Chen Zhenglei is one of the top Chen practitioners in China and one of the four Buddha Warriors who emerged as Chen style leaders following the end of the Cultural Revolution.
He has been interviewed a number of times for T'AI CHI Magazine and his comments have always been valuable for practitioners regardless of their style.
In this interview there is more useful information and insights, perhaps because he was speaking directly in Chinese and there was no need for a translator, since Alex Yeo was able to translate directly.
Part of the article focuses on what is necessary for the student to make progress in his studies and another part deals with the internal aspects of Tai Chi practice.
He discusses the importance of having a good teacher and the need for training more good teachers so more people will be able to learn the art. He distinguishes between those teachers who have understanding and those who are famous.
Although famous teachers may also have understanding, he noted that there are many teachers who are not well known but who have professional skills and teaching methods.
He regrets that "many people today are doing aimless moving, shaking and twisting" without experiencing qi or being able to train the qi, which he cites as one of the definitions of internal gongfu.
Chen Zhenglei also describes the qualities of a good student, the most important of which is "having the spirit of working hard and enduring hardships." He said, "Even if you are taught the correct transmission, if you do not work hard, you will still not succeed."
Every practitioner is a student. There is no end to learning. Even at advanced levels, there are still higher levels to reach. There is no point at which one's skill or understanding is complete.
He also discusses silk reeling energy and the need to spend a great deal of time being song, loose and sinking to develop a "very full" kind of internal energy.
Chen Zhenglei also discusses Tai Chi Chuan as part of a Tai Chi culture that produced a wide range of teachings, including Chinese traditional medicine, philosophy and martial science.
"These studies are all Taiji culture. They are our traditional Chinese culture. They are all from the same source."
Chen Zhenglei's comments are related to other articles in this issue. One is the reprint of an interview with Jou Tsung Hwa about how to study and his own path of assimilating teachings from a number of teachers but always relying on his own efforts and insights.
Jou's comments are classics of independent learning. He mentions that he chose to concentrate on independent study because he would then be able to encourage others to be able to pursue their studies independently too if that were the path they chose.
Everyone who practices Tai Chi Chuan is doing at least two things: learning the art and learning how to learn. In the end, everyone has to be their own teacher.
Several other articles touch on this, including Laurence A. Dov Carp's article on "Are You a Student of the Art?" He gives his own suggestions for improving one's practice.Also in line with this train of thought is Phil Perez's quote from Marcel Proust: "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes."
Perez of Kennebunkport, ME, writes about the development of silk reeling exercises for Tai Chi sword, which help to develop physical skills and silk reeling energies. The method follows the silk reeling method in Jou Tsung Hwa's book, The Tao of Taijiquan, which is often used for various solo and hand routines.
Perez trained for many years in Yang style under the late Zhang, Luping. He started his martial arts training in 1966. Based in Kennebunkport, ME, Perez is director and chief instructor of Northern Crane Martial and Natural Healing Arts Center in Kennebunkport, where he has been since 1990.
C. M. Havens of Brooklyn, NY, writes an interesting article about his relationship with his teacher, Earnest Gow, and how he worked on developing full body power over a very short distance.
Havens who teaches in Brooklyn, NY, has written two previous articles recently.
Gow initially learned the Chen style and subsequently learned the Yang style, both from his father. His father learned from Yang Cho-hsuing, who was a student of Yang Cheng-fu.
Havens said his teacher didn't seem to be willing to teach him the specifics beyond telling him to be more relaxed.
Havens said short force begins with relaxation and his teacher regularly brought all his students back to relaxation training.
A number of different relaxation methods are described in the article.
Havens describes some of the eternal struggle that goes into learning martial arts aspects and also his relationship to his teacher.
That relationship was not always smooth. It rarely is when there is a lot of intensity. And when Havens asks his teacher why he didn't directly teach him the short force technique, he quotes him as saying, "Why should you have it any easier than I did?"
The second of three installments by Zhou Lishang about Bodhidarma's Yi Jin Jing exercises appears in this issue. The final movements of the exercises will be in the next issue.
A third installment in the next issue will show the remaining movements of this form, which has been updated from the original that was taught to meditating monks at the Shaolin Temple.•