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.

Continue reading

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1996 Wang Yen-nien Lecture Part 2

In 1996 Master Wang Yen-nien and Julia Fairchild visited New York City for an extensive workshop that covered The First Duan, Meditation, and The 15 Basic Tuishou exercises.
On Friday evening, the day before the start of the workshops, Master Wang addressed a large gathering in the Little Theater at the West Side YMCA. Below is part two of the 90 minute lecture. Part one of the lecture (8 minutes) is here.

Wang Yen-nien Lecture – New York City, June 21, 1996
Translation: Julia Fairchild, Moderator: Robert Politzer
Video Production and Editing by Thomas W. Campbell

Part Two: Twenty Seven Minutes

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Saturday Mornings in the Park

The New York City Yangjia Michuan Taiji group has often had classes in Central Park, sometimes on weekends, sometimes during the evenings. And sometimes as workshops. We’ve begun to take the Saturday Morning Taiji Class outdoors, with a convenient row of  benches for leg massages and a wonderfully open yet tree covered spot for basic exercises and form work.  The class is learning the 13 postures of the YMT school and is settling into their comfortable corner of the park…

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1996 Wang Yen-nien NYC Workshop

Here are a few images from the 1996 workshop that we did with Master Wang, representing his first visit to New York City. He presented a Lecture on Yangjia Michuan
in the “Little theater” at the West Side YMCA. Then, if memory serves, we did a three day
first duan workshop (including video footage that has yet to be edited) and then on to Mercy College for a Tuishou and Meditation workshop.
The images below are of NYCYMT school founder Robert Politzer and student Jim Best.
Photos by Holly Leavy.

WYN Lecture 1996(3) Lucre WYN Lecture 1996(3) push WYN Lecture 1996(3) writing

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Three Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan Amigos

3 taiji amigos v2

Arnold C. Baker II, Robert Politzer, Thomas W. Campbell during a Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan gathering in Central Park, New York City, 2006.
Photo by Holly Leavy.

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May 13, 2015 NYC YMT get-together

Some of the class recently met at Legend 72 on the upper west side for a festive meal and good conversation. Good times were had…


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2002 Madison, Wisconsin Workshops – More Images

Here are some more images from the 2002 Madison, Wisconsin Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan workshops, attended by Wang Yen-nien. Many students and teachers from the New York group attended.

All photos shot and provided by Illana Sheinman

Madison i1 Madison i3 Madison i9 Madison i2 Madison i4 Madison i5 Madison i6 Madison i7 Madison i11 Madison i12 Madison i10 Madison i13 Madison i14 Madison i15 Madison i16edit

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