On Competitions & Events

Dutch treat
by Dan Docherty
Saturday, November 3rd, year of Our Lord 2007 and yours truly with editor Ron and ex-TCUGB Chairman, Bob Lowey and wife are largein' it as guests of our Dutch uncles at the Stichting Taijiquan Nederland (STN) Taiji Festival in Old Amsterdam.The Stichting has been running the event for 15 years and this year was also their 25th anniversary.

Essentially the event has been run by pretty much the same crew for all that time and old colleague, Epi van de Pol was both President and Master of Ceremonies for the Festival. The competition side of things was controlled by the very capable Joppe. & Petra Douwes; Joppe is a three time winner of the Dutch Chevy Chase look-alike competition.

We had some very good entertaining demos. Mr. Lowey did his Farmer Bob cane form to great acclaim. I greatly liked the nifty Qinna shown by Mike Martello from Belgium; Mike trains in Taiwan with the same master as my good friend Albert Yefimov and I hope he will be able to demonstrate and give a workshop at the Tai Chi Festival I am organising on behalf of the TCUGB in Oxford in early April. Capable old hands such as Henk Jansen, Luis Molera and Julian Webber also showed what they could do.

An unexpected blast from the past, who used to feature in Combat magazine in the 80s and early 90s, was Sifu Mark Houghton who has been training with US based master Doc Fai Wong for quite some years in both Choi Li Fat and Tai Chi. He demonstrated some hard Qigong including roundhouse kicks with bare leg on a solid iron bar and bending a hefty looking sabre with fist and palm strikes. He also I hope to see at the Oxford event as his pushing hands people are always amongst the medals in Holland.

As for the competition, the pushing hands went smoothly under the guidance of the brothers Rob and Eric Volke though the rules were quite limiting in terms of permitted techniques. The quality in the forms event was mixed with some excellent stuff and some over which I prefer to draw a veil. On the British side, Albert St. Catherine from London who comes to this event regularly, was the male Victor Ludorum.

After the event we sat down to a meal of school canteen pasta and veg washed down at least at our table, with Ardmore Whisky to which I treated the Dutch and it encouraged them to ask us to come back next year with more people. My only regret was not finding someone to go Dutch with me for the taxi ride back to the hotel. All kidding aside thanks to the members of the STN team for all their hospitality.


Land Of The Litigant
by Dan Docherty (Combat January 1993)
 

The good, the bad and the distinctly weird; this is America. This was the US National Chinese Martial Arts Championships in Orlando, Florida, home of Disneyworld. The TCUGB were represented by yours truly with fellow instructors, Peter Yeung and John Hine. A total of seven competitors from Peter's school, my school and the Wu style Academy took part with sole supporter, Geoff Walden, whose constant stream of "jokes" and "witticisms"proved a valuable psychological weapon against the bemused Americans.

Firstly the competitors. Peter Yeung's young charges did very well in the men's Intermediate Section of the competition. Gavin Thomas took 3rd and 2nd place in Middleweight Stationary and Moving Step Pushing Hands respectively. Daimon Lau took 3rd in Traditional Long/Short form and 2nd in Middleweight Moving Step Pushing Hands. Stephen Barbary took 2nd in Soft Style Weapon and Chi Sau and 1st in Middleweight Moving Step Pushing Hands.

In the men's Advanced Section, veteran Joseph Soiza of the London Wu Academy took 3rd in Fixed step and 1st at Moving Step in the Lightweight Pushing Hands. At Middleweight Steve Wooster and Aidan Cochrane took 3rd and 5th respectively in Fixed Step Pushing Hands.

When I saw the first back flip in the Traditional Spear Form event I became convinced that the mushrooms I'd had for breakfast were magic ones. I saw people spin the spear; I saw them throwing it in the air and catching it behind them; I saw them whack the carpet with it; I saw them throw it, catch it and do the splits. Doc Fai Wong's son even spun it round his legs and dropped it. And the crowd - composed almost entirely of fellow competitors went crazy every time anyone did any of the above.

