Some articles about Taiji and Health

Two of our students sent a link to a recent article in the New York Times about Balance and Taiji. This continues a consistent series of positive studies demonstrating the relationship between exercise (and taiji in particular) and health. Below is a link to the NYTimes article and a few others as well. And there is a short article about Wang Yen-nien, the fourth generation master of Yangjia Michuan, at the bottom of the list.

What are the Health Benefits of Tai Chi?

 

Try tai chi to improve balance, avoid falls

 

Tai Chi and Postural Stability in Patients with Parkinson’s Disease

 

Tai Chi Helps Parkinson’s Patients

 

Tai Chi Chuan optimizes the… human brain architecture in older adults.

 

The Master of a Generation: A Short Biography of Wang Yen-nien (1914-2008)

 

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Wang Yen-nien and Cheng Man Ching

An interview with Wang Yen-nien

By Thomas W. Campbell

This is an excerpt from the talk I had with Master Wang in Madison, Wisconsin in 2002.  It refers to his relationship to Master Cheng Man Ching, probably the most famous taiji teacher who came to teach in the United States. Wang Yen-nien knew Cheng Man-Ching when they both were in Taiwan in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. There are many students who are descendants of Cheng Man Ching’s teaching in the United States but the relationship of the two masters is little known.


Wang Yen-nien Cheng Man Ching

TWC – We encounter students and teachers of Cheng Man Ching’s lineage who know little or nothing of your relationship with Cheng Man Ching. Would you please discuss this relationship?

WYN – I call Cheng Man Ching my older martial art brother. Why is that? That’s because he was a vowed student of Zhang Qinlin, who was also my teacher. What he studied with Zhang Qinlin was tuishou and neigong. And so because of this relationship with Zhang Qinlin we became martial art brothers. He was older than me so I call him my older martial art brother. At that time, in China, at the time he became a vowed student of Zhang Qinlin, my teacher, Cheng Man Ching was already a practicing a Yang style, not Yangjia Michuan, but another style. So because he only knew taijiquan at that time and not tuishou, he found Zhang Qinlin and wanted to practice tuishou.

In the beginning Cheng Man Ching invited Zhang Qinlin, who had been living in Shanzi province, to Nanjing. He arranged for him to teach for three months. Then, in Nanjing, with Zhang Qinlin, Cheng practiced and studied tuishou for three months; the most important things that he asked Zhang Qinlin to teach him were tuishou and neigong.

In those days, whether you were a martial artist, or whether you were a Daoist, the relationship between the teacher and the student was a very very important one. When I became a vowed student of Zhang Qinlin, my relationship with Cheng Man Ching was established. And you can never erase this relationship. Because he bowed and became a vowed student of Zhang Qinling and this created a relationship between the two of us. The difference, though, is that not only did I practice tuishou and neigong but I also learned Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan. And Zhang Qinlin taught me the complete system, and not CMC.

This is to state once again that my relationship with Cheng Man Ching is due to the fact that we are both vowed disciples of Zhang Qinlin.

Published in AYMTA Journal, Fall 2002.

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2000 – Wang Yen-nien, Fifty Years of Teaching

In 2000 I wrote an editorial for AYMTA (American Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan Association) on the occasion of Master Wang Yen-nien’s fiftieth year of teaching Taiji. The article is reprinted below. In 1996 the New York School of Yangjia Michuan were the hosts of his first visit to New York City

Wang Yen-nien was born in December, 1914 and passed away on May 4, 2008.

Wang Yen-nien 1996

Wang Yen-nien: Fifty Years of Teaching Taijiquan 
Editorial by Thomas W. Campbell, originally published
in the AYMTA Journal, Fall 2000.

Congratulations to our teacher Wang Yen-nien in his fiftieth year of teaching.  Students around the world practice Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan and are healthier in both mind and body by doing so. This journal, which is a collaboration between AYMTA, Julia Fisher Fairchild, and Master Wang,  is testimony to the rich history and profound vitality of the art that Master Wang has worked so hard to preserve and to see flourish.

