karel Koskuba follows up a previous article (from the June 2001 issue) about Yiquan, with additional techniques and exercises for developing internal strength.
The exercises can be quite subtle yet effective. Standing exercises are recognized as very important in China for health and self-defense. But they can be painful to hold in the beginning because the wrong muscles—large muscles—are used.
But after one has practiced, it can be quite comfortable. Even standing still, there is dynamic interaction in the body involving muscles, energy, emotions and the mind.
Larry Johnson, author of books on qigong and a long-time practitioner of T’ai Chi Ch’uan and qigong, writes about the correlation of the Five Elements with the basic steps of T’ai Chi Ch’uan.
The basic steps and movements are classically derived from the Five Elements and the Eight Trigrams of the I Ching.
Sara Jane Lord, a T’ai Chi Ch’uan teacher, found that T’ai Chi was very beneficial to her pregnancy. She had known other women who had practiced T’ai Chi Ch’uan when they were pregnant and it gave her confidence when she became pregnant herself. She gave birth to a healthy girl.
Diane Hoxmeier has been teaching for many years in Woods Hole, MA, and when she got an opportunity to go to Japan and visit a Zen garden, she had what she calls a “Zen moment” that had lasting effects on her practice. She is a long-time practitioner of Guang Ping T’ai Chi and studied with Y. C. Chiang.
Helen I. Shwe, Ph.D., has developed a T’ai Chi system that is being taught in the Hong Kong school system. In addition, they hope to start a program in Davis, CA. Shwe is a student of David Schneider, who teaches T’ai Chi in Hong Kong.
Schneider has studied in Hong Kong with Ip Tai Tak and May Yeung, daughter of Yang Shou Chung. He also studied with Gin Soon Chu and Robert D. Boyd.
Shwe is a developmental psychologist. She completed her studies at Stanford University, and is working as a consultant for Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
David X. Swenson, Ph.D., whose teachers included T. T. Liang and Jou Tsung Hwa, teaches in Duluth, MN, and gives significant insights into methods of teaching and how different types of students learn best.
Chun Man Sit is a regular contributor. He teaches Wu style in Olathe, KS. Sit who is from Hong Kong, practices a Six Elbows internal form in addition to other internal martial arts. He was translator for the Feng Zhiqiang seminar last summer in Champaign, IL.
Liang Qiang Ya has been featured twice on the cover of T’ai Chi Magazine. He practices Fu Zhen Song’s version of T’ai Chi as well as Bagua and other arts he learned from Fu. Liang teaches in Oakland, CA.•