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T'AI CHI MAGAZINE - April 2004

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April 2004 - Editor's Notebook

April 2004

We have a number of articles that refer to Hong Junsheng, a top student of Chen Fa-Ke. First, Peter Wu of Melbourne, Australia, wrote about his studies with him. His article on Chen Fa-ke appeared in February 2001 and June 2001. Joseph Chen of Edmonton. AB, Canada, also wrote about his studies with Hong, including an article in the June 2000 issue.

The cover article in this issue is by Donald Cheung, who teaches in Ottawa, ON, Canada, and is based on discussions he had over two years with Zhang Lianen, a closed door disciple of Hong, who was also close with Feng Zhiqiang.

David Gaffney, author of the article about Zhu Tiancai's 42 fajin methods teaches in Manchester, UK. He has practiced Asian martial arts since 1980 and is co-author of “Chen Style Taijiquan: The Source of Taiji Boxing.”

Gaffney has traveled numerous times to China and the Far East to train with some of the leading teachers of Chen style, including Chen Xiaowang, Zhu Tiancai, Chen Zhenglei and Chen Xiaoxing. In November 2003, he led the first British group to train intensively in the Chen village.

Dr. Xianhao Cheng of Philadelphia, PA, writes about recent research into the origins of Tai Chi Chuan and the development of a 13-form Wudang Tai Chi Chuan. The main thrust of the article is to explore the meaning of each of the Eight Essential techniques of Tai Chi.

We have had other articles on these techniques and each time something new has been added to the understanding of them. It is only through practice that one can get a tangible understanding. Dr. Cheng last wrote about Peng for T'AI CHI Magazine in August 2000.

Alex Yeo, a regular contributor, explores the questions of when, where and how much to practice. Each of us has to resolve these issues every time we practice. Sometimes we have too many choices and sometimes none at all.

He does not mention what direction to face during practice, but that is also an issue for some practitioners who are lucky enough to have that choice.

He also discusses the problem of exhaustion, which leads to difficult or unrewarding practice. The exhaustion is not necessarily from practicing Tai Chi Chuan but from the stresses of everyday living that impair peace of mind, concentration and physical endurance.

One time when I was on a trip to interview a teacher, one, one of his students asked me about the emotional feelings that seemed to come up during his practice. This was a real concern for him and it was difficult to give any good advice.

One of the important benefits of Tai Chi Chuan is that it generates a lot of energy. At the same time it instructs you how to deal with the energy and emotions, by being aware, reminding yourself to relax and sinking the energy to the dantian.

Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn't. The basic idea is to use Yi, intent, to redirect your consciousness to the present moment. You do this over and over again as in the process of seated meditation.

In addition, it helps to find other ways to rest that also nourish your body and mind. But you have to be careful what you nourish.

Stephen Bartlett, who writes about the pace of Tai Chi Chuan and the influence of the earth's magnetic field, has been studying Tai Chi for the past four years. Now retired from the world of engineering, he spends his time teaching, writing and working on his farm in Oakton, VA.

When the cover article on Zhang Xuexin was published in April 1991, he had only been in the U.S. about a year, but enough people had begun to hear about him that the issue was soon sold out.

It was an interesting interview with some valuable ideas and advice that is useful today. In the interview Zhang refers to the many “secrets” in Tai Chi, which would seem to be a contradiction of Zhang Lianen's concept in this issue's cover article that there are no invincible secret techniques.

However, it is not likely that they are very far a[part on this. “Secrets” exist because students have not practiced enough and applied enough intelligence or just plain common sense.

To become even reasonably good, it in necessary to try again and again to find out how the body and the energy and the mind work in something like Tai Chi.

Every high level teacher and human being has had to do that.

Teachers may give hints but only if the student is really working hard and has earned them or if he is going in entirely the wrong direction.

You can't be just a copy machine and be very good.

The interview with Zhou Yuanlong in San Francisco occurred several years after an interview with him in Shanghai during my visit to China.

I believe it was Dr. Wen Zee who made the contact with Zhou, who was gracious enough to come to my hotel room for the interview.

My translator, provided by the Chinese travel service, was surprised that a high level Wushu official would come to me for an interview.

It was an interesting interview and when I met him again in San Francisco, he didn't recognize me at first, and then came over to me to say that he didn't recognize me at first because my glasses or maybe it was his glasses.

The report in this issue about the article in the Archives of Internal medicine is noteworthy for a number of reasons.

It brings to light some of the studies in China and in English showing various benefits from the practice of Tai Chi Chuan.

The negative aspect is that many of the studies were not scientifically rigorous. There was not random sampling in many cases, nor control groups.

Many of the studies involved older people, probably because the funding for senior citizens was there. But if the results are good for seniors, they would also likely apply for younger people.

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