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T'AI CHI MAGAZINE - April 2007

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April 2007 - Editor's Notebook

The article by Alex Yeo from an interview with Sim Pooh Ho reveals some interesting insights into Tai Chi practice. For many people the most interesting part will be about Ling Kong Jin, or the use of empty force (defense without physical contact), in self-defense.
Many people don’t believe in it, some people do and a lot of people are curious about it.
The article is very long. Initially, it was about 16,000 words. Since it is too long to publish in a single issue, it will be divided into three parts and published in three successive issues.
Sim, who is 60, was the second disciple of the famous Wu Tunan. He also discusses Tai Chi Gong, or Tai Chi work or skill, which refers to the internal development of a person including and beyond the physical and self-defense training. Sim says that the physical and self-defense training are only about 30% of Tai Chi Gong.
Many people are fascinated about the idea of Ling Kong Jin and would like to learn it because it has the appearance if magic. But it would be a mistake to focus only on that at the expense of the other aspects of Tai Chi development. Sim says as much in the interview.
Sim says that Ling Kong Jin is not like a magic wand to throw people away but can only be used defensively and under certain conditions. He did not use it on Alex Yeo, the author of the article, and explains why it can be only used on a serious attacker and then with great risk to the attacker. He tells about the use of the method.
Sim, who is from Singapore but who is now semi-retired in Kunming, China, tells about his relationship with Wu Tunan, who lived to the age of 105 years. His widow, Liu Guizhen, lived to the age of 111. She died in 2001. There are some rare photos of Wu and his wife. Wu Tunan studied with Wu Jianquan and Yang Shaohou.
In past issues there have been some articles about Wu Tunan, including some from people who met or studied with him. Wu Tunan was extremely intelligent and did a lot of research about Tai Chi during his lifetime.
Alex Yeo has been a continuing contributor to T’AI CHI Magazine and last issue wrote a long and very useful article based on an interview with Chen Zhenglei, one of the top Chen stylists in China.

In another interesting article, George Xu of San Francisco discusses the skills of Wang Zhuang Hong of Shanghai, who now lives and works in Hong Kong. Xu said that Wang has extraordinary skills and goes on to discuss the basis of those skills, including the harnessing of wave-like energy.
Xu said the underlying concept is the way that yin and yang energies are combined to create Tai Chi power. The method is very complex, probably defying explanation in words, but Xu is good at explaining these things.
Xu, who is originally from Shanghai, has taught in San Francisco, the U.S. and overseas for many years. He teaches many internal and external styles but focuses on internal styles. Xu has been interviewed many times in T’AI CHI Magazine since the early 1990’s. He has brought to the U.S. many interesting internal martial artists, who have been interviewed in T’AI CHI Magazine.
He also hosts an internal martial arts camp in Shanghai with leading internal martial artists.

Rose Oliver of England, who has been studying martial arts in China for a number of years, writes in this issue about Ren Gang of Shanghai, who discusses how the concepts of Wuji and Taiji work together.
This kind of discussion can be pretty abstract, but he applies it to energy development and push hands. He also talks about neutralizing the opponent’s energy and how to respond after the opponent is neutralized.
Ren also talks at length about the waist and how to use it and the energy field that is generated around the body by Tai Chi practice.
Ren is a student of Dong Bin of Shanghai and has been studying for many years. In his early years, during the Cultural Revolution, his family lived in a room in an apartment building of Wang Ziping, the father of Wang Jurong, who died recently. Ren was a student of Wang Jurong in his early years.

C. M. Havens, who has written a number of articles recently on developmental exercises to improve Tai Chi skills, writes in this issue about learning to interpret energy. It is written within the context of the teachings of his teacher, Earnest Gow, who lived and taught in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn, NY.
Listening to energy and understanding energy are two primary Tai Chi skills. Usually people refer to it in terms of improving push hands skills. Havens gives some exercises to help interpret energy but concludes that in the end you have to be able to understand your own.
When interviewing one prominent Chen stylist visiting from China, I asked him about how to develop interpreting and understanding energy. His answer is that you learn this by doing form practice.
Before you can listen to and understand another person’s energy, you have to be able to listen to and understand your own. This gives you a vocabulary to read another person’s energy.
Of course, there is no guarantee that being able to listen to and understand one’s own energy will enable to you to do the same with someone else.

Dr. Ping Siang Tao, who died in December, set a high standard for push hands skills. He taught that push hands should be done in a soft way, without force. And he warned students that if they would do push hands in his way they should be careful because it could change their personality.
And from reports, it appears that it did just that with many students. This in itself is no small accomplishment, since many push hands players are aggressive and can’t get beyond using force even when they wish they could stop.•

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