The competitors in the spear event were good gymnasts. They were good jugglers. They were good acrobats. I don't know whether or not they were good weapons men because for the most part they weren't using the spear as a weapon.In all the Traditional Forms events it was the same story. Hung Kuen, Choi Li Fat and Wing Chun are three of the most common Chinese martial arts styles in the West. Yet nobody in the entire competition was doing traditional forms from these styles. The reason was obvious. The audience brought up on a diet of Jackie Chan movies wouldn't have known the real stuff if it had hit them in the face.

Which brings me to the reason Steve Wooster was disqualified in the fixed step pushing hands. His opponent, in an attempt to keep his balance, hit himself in the face. Steve had also committed fouls by using a sudden attack in following up with a push after pulling the opponent off balance; in so-called "double grabbing" twice and in touching the opponent's neck once.

I was told that the rules were designed to prevent litigation in the event of injury. Sam Masich, one of the judges from Canada, told me that he didn't favour these rules himself and indeed he had to be corrected on their implementation by the weighty figure of Jane Hallander on a number of occasions. I have to say that with a few exceptions the judges were scrupulously fair and strict in their interpretation of the rules. It is the rules themselves that are questionable.

Of all the personalities that I met at the Disney Hotel where the competition was held, the one that impressed me most was Goofy the dog, but that was because he licked a prominent member of the TCUGB Executive Committee. Sam Masich seemed a nice chap, but in our little talks I sometimes got to wishing that I knew as much about anything as Sam thinks he knows about everything.

Jane Hallander treated us to a demo of a Tai Chi sabre form during the master's demonstrations. She did it to Frank Sinatra singing Mack the Knife - 'nuff said. Another veteran Tai Chi lady who demonstrated was Pat Rice whom I've met before in both Taiwan and France. Pat is a tall and elegant lady and she has very fine form.

Doctor John Painter, publisher of Internal Arts Magazine was also present. Used to pictures of him in Inside Kung Fu with rippling abs and great pecs, seeing him in the "too too solid flesh" was something of a surprise. For all that the good doctor seemed a most avuncular chap.

Chalk to the good doctor's cheese was the slight figure of Marvin Smallheiser of Tai Chi magazine. Mr. Smallheiser with whom I've corresponded for some years is a very open person who has a genuine desire to promote all aspects of Tai Chi in his magazine even when he himself doesn't agree with a particular approach. He is a real gentleman.

On the business front John Hine attended a seminar given by Anthony Goh on how to run a successful school. One way to do it is to charge $40 for a one and a half hour seminar. This was the cost for each of the more than twenty seminars on offer, although the money raised did go to subsidise the competition. Most of the American kung fu schools demand a full year's fees at one go, I don't think British students would go for that one.

Not since I was in charge of the Kowloon Regional Vice Squad have I seen so many people in slinky silk and satin Chinese pyjamas. These were available for sale at many of the stalls and woe betide the forms competitor who wasn't wearing one. There were crimson and pink numbers that Julian Clary would have killed for.

One man who wasn't doing back flips was Wong Tat-mau, who is one of the leading Chinese martial arts instructors in the USA. I hadn't seen him for about fifteen years. In 1976 we were both members of the Hong Kong full contact kung fu team which fought in the 4th SE Asian Martial Arts championships in Singapore. Tat Mau was one of the best fighters on what was one of the strongest Chinese martial arts teams I've seen in the last 20 years and he won the 75k division. He now runs the biggest Chinese martial arts tournament in America.

We had a chat about the full contact event which, apart from some of the masters demos was one of the few instances of genuine Chinese Kung Fu as opposed to Wu Shu in the entire competition. In addition there was minimal interference from the officials which is not something that could be said of the other events. Tat Mau agreed with me that the gloves at 16 ounces were too big, but again this was to protect the organisers from being sued by injured participants. Of the American fighters on show, Tai Yim's Hung Fat students were by far the best and some of the Brazilians and Mexicans showed good conditioning.

I understand Tat Mau's videos on Choi Li Fat are available from MAM who regularly advertise in Combat. Those interested in this powerful style which is very popular in Hong Kong could not ask for a better guide.

John Hine and I had a chat with Jeff Bolt, the tournament organiser, after the presentation of trophies. He must be congratulated for getting so many prominent martial artists together in one place for four days and getting them to cooperate with one another. No mean feat.