There are thousands of students and teachers around the world who have learned from Master Wang  – both directly and from practicing with those who he has taught.  To study with a true master is not something to be taken lightly. When we look around at those who are in position to teach – in commerce, in art, in politics, we find very few who have attained the highest level in their field – and even fewer who have done so as selflessly and as genourously as has Master Wang.  Between these pages you will encounter, in both words and images, testimony to the talents of Master Wang. This quality comes from his high level of skill, his gongfu, his unparrelled understanding of taijiquan, neigong and meditation. It also comes from his devotion to his students. Others have attained high levels of skill. But how many have given as much to the taiji community as has Master Wang? How many have lived and breathed taiji – and taken every opportunity to share his or her knowledge and passion with all students who have knocked on his door. Wang Yen-nien, who left his homeland because of Civil war, who carried an otherwise lost art with him, who began to transmit the direct lineage of Yang Luchan to students one at a time with patience and devotion, who left the military government to teach Yangjia Michuan full -time when he found students who understood the value of what they were receiving, who would ultimately travel the world, even in his eighties when health issues were part of his life, finding the embrace of students who were honored to learn from him.

Take a moment and recall when you first met Master Wang. What were the circumstances? Where were you? What were your expectations? What was the result of that day?

I began to practice Yangjia Michuan in early 1993, a long time ago for some, just yesterday to others. About a year and a half later my teacher, Robert Politzer, invited some of his students to attend a “Tien Ming” ceremony in Washington D.C. On that day Master Wang initiated 11 student/teachers into the Daosist school. As I watched the ceremony it dawned on me that I was no longer in the middle of Washington D.C. – rather I was in a sacred Daoist space. The robes, the religious artifacts, the demeanor of those around me helped to create this impression. But the center from which everything flowed was the man with dark hair and a twinkle in his eyes.  As each student approached him to recieve the ceremonial  blessing that would welcome them into the Golden Mountain school I felt that all in that room were being touched by his hand. It was a serious affair that spoke of ancient ways superseding the everyday cares of modern life.

Master Wang, of course, is a keen judge of what is transpiring around him. After the ceremony he spoke to us. “This is not a cult” he said, concerned for those of us who knew little of Chinese ways. “Why are we here? It was fate that we would come together like this”

Fate? I look back on the day that I walked into my teacher’s very first class, on the day that I first found myself in the presence of Wang Laoshi, on the time that I first visited Europe to attend the Strassbourgh International Festival, on the day that I could first say that I knew the full Yangjia Michuan form (still so much to learn!), on the day that I began to teach, on the day that I became a board member of AYTMA and took over the work of the journal, and on today, as I have the privilige to write this small article in such an important issue as this one. Yes, I do believe it was fate that guided me to Wang Yen-nien and to those who have learned from him.  Fate can open our eyes but we must learn to see with them. Let us all learn from the lessons that Wang Laoshi continues to teach.  Let us also continue to find ways that we can pass our knowledge to others.  It is in the interaction between and among students and teachers that we will continue what we have learned from our teacher.

Thank you , Master Wang, from all of us who are your students.

 

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A Small Selection of Books on Taijiquan

img_5657Early in our studies Robert Politzer, who founded the New York Yangjia Michuan Taiji School in 1993 and is the head teacher, gave us a book list. It contained a number of essential taiji texts and represented the beginning of my own library of taiji related books. I found a list from the year 2000, which I believe has added a few titles. To it I have added a work by William C. C. Chen, who was a friend of Wang Yen-nien and still teaches in NYC. Included as well is a book by Chen Man-ching, who was a younger Daoist brother and friend of Master Wang.

Here is the list, in the order that a beginner might want to proceed:

Taiji Reading List:

The Essence of T’ai Chi Ch’uan

translated by Lo/Inn/Amacker/Foe

ISBN 0-913028-63-0

T’ai-chi Touchstones -Yang Family Secret Transmissions

Revised Edition

by Douglas Wile

Sweet Ch’i Press

T’ai Chi Ch’uan Ta Wen (Questions and Answers)

by Chen wei-ming

ISBN  0-938190-67-9
Sweet Ch’i Press

T’ai Chi Classics

translated by Waysun Liao

ISBN 0-87773-531-x

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New Year Banquet 2017

We had our annual Chinese New Year Lunch (Banquet) for the Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan class on Saturday, January 28. Good conversation and good food were had.

Happy Year of the Rooster to all!

taiji-dinner-jan-28

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Happy New Year 2017

Happy New Year to the Monday, Wednesday and Saturday YMT Classes and Students! We have lots to celebrate and look forward to!

Our new blog email is:  www.nycymt.com

We are will have our next banquet around the time of the Chinese New Year, which is on Saturday, January 28.

