The most important strengths practitioners can have is their devotion to the art. It transcends everything else. This is because with every activity or relationship there are obstacles, often major, major obstacles that can diminish or destroy one’s incentive to continue. This almost never fails to occur.
However, if one is really devoted, then those obstacles can be overcome or at least dealt with.
In this issue of TAI CHI, we highlight four important Tai Chi Chuan practitioners who have demonstrated over and over their continuing devotion to Tai Chi Chuan: Yang Zhenduo, Fu Zhongwen, Wu Ta-yeh, and Choy Kam Man.
Yang Zhenduo continues his work while Wu Ta-yeh and Choy Kam Man have dies and passed on their work to others. Fu Zhongwen, we learned at deadline, died at age 91 in Shanghai on Sept. 24. There will be more about him in the next issue. News of his death came too late to include full coverage in this issue.
I saw Yang Zhenduo in July teaching a seminar, sponsored by Chris Pei, and he showed the same determination I had seen in him in previous years to spread the Yang style as a complete system.
Several things were noteworthy about his teaching. One is that he obviously felt a strong responsibility to the students.
Yang, who is in his late 60s, was emphasizing the basic principle of the Yang style as laid down by his father, Yang Cheng-fu, but he wasn’t just verbalizing it. He was teaching the principles in a way that helped the student feel the internal energy that the Yang style was designed to bring out. Without that internal energy in all the movements, the Yang style can become a lot of empty movements or even something completely different.
It is the energy and the principles that make it true to its original founders. Yang was making a concerted effort to make it real and valuable.
Fu Zhongwen was active, both physically and mentally, at Huang Chien Liang’s International Kuoshu tournament in August.
He demonstrated form and push hands with his grandson, James Qing Quan Fu, and his top student in the U.S., He Wei Qi.
Although he could have sat in his chair while his grandson and He Wei Qi taught, he actively helped teach a special push hands seminar. His grandson told me that recently he went to Europe to conduct seminars and navigated the entire trip from China and back by himself.
For decades Fu had been a strong supporter of the Yang style he learned from Yang Cheng-fu.
Wu Ta-yeh has been a strong supporter to T’AI CHI ever since its first year and a very strong advocate of the Yang style as taught by his teacher, Tung Huling.
He was very focused and dedicated. He wrote many articles for TAI CHI and other publications and he corresponded with noted Tai Chi authorities in the U.S., Taiwan and China.
He wanted to bring out the internal aspects of Tai Chi. This sometimes brought him into conflict with some people. Sometimes he would ask me if there was any or much response to one of his articles and I could sense his anticipation. He didn’t mind opposition. He liked it. This was because from his academic background he knew disagreements could create the opportunity for greater knowledge.
Choy Kam Man usually kept a low profile. I met him only once. Someone in Los Angeles spoke highly of him, so when I made a trip to San Francisco in the early 1970s, I took a class with him at a ‘Y.’ It wasn’t in a big room and it was filled with people who were learning his 54-movement short form, which he taught as an introduction to the traditional Yang style.
It wasn’t a “talking” class. People were doing the form and he was making corrections and working quite hard. It was apparent to me that this was a serious teacher.
He taught until a couple of years ago, even though he had serious diabetes problems and health problems from environmental hazards while working in a factory during World War II.
His ability and earnest teaching won him many loyal supporters.