Mr. Bolt himself has a lot of class as his good humoured juggling display at the farewell party showed. He told us that there were plans to make the event somewhat shorter and we agreed that this would be a good move as it got very tedious at times - particularly the numerous time outs taken by judges to discuss the rules.

In America there are many fine traditional martial arts instructors; there are also many fine traditional martial artists. In America there are many fine Wu Shu instructors; there are also many fine Wu Shu practitioners. Apart from the full contact, this wasn't really a tournament for the martial artist. It wasn't the US National Chinese Martial Arts Championships, it was really the US National Wu Shu Championships with a few other odds and ends thrown in.

One of the major reasons for this state of affairs is that America is the land of the litigant. Robert Burns once wrote, "Courts for cowards were erected, churches built to please the priest". Now I know what he meant.


Made in Taiwan
by Dan Docherty
Combat September 1994
Huang Jifu, Vice Chairman of the BCCMA, was the team leader. Dick Watson and I were the coaches and a squad of 20 from my association, from Nigel Sutton's Zhong Ding Association and from Dicks Long Fei Association went with us to Taiwan for the 2nd Chung Hua Cup International Tal Chi Chuan Tournament in Taiwan.

I quote from the tournament regulations:"Purpose: Owing to expend (sic) Chinese culture, promote the acknowledge of Tai Chi Chuan, encourage the health of human being, as well as improving and learning the technical of Tai Chi Chuan." Despite the faulty English. I think the gist is clear.

This tournament failed to achieve any of these noble purposes.

The travel guide to Taiwan thoughfully provided by the Free China Centre told us 'Try never to shout or lose your temper. Always stay calm and cool. Be modest and respectful, the more so with someone older or more senior."

Halfway through the first day of competition. I had metamorphosed from an urbane, courteous Dr. Jekyll into a raging, slavering Mr. Hyde. As Jifu remarked even Dick Watson. normally the most mild-mannered and pleasant of people, was seething.

There are always problems with competitions there are incompetent officials, unclear rules and occasional bias. However, I have never encountered organised cheating on the scale that we saw in Taiwan.

We, the Malaysians and the small American contingent were systematically cheated. I didn't complain about the first couple contests against the Taiwanese, not wanting to be accused of sour grapes and the contests were close.

Dean Mcann's Taiwanese opponent was so well beaten that he was shaking his head when time was called. Nevertheless he got the decision, Jifu made a protest. The Taiwanese judges and organisers smiled at us, shook our hands and said nice things.

Ray White's referee was so biased that I walked on and stopped the contest. I told the chief Judge and his echelons that if they were incapable of judging and refereeing properly, we could do it for them. The judges were visibly shaken and obviously unused to being harangued in Mandarin by 6'1", 200 pound Glaswegians. However, organlsers came over and smiled and said more nice things. I let it continue.

When time came, we thought Ray had won narrowly, but gave it to the Taiwanese. Then Gordon McGowan spotted the scorecard: 25-8 in favour of the Taiwanese. I could just about believe 25-24 or 25-23, but this was the last straw.

When you don't complain and you are cheated, it continues. When you complain politeIy, it continues and when you complain strongly the cheating is even worse. The team was a good one, but there is little point in continuing under the same circumstances, so we withdrew. I felt sorry for those who had been cheated, sorry for those who had fought their way through to the semi-finals, sorry for those who hadn't had the chance to compete.

So they sent the President of the Taiwan Tai Chi Association and incidentally Jifu's Tai Chi uncle to shake hands with me and smooth things over. I refused to shake hands with him or anyone else and told them that to paraphrase Lao Tzu they had spoken many beautiful words but very few true ones.

Later at the party Jifu came up and said that he'd been told that his uncle, the president. wanted to give personal presents to him and to me and would I go up onto the stage to accept. I refused, but said that in view of his being in the same Tai Chi family I understood that it was necessary for him to accept. He didn't get the chance. The Taiwanese persuaded one of our team members to go up and sing and at the end of a rendition of "Stand By Me" they made an announcement in Mandarin that they were presenting a framed portrait to the British: team which they duly gave him with smiles, clapping and photographs.

When he came down from the stage I asked to look at the portrait. I took it over to the bleachers and started to smash it on the metal railings. The first crash got their attention after the second I flung it on the floor.