Here is an image of the students and teachers in a recent Saturday morning class:

nov-12-taiji-class-mg_5075

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Taiji in Strasbourg – 1995

In the summer of 1995 a large group of the original members of the New York City YMT group traveled to Strasbourg, France to participate in an international gathering of Yangjia Michuan students and teachers. Wang Yen-nien, fourth generation master of the system, led the workshops and events. Julia Fairchild, Christian Bernapel and numerous other veteran teachers were among those in attendance. We had all begun practicing with Robert Politzer less than two year prior so it was a heady and exciting experience.
Thanks to Arnold C. Baker II for supplying the pictures.

Strasbourg Taiji Group with WYN v2

James Best, Robert Politzer, Wang Yen-nien, Gretchen MacLane, Lisa Birnbaum, Thomas W. Campbell, Arnold C Baker II, George Vlachos and Mike Stone. Strasbourg, France Yangjia Michuan Taiji Gathering and Workshops. Summer 1995.


March 2017 UPDATE:

Here is a short list of questions that I found in my European notebook from the summer of 1995. (I believe a number of us put our heads together for these as they are in different hand writing).

Questions for Master Wang

1) At a recent “push-hands” tournament every player (Mainly New-Yang players) began with their weight on the front leg. We have been taught to be more centered on the back leg. Why or how has this difference emerged?

2) What is the relationship between hardness and softness in our style? In push hands?

3) Please explain the legwork in “tai” (“cai” / “drag down”).

4) Please explain the front leg pivot in “monkey retreats”… most notably whether or not we pivot on the heel or toe.

5) in “Right, turn, tame the tiger” I am having trouble accomplishing the move with consistency. What are the important points that I should be looking at and considering?

6) During ”Hit the tiger” in section two, is the entire move performed facing the diagonal?

Arnold B Strasbourgh Taiji 1995

Arnold C Baker II enjoying the French Cityscape.

Strasbourg taiji Tom C Cafe V2

Social hour for the taiji crowd.

WYN leaves floor Strasbourgh taiji

Wang Yen-nien steps off the mattes after a demonstration to students and teachers. Julia Fairchild is also seen, as is Luc Defago, to the right.

Strasbourg taiji Arnold and Tom v2

Arnie Baker and Tom Campbell begin the Ba Fa sequence, among an international group.

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Baker Camp Taiji June 1995

Robert Politzer led a two day taiji workshop at Baker Camp, in Harriman State Park, on June 24 and 25, 1995. Arnold Baker took and supplied a number of great pictures – with a film camera – so here is a selection.

Baker camp Title

Where we were in the summer of 1995. – Harriman State Park, Baker Camp, 2006

Baker camp Gretchen and Lisa

Gretchen MacLane and Lisa Birnbaum talk taiji in Harriman State Park. 1995

Baker camp Group 5B

The Taiji class on the concrete court where they practiced – Harriman State Park, Baker Camp, 2006

Baker camp TC, GV, RP

Robert, George, Tom – in a between taiji moment. – Harriman State Park, Baker Camp, 2006

Baker camp Group 6

The Taiji class gathers on the concrete court for a lively photo op – Harriman State Park, Baker Camp, 2006

Baker camp 8

Robert Politzer has to wonder if the rain will cancel the outdoors taiji session – The concrete court where the class practiced – Harriman State Park, Baker Camp, 2006

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A Recent Saturday Taiji Class Picture

Here are some of the students and teachers at the Saturday Morning Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan Class at the West Side Y in NYC.

Recent Satruday YMT Taiji class Cropped

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Wang Yen-nien interview

An interview with Wang Yen-nien, fourth generation master of the Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan lineage, by Thomas W. Campbell. Our talk took place on July 13, 2002 in Madison, Wisconsin and Julia Fairchild provided the translation. The workshop was produced by Don and Kathryn Coleman. Originally published in the Journal of AYMTA (American Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan)

Wang Yen-nien

Wang Yen-nien, Madison, Wisconsin in 2002

When I finally sat down with Wang Yen-nien to conduct an interview the festival was over and we had only a short amount of time. It was early Saturday morning and obvious that Master Wang was tired and in need of more green tea than he had probably consumed so far. But we settled in, with Julia Fairchild translating, and started right up. Within minutes Master Wang became attentive and inspired, looking back on his life and discussing it with deep interest. His responses were carefully considered and spoken with emotional authority.

TWC – Master Wang, you have practiced and taught taijiquan from many years and trained many students and teachers.  Would you discuss why you have dedicated yourself to the practice and teaching of Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan?

