Saturday, February 26, 2011

A conversation with Yang Chengfu

I practice the Yang Long Fist Tai Chi Chaun 108. I began my study and continued it these past 30 years just for myself. Not to be the best in the world. Not to search out the oldest version. Just for myself.

It has been an incredible journey. I discovered the Yang system is more than a lifetime of study, with infinite layers especially when you factor aging into the equation. But from the initial study and continual practice and self learning I also became aware of the English translations of many Chinese Tai Chi texts.

I’ve found martial books an interesting part of my studies. Normally I buy a book and it takes me 5 or more years before I make sense of where it fits in my studies, assuming it has value. Books and/or movies are time binding tools. They take the accumulated knowledge of an instructor and try to move it along in time.

In 2005 I bought a copy of “Yang Chengfu - The Essence and Applications of Taijiquan”. Then I let time pass, and following my rules at least 5 years, so it was time.

Louis Swaim, the translator, has a very interesting introduction about the history surrounding this book.
But of course it is Yang Chengfu’s description of the application potential for his tai chi technique that is the star.

This book can’t be read, it must be experienced.

My study of Yang is one of the probably million of variations from the original. A large percentage of my practice is as Yang Chengfu describes, but there are enough differences that I required additional assistance. Lucky for me Louis Swaim had previously translated “Fu Zhongwen Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan” and FuZhongwen was a student of Yang Chengfu.

So on one hand I’m reading Yang, on the other hand I’m referencing Fu and then getting up and practicing the movement and application described.

Correct practice, of course, involves using the entire body, the methodology of movement and body alignment, the method of breathing and how you focus yourself throughout the technique. Both of these works help bridge the gap between understanding and realization.

Describing what I’m seeing would be useless without a common frame of reference. Just enough to suggest what was written, when experienced is a true conversation with the past.

On the other hand I’m frequently asked on the internet to explain how tai chi and karate study tie together. Tuesday evening I went to class and we were working on our version of the Goju Saifa Kata.

Suddenly I saw Yang Chengfu’s description on the application of Yang Tai Chi Ward Off Left (Peng) as the perfect explanation of one section of Saifa.

When you take Tai Chi movement and apply it, the underlying principles apply to all movement.

So much to learn, but now I have a new friend. Yang Chengfu.

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