To Chinese people face is more important than life Itself, so this was the most effective way to make a non-violent protest. The next day we did something positive: Jifu bid to run the next Chung Hua Cup in Britain in 1996. The Malaysian delegates applauded vigorously.

Subsequent to this at the BCCMA AGM I was asked to become their competitor coordinator. I accepted and with their support intend to help put together regional, national and international competitions at all levels and incorporating all aspects of Chinese martial arts. These events will be advertised in Combat and I will be writing with more information to leading instructors seeking their support. Most, but not all of these events will be entirely open. In the meantime I'd be very happy to receive comments and suggestions from all bona fide Chinese martial arts instructors: they can contact me at the address given in Combat Classified. Those requiring details on joining BCCMA should contact Membership Secretary Bob Weatherall, 46 Oaston Road, Nuneaton. Warks., CV11 6JZ.

PS. Thanks to BCCMA and TCUGB for their financial support for the team in Taiwan.


CHINA SYNDROME
BY DAN DOCHERTY (Tai Chi Chuan & Internal Arts, Winter 2006/7)
 

We were a motley crew. Chairman Gary on his first trip to China his idea of drinking whisky on the plane seemed sound at the time. We had two paediatricians, Luce from France, Anthony with wife Candice from Trinidad and Tobago, a quiet Englishman called David, personal trainer Beko, two Scots in the shape of Editor Ron and your correspondent and our leader, the splendid Faye Yip.

 

A Saudi Arabia-based American called Lisa joined us at our rather splendid hotel in Shanghai though the point of having the glass shower cubicle look into both bedroom and WC eluded me. Food as you’d expect in Shanghai was pretty good.

 

 ChinaSyndrome002

Huggling the Tree

 

Next morning we went early to the park. The Tai Chi and Qigong groups were either welcoming or ignored us. The recent government directive allowing only authorised groups to practice publicly was evident in that teachers wore green ribbons pinned to their shirts. While watching one group I wanted to sit down, noticed the benches were full, so sat down on the paving beneath a tree. Barely had I done so than an irate parky ran up and told me I would be ejected from said park if I didn’t get up immediately. I got up.

 

The same day we flew to Zhengzhou, our ultimate destination for the 2nd World Traditional Wushu Championships. The hotel again was pretty good, but the buffet food had obviously been toned down for the tastebuds of foreign friends, though not enough evidently for the Cubans, who were dining at Macdonalds come day 2.

 

Day 2 was supposed to be free for all except officials who were to be in meetings all day to discuss the rules. I told Faye that I had the utmost confidence in her ability to attend to this task and that I would instead be taking some of the crew to the Chen village which I’d last visited in 1995. I didn’t tell her that the prospect of shaking hands (though this was to change), smiling and talking about the rules before accepting whatever the organisers wanted to do was not an alluring prospect.

 

 morning exercise

Morning Exercise

 

The road to the Chen Village from Zhengzhou is still partly mud track and the Village itself is hardly a place of culture and refinement. It took us about three hours to get there by taxi everyone the drivers asked assured us it was only another 10km – this for more than an hour. When we finally arrived it was unrecognisable from my last visit.

 

We went through a huge archway and parked outside the Taijiquan Temple which evidently had been built recently. It cost us 6 US$ each to get in - a fortune in a place where the average monthly income is less than 80 US$. Chen Zhenglei was filming inside with some acolytes and he was gracious enough to say hello to Ron and mention his next UK visit.

 

The artwork inside (mainly of various Chen clan dignitaries) was painted in the naïve style of the would-be artist portrayed by the late Tony Hancock in his film, "The Rebel" and the gents was certainly less gruesome than many. Of the shining new marble stele memorials in honour of the Chen clan some had been donated by the other Tai Chi families.

 

 entrance to local park

Entrance to Local Park, Zhengzhou

 

The Soviet style training hall of old had been replaced by a brand new Tai Chi School complex for full time students of Chen style and some lads from Manchester were there to train. We next went to Chen De-xu’s villa where Yang Luchan had lived and learned, though it had become somewhat shabby and was no longer a focal point. The old gravestones had also gone and there being no reason to stay we were gone too.

