Feng Zhiqiang is a bridge across generations, having studied with the famous Chen Fa-Ke, the Chen stylist who left the Chen village to teach in Beijing and to introduce the style to the world.
But Feng is more than a bridge. He is considered by many to be the top T’ai Chi Ch’uan practitioner in China today. His skills are at the highest level. One person who had an experience with Feng told me his internal energy felt like a tornado.
I was told that when high-ranking martial artists from other countries like Japan visit China, the government has them meet Feng, because they know that if there is a challenge, Feng will be able to handle it easily.
For all his physical skills and internal strength, Feng, born in 1926, emphasizes that students have to develop their internal aspects.
He has them doing standing exercises for long periods of time---up to two hours---and asks them to do it daily.
This builds internal energy and strength but more importantly helps to round off rough edges and helps cultivate insight into what it is to be a human being. The cover article in this issue explains it better.
Feng has studied martial arts from his youth and prior to study with Chen Fa-Ke, he studied Xinyi, a pre-cursor to Xingyi.
Because of his skills, Feng is a magnet for students, both inside and outside of China. He travels outside of China now to teach and, hopefully, he will able to visit the U.S. to teach, as well.
Gao Fu in Seattle, a student of Feng, said that if he could come to the U.S. to teach, he would be able to raise the level of push hands practice right away because of his high level of skill.
Even beyond the level of skill is his high level of self-cultivation, as indicated in the cover article of this issue.
Feng almost came a couple of years ago, but there was a hitch in obtaining visas. Some of his students in the U.S. still hope to bring him eventually.
The article itself is a triumph of persistence, accomplished over several years, by Yang Yang and Scott A. Grubisich, his student. In the article Yang Yang describes the genesis of the interview, which was conducted over several years.
I first met Yang Yang in 1994. He had been highly recommended by J. Justin Meehan of St Louis, MO. I interviewed him in September at a tournament in Florida and the cover article appeared in the February 1995 issue.
Yang Yang himself has an interesting story, growing up in a village not far from the Chen village. He was very ill because he was born with a heart defect and the doctor said he would not live long. When he was 12 years old, his health was bad and his family couldn’t afford expensive fees for surgery.
A relative steered him toward the study of the Chen style and after about five years, the heart problem was gone. He also spent some time studying with Chen Zhaokui, the son of Chen Fa-Ke, Feng’s teacher.
Joseph Chen, who writes about the importance of circular movement in the Chen style, is also a student of Feng Zhiqiang and another famous Chen stylist, Hong Junsheng. We have had a couple of articles about Hong Junsheng by Peter Wu of Australia.
The circles method that Joseph Chen writes about are applicable to all styles of Tai Chi Chuan, although they are most visible and most emphasized in the Chen style.
These circles are most obvious in movements like Cloud Hands, but are actually present in all movements and are implemented by all parts of the body---arms, legs, torso, etc.
This issue’s millennium survey features some interesting insights into the problems we face regarding the growth T’ai Chi Ch’uan. They come from Jim Criscimagna, Xiao J. Li, Frances Gander, Anthony (Tony) Wong, Harold H. Lee, Xue Nai-Yin, and Steve Higgins.
It becomes more obvious as more people contribute that the training of good teachers is critical if the traditions and values of T’ai Chi practice can be extended without diluting them with New Age speak.
The writers in this third survey report call attention to that and other significant problems, giving some fresh slants on issues we are all concerned about.
Few people are aware of Zhaobao Tai Chi Chuan. This issue has an article that sheds light on what it is, how it developed, and how it is related to Chen style and to the other styles. The article is by Zhou Lishang, a writer and editor in Beijing who has written for T’ai Chi Magazine in the past.
Howard Choy of Sydney, Australia, is interviewed and provided some realistic insights into practice, as well as some sound suggestions on how to improve at different levels.
Born in China, he grew up in Sydney where he studied to become an architect. He also studied feng shui in Hong Kong and Mainland China. He has been teaching Tai Chi Chuan and qigong for more then 30 years.
Warner D. Conarton, who has written for T’ai Chi Magazine before, has a new approach to learning T’ai Chi from a videotape. He feels there is an additional resource that you tap for help and it is right where you would least expect it. In addition to practicing and teaching T’ai Chi Ch’uan, he is an award-winning playwright and poet.
David Cowan of Melbourne, Australia, began his study of internal arts in Scotland in 1988 and currently trains in Xingyi, Bagua, Tai Chi Chuan, and qigong with Lie Du-Ming in Melbourne.