A New Year’s Taiji Update

To get the the Year of the Dog going here are some recent – and vintage – photographs…

From top left, in clockwise order: 1)  The last NYC YMT class of 2017,  2) A classic art movement man,  3) A Saturday class from late in 2017,  4) Robert Politzer and Master Wang practicing tuishou in 2001 (It was a spontaneous moment sometime towards the end of a workshop that a number of us attended. I believe the photograph is courtesy of Ilana Schienman), 5) Frolicking of the House Cats, and 6) The shirt I almost bought my Mom for Christmas.


Below is an excerpt from the Thirteen Postures document that can be found here.

The Thirteen Postures – Yang Family Hidden Tradition

The Eight Upper Body Movements:
1. Ward Off – Peng
2. Roll Back – Lu
3. Press – Ji
4. Push – An
5. Pull Down / Drag Down – Tsai
6. Split / Twist the Joint – Lieh
7. Elbow – Chou
8. Shoulder – Kao

The Five Lower Body Directions:
Advancing Steps – Jin
Retreating Steps – Tui
Glance to the Left Side – Ku
Glance to the Right Side – Pan
Central Equilibrium – Ding

Here is a classic text, translated in the book “The Essence of T’ai Chi Chuan”, by Ben Lo and others.

Song Of The Thirteen Postures
Author Unknown

The thirteen postures should not be taken lightly;
The source of the postures lies in the waist.

Be mindful of the insubstantial and substantial changes;
The qi (breath) spreads throughout without hinderance.

Being still, when attacked by the opponent, be tranquil and move in stillness;
(My) changes caused by the opponent fill him with wonder.

Study the function of each posture carefully and with deliberation;
To achieve the goal is very easy.

Pay attention to the waist at all times;
Completely relax the abdomen and the qi (breath) will raise up.

When the coccyx is straight,
The shen (spirit) goes through the headtop.

To make the whole body light and agile suspend the headtop.
Carefully study.

Extension and contraction, opening and closing, should be natural.
To enter the door and be shown the way, you must be orally taught.

The practice is uninterrupted, and the technique (achieved) by self study.
Speaking of the body and its function, what is the standard?

The i (mind/intent) and qi (breath) are king, and the bones and muscles are the court.
Think over carefully what the final purpose is: to lengthen life and maintain youth.

The Song consists of 140 characters; each character is true and the meaning is complete.
If you do not study in this manner, then you will waste your time and sigh.


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Taiji in the Fall NYC

Here are a few things to celebrate the changing of the seasons.  From to top to bottom are:

Morning Taiji Class on September 22, Somewhere beautiful in Vermont, A Class Taiji Banquet on June 24, Morning Taiji Class on May 20, A Tasty Cookie by Holly Leavy, A Collection of Fish, A Whisker Friendly Catfood Dish.

Yen nien fan v3

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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

Continue reading

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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!


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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:


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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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