Vol. 19, No. 1
Yang Yang, who is featured in this issue, is a very bright man with significant skills who provides a look into Chen style and some of its top leaders. He is a student of Feng Zhiqiang and had experience with Lu Liuxin, Chen Xiaowang and Chen Zhaokui.
Yang's approach is to build on foundations and not to rush into techniques.
Currently, there is a tug-of-war going on about teaching for health versus teaching for self-defense. While Yang certainly embraces self-defense aspects, he is strong on using your practice to cultivate your physical, emotional and spiritual development.
He also makes an important point that in China students are taught moral aspects of the art and the importance of students having respect for their teachers, fellow students and other schools. This, he comments, is not emphasized as much in the U.S.
Perhaps we should ask why this teaching of respect is not occurring here and what we can do about it. Some people, including those with considerable skills, usually don't have a problem respecting people like themselves. When it comes to respect people and skills that are not like themselves there seems to be a problem. Sometimes this is a BIG problem.
I always thought that an important part of Tai Chi Chuan was understanding other people's energy. And that implies understanding them from their intention and point of view as well as your own.
Another article emphasizes how Tai Chi is now in the world of high tech, more specifically, the “Information Superhighway.” Catherine Stanley who has some superhighway experience, and on-line bills to prove it, shows how barriers of communication are continuing to break down.
Certainly, this is an advantage for everyone learning Tai Chi, providing the communication channels are used wisely.
The greater flow of information about Tai Chi, the better will practitioners who use that flow constructively be able to raise their levels of skill.
The more we learn about Tai Chi, the more we find there is to learn. Martin Mellish tells about the technique of rotating the dantian in different directions as a way of cultivating internal energy. These rotations can be done for health or as a qigong practice, but in Tai Chi they are linked with movements of the form and are an essential part of self-defense skills.
Mellish's teacher. Gao Fu, is a well-respected Chen stylist now in her late 70s and she is quite adept at the technique, as Mellish describes.
One Chen stylist I interviewed in a restaurant some years ago, paused during the meal and interview to pull up the front of his shirt and show how he was able to move the qi around his dantian at will. You could see something like a ball-like movement of energy shifting around his abdomen. Doing it didn't seem to bother his appetite or his digestion.
Dr. Wen Zee, now a visiting scholar at the University of Arizona Medical School, has often talked about the importance of zhong-din, central equilibrium and has written some previous articles in T'AI CHI about it. In his article in this issue, he talks about how Ma Yueh-liang, his teacher, even at age 94, has amazing zhong-din. It is inspiring to hear about the skills of Ma and to know that we can continue to cultivate that kind of energy and skill throughout our lives and, by doing it, improve other aspects of our lives.
John and Robin Mastro have a different kind of application for Tai Chi. They use basic energy in their therapy to help patients relieve psychological blocks.
Both John and his wife, Robin are active Tai Chi practitioners. He won a push hands gold medal at the 1991 A Taste of China tournament. They are both Gestalt therapists. They were featured in the October/November 1994 issue of “Perspective,” a publication of the Humanistic Psychology.
In her article, Zhou Lishang gives us a panoramic view of Tai Chi and also some important information about research in China on the medical benefits of practice. It is useful information that people in the West should know more about because it will help build motivation and confidence in Tai Chi.