WYN – It was a time when the world was changing, when eras were changing, from the end of the world war, of arriving in Taiwan, and retiring from military service and into private life.  Having been in the army I realized how little life was worth, during the war.  [Wang Yen-nien was a Colonel, fighting with the Nationalist Army in the Chinese Civil war.] So, considering all of my experiences in the war, I decided after stepping down from military service to dedicate myself to something that would be of use to people’s health and to mankind.  In Chinese there is saying that once you have seen so much disaster and death you are able to let go of all attachments because you have been to zero and now you can only go up.  Also I realized that once you teach taijiquan it is a benefit to oneself, but also a benefit to others.  So taijiquan is something meaningful to do with oneself.  Something that is meaningful to oneself and meaningful to others.  So that’s why I chose this route to continue the development, and to spread and expand the practice of Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan.

TWC – Can you discuss how the different elements of Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan are interconnected? For instance how do we benefit from each part of our practice, meaning form, weapons, tuishou, etc., and what are the benefits that we discover in training the complete system?

WYN – In the practice of Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan, in the beginning Yang Luchan did not openly teach his very effective style.  He only taught something that we could think of as “openly,” hoping that this could be for better health.  In what we call the “hidden tradition,” there are places in the forms that are not the same [as the “open form”]; the path he began to take was a Daoist path.  Many people say where did this Yang family hidden tradition come from, there is no such thing, But it’s not that it didn’t exist, it’s that these people did not know about it.  Because Yang Luchan kept it hidden.  He did not transmit it openly.  Each generation was only allowed to transmit it to one person.

Even though Yang Luchan had three sons, he only transmitted this Yang family tradition to Yang Jianhou, and not to his other sons.  “Transmit to one, and not two”- because when you transmit to one you can be more assured that the tradition can remain hidden, and maintained.  But when you transmit to two then the likelihood of this secret getting out will be greater.

Then this [Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan] was transmitted from Yang Luchan to Yang Jianhou to Zhang Qinlin to Wang Yen-nien.

The overall benefit of practicing the entire system of Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan is, of course, for better health and happiness.  Today, most other styles of taiji that we see also have this as their goal better health and happiness.  But because some other traditions miss this longevity aspect, they are missing part of it.  They might find the health and happiness but the goal of longevity will be missing.  In Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan the emphasis is not only on health and happiness but also on longevity, and that is the Daoist aspect.

Sometimes other forms will add in a practice of “Qigong.”  But what is already a part of Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan is called “neigong.”  That’s as far as the form goes.

The benefit of neigong – it is an internal Daoist alchemist art.  Those who are interested in continuing a practice of self-cultivation and internal alchemical arts begin with the practice of neigong.  This idea of neigong is to cultivate and nurture the internal organs, to strengthen the inner.  In addition there is what we call tu-na, the Daoist art of breathing technique.  And once we practice this Daoist art of breathing technique, the internal organs become stronger and healthier.  The three treasures that we have, our inner elixirs, are Jing, Qi, and Shen.  Ordinarily we have these inner elixirs, but if they are not taken care of, cultured and nurtured, they will slowly dissipate over time.  When we practice an internal alchemical art, using neigong to develop and strengthen ourselves, and use the Daoist art of breathing, we will be able to develop, strengthen, and augment these three naturally occurring inner elixirs, Jing, Qi, and Shen.

Jing, Qi, and Shen will become full and plentiful, and not dissipate over time.

So this is where, in addition to the form, we also have included in our system neigong that we say adds to longevity.  So the idea is to have a long healthy life, a goal that may be missing form other schools.  That comes from the benefit of practicing neigong, as it is included in the system of Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan practice.

What about sword, fan, pole, tuishou?  These are supplementary things.  We have the form, which is fundamental.  To supplement that we have fan, sword, (Kunlun and Wudang), and tuishou.  These are all to help increase the elasticity and strength in the body.  For example tuishou can help to open up the meridians and cultivation areas in the body that are needed in neigong.  They also help to increase and benefit the circulation, moving qi about the body.  These supplemental parts of our study, for example tuishou, are designed to open up meridians and blocks and barriers in the body that in a solo practice of a form, or neigong by itself, our qi may not be strong enough to open.

So we say that the foundation, the base of our practice, is form and the neigong.  The other parts, weapons and tuishou practice, are designed to supplement in either a solo or two-person way, to further open up meridians in the body.

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