In the second installment of Alex Yeo’s interview with Chan See Meng, there are refreshing discussions of what is and what is not real in martial arts. He also comments again on his experience with Dong Yingjie and his son, Dong Huling, as well as about training in Aikido and Kendo with Japanese masters.
Chan says that the most basic principles are also the most advanced. “If you can’t even understand them and you don’t follow them, then all will be lost and wasted.” He adds: “At the same time if you tell me some principle that is very difficult, very complicated, then I’d ask if this is true, if this is genuine.”
He said he knew someone who said he had learned over 40 forms. But Chan questions whether learning a lot of forms is useful if there is no mastery of the forms.
He tells of his learning Japanese sword as a new student and having to practice a cutting technique 100 times. “The next day I couldn’t even lift up my hands, it was so painful! It’s true. I couldn’t even lift up my hand. How many students will train like this today?” Yet he says that is the secret of mastery.
This is an indelible truth. However, for people who do Tai Chi for health or recreation, that level of intensity is not necessary.
But even for health and recreation consistent practice is necessary to get benefits. Once-a-week practice will provide once-a-week benefits. More practice provides more benefits because it also provides the opportunity to improve practice.
Also in this issue is the first in a series of articles about push hands. Zhou Lishang interviews Li Lian, who studied with Wu Tunan, a famous master who died at age 105 in 1989. Wu Tunan was a scholar and a gifted practitioner who studied the Wu and Yang styles.
We have had a number of articles about Wu Tunan, who was very sickly as a child but attained high levels of skill.
The article gives a number of interesting perspectives about push hands as well as explaining attacking techniques.
Li Lian makes the point that practice of the form and push hands go hand in hand. Practicing only push hands is self-limiting since practice of the form is essential to develop the ability to listen to your own energy and understand your own energy. He says that understanding yourself (your own energy) is essential to understanding others.
He describes a tendency in China that is present in the U.S. and elsewhere involving people who just want to push hands and win.
The article and the ones to follow it are based on a newly written book by Li Lian on push hands.
The Tai Chi classics are practical guides to practice but they can be hard to understand. One of the more difficult concepts is that of doubleweight.
Many people have explained this concept in different ways. In this issue, Anthony N. J. Ho of Irvine, CA, a Wu stylist from Shanghai, presents his understanding.
Born in Shanghai in 1937, he studied many styles of external Gong Fu and Yang style Tai Chi early on. But even after years of Gong Fu, he still felt he didn’t know what the body weight center was or how to find that.
Turning to Tai Chi, he studied with some famous teachers and finally met his last and most important teacher, Pei Zu Yin of Shanghai, who taught the Wu style. He studied with him in the 1960s and 1970s.
In 1979 Ho immigrated to the United States and has taught here since then as well as in Taiwan and Shanghai.
Part of the problem with being doubleweighted is that people like to feel their own strength doing Tai Chi and just about anything. This leads to people standing flatfooted and being inflexible and unable to turn their waist.
This violates the principle of distinguishing between yin and yang, open and close, substantial and insubstantial, etc.
William C. C. Chen, a student of Cheng Man-ch’ing and a well-known teacher in the U.S. and internationally since the 1960’s, has an article on the three nails.
It is from a new book of his to be published early this year. In the article he describes how his understanding of the three nails has evolved and their importance for rooting.
Richard Druitt lives on a river by the Caribbean National Forest in Puerto Rico, where he is building a Tai Chi studio. Originally from Britain, he began practicing Tai Chi in London in 1983 and worked with Irish teacher John Kells.
He went on to train as an acupuncturist and practitioner of Chinese medicine in Dublin, Ireland and Nanjing, China.
He has lived in Puerto Rico since 1990 and has been studying Chen style since 1995. He is a disciple of Humberto Pomales, who is a disciple of Joseph Chen.
Flavio Daniele of Bologna, Italy, has written a number of articles before and is a student of George Xu. In addition to Xingyi, he teaches Chen and Yang style and is the author of a number of books.
Eo Omwake of Oxford, PA., is a veteran practitioner who has written a number of articles for the magazine. He has also produced instructional videos about Tai Chi.
In this issue there is a Question and Answer article by Jiang Jian-ye describing the benefits of curling up the tongue to touch the hard palate. He describes the benefits, which he says include improving one’s balance.
This is also a technique often used in Buddhist and Taoist meditation.
I believe it was Yang Cheng-fu who said that touching the upper palate with the tongue when doing the form helps to improve the flow of saliva and generating that saliva is one measure of a good practice session.•