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June 2009 - Editor's Notebook

We have had a number of articles about Hong Junsheng, a longterm student of Chen Fake, who made his mark teaching Chen style in Beijing. Two of the better articles about him were in the April 1998 and June 1998 issues, written by Peter Wu of Canberra, Australia, who spent time with Hong discussing T'ai Chi and his methods. They give insight into Hong Junsheng and how he applied his skills.
In the current issue, the article by Gordon Muir and Chen Zhonghua provides interesting information about Hong and his longterm relationship as a student of Chen Fake. The article mentions that Hong practiced four hours a day, with some of this possibly including time teaching.
There are frequently references in articles in the magazine to secret transmissions from teacher to student. But many of the top masters’ skills are based on extensive practice. Some practice their form 20 or 25 times a day and one said he practiced 100 times a day.
Of course, practice doesn't make perfect nor will it necessarily get you to Carnegie Hall. The truth is it is necessary to practice in order to learn how to practice. Even after learning how to practice, it is necessary to practice seriously to refine and refine what has been learned physically, emotionally and mentally so that it is fully integrated. Without practice there can be no real understanding, just speculation.
Of course, it is possible to practice less seriously with a comfortable schedule and still get valuable skills and benefits. But there are no guarantees that even with regular practice there will be exceptional results even with so-called secret transmissions.
It all depends on the quality of effort and one's inner perceptions and goals.

Jay Burkey of Kalama, WA, is the senior student of Jon Loren of Brookings, OR, who died last year. Burkey is the senior student in both Tai Chi and Tum Pai, a branch of Kajukenbo. Burkey studied continuously with Loren for 36 years in both arts.
Burkey writes a lot about inner perceptions and goals. In writing about why Tai Chi must be learned slowly, Burkey makes an excellent case for learning slowly in order to get the right mechanics, the right feeling and the right energy, all of which takes time. He emphasizes the importance of feeling when doing the movements. This is one of the treasures of Tai Chi practice—the feelings one experiences. One has to respect and honor those feelings and be able to change or refine them.
Recently I received a fortune cookie at a Chinese restaurant that said, “Feeling is an idea with roots.” So, we have to take these ideas about ourselves and Tai Chi and give them roots so they become feelings and not remain just ideas.

Randolph Ford translates another article from Chinese. This time it is an interesting essay by He Zhaoyuan with a commentary by He Qingxi. The article and the commentary discuss, among other things, the importance of practice with a sense of play as opposed to practicing with great intensity.
They also say that it is impossible to get true Tai Chi strength if one persists in doing movements with external strength.
This is an idea that many people cannot accept. It is logic that many students and would be students are sure is wrong. After all, the only way to feel strong is the do strong movements. Right? Having external or local strength will be useful and successful to a degree as long as the opponent is also using external strength. But if one has internal strength cultivated by being relaxed, then it is no longer a fair match.
The article introduces interesting ideas about the development of internal strength.

Rose Oliver of Shanghai writes in this issue about the death of Dong Bin, who was featured in an article by Rose Oliver in the October 2006 issue of the magazine. This was a man who persisted in his Tai Chi practice during many hard times in China. First there was the civil war, the Japanese invasion, more civil war and the famine and the Cultural Revolution.
She writes about his skill and also about his humility, one of the most prized qualities in traditional Chinese culture.
During such hazardous times, Tai Chi proves its worth because it is a way to balance our lives. Everyone needs one or more activities that can be done on a daily basis to rebalance themselves. It can be walking, Tai Chi, cleaning house, calligraphy, etc. It helps for it to be physical and centering.

Dr. Steve L. Sun and Dr. Francis Wolek write about working with people who play Tai Chi and have disabilities. They suggest that teachers learn to accept what students can do and cannot do.

Also included in this issue is a letter from Patrick Siu Wah Chan clarifying his role in the authorship of the article in the Spring issue about the Intrinsic Qualities of Tai Chi Chuan by Wong Zhuang Hong and Patrick Siu Wah Chan.
Following the publication in the last issue of the article by Wang Zhuang Hong and Patrick Sui Wah Chan, we received a letter to the editor from a group practicing Wang's style of Tai Chi. The letter complained that Mr. Chan should not have been listed as a co-author since it was material by late Wang Zhuang Hong.
Subsequently, that letter was submitted to the Wang Zhuang Hong Foundation Co. Ltd in Hong Kong. As a result Patrick Chan has sent a correction which was approved by the foundation executive committee meeting on May 3. It appears in this issue.•

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