 

We returned to Zhengzhou and a meeting with some of the leading local Tai Chi instructors to whom Faye introduced us. One of them asked me about our programme and I told her we were going to the Shaolin Temple. "All fake, isn’t it?" she laughed.

 

Madam Li, the main spokesperson, said she was happy to encourage an exchange whereby we could send a person/ persons for training and they would consider coming to the British Open Tai Chi Championships. She made it clear that there was no point in Chairman Gary trying to discuss Tai Chi and the Olympics as this was a matter for British IWUF delegates. We exchanged gifts. They got whisky and we got weird porcelain artwork; I made it clear to editor Ron that I wouldn’t swap my grinning horse for his baffled cow. Shortly after this Faye introduced us to her father, Li Deyin one of the top internal arts teachers in China, especially famous for the 42 step form and his Sun style Tai Chi. He was also most welcoming.

 

 shaolin boys shaolin boy 2

Shaolin Boys

 

Thence to the Shaolin Temple for a gala night; it took a couple of hours by bus to get to the modern Exhibition Centre near the Temple and to take our cushioned seats on the bleachers. Everything went dark then the spotlights and drums came on to show men dressed as monks on the artificial rocks. Some made martial movements, some appeared to be in meditational trances from which no awakening came throughout the show; the giggling dancing-girls came later.

 

From a technical point of view the choreography and mise-en-scene were splendid, but as we left I wondered what the shade of Bodhidharma made of it all as he sat in meditation in that cave, his image imprinted on the wall.

 

The next day brought a daylight return bus ride to Shaolin via the municipality of Deng Feng with demonstrations at all the Wushu schools that lined the route. Our winsome guide much to the irritation of Editor Ron kept up a loud running commentary in perfect Putonghua all the way.

 

 yang lu chuan secret

Yang Lu Chuan receiving the secrets of tai chi from Chen Changxing

 

We were proudly told that there were 83 Wushu schools in the vicinity of Deng Feng and the Temple with a total student enrolment of more than 50,000 full-time students, both male and female. We parked and started our walk through the grounds to the Temple itself; I guess it was a few kilometres.

 

We went through the Shaolin shopping mall passing more than one Shaolin Bar & Grill. There had been riots here in 2001 when the new abbot, Shi Yong-xin, declared the whole area round the Temple traditionally belonged to Shaolin so they were taking it back. With the help of the cops and the soldiers, they bulldozed homes and businesses which families had occupied for generations. Villagers told me that there was no compensation, all they could do was attack the bastard monks with rocks and stones till they were beaten back. I don’t know the truth.

 

On our way we saw callow male and female monks doing forms, training iron palm, fighting with various weapons or hand to hand, or jumping around on tree trunks embedded in patterns on the ground; others (fewer) were doing calligraphy, playing chess or appeared to be praying or meditating. Rows of shaven headed little boys, maybe 8 years old, stood for more than an hour under the hot sun tapping tiny wooden meditation bells with tiny mallets. Lisa said she saw one crying.

 

 chen village mural

Some of the many murals of Chen Village museum

 

Finally we got to the Temple complex itself. When I first visited in 1984, there had been no monks around and the Temple had been in ruins though the frescoes were still of interest. In 2001 it was full of stalls selling weapons and videos; now there were fewer stalls; they don’t need them with the shopping mall.

 

The lovely frescoes were still there slowly rotting away and outside the Temple the old cemetery forest of stone stele was imposing as ever.

 

 chen village mural 2

Some of the many murals of Chen Village museum

 

The competition started the same day and for several days; it was a curious affair. There were two venues, one for the top Chinese competitors and the other at a beautiful exhibition centre for foreign friends and other Chinese. More than 2000 competitors were taking part and the level was mixed. Where there was a large entry, competitors were divided into smaller groups. The first couple in each group got gold the next 2 or 3 silver and the rest, so long as they didn’t fall down got bronze. Guess that’s what they call win - win. Chairman Gary, Dr. Luce and Lisa all performed meritoriously and all received medals, though it looked for a while like Faye couldn’t get a spear for Gary.

 

Faye arranged a couple of other meetings for us, one with the secretary of the organizing committee, who again expressed interest in a UK visit for competition.

 

 yang lu chan learning place

Yang Lu Chang’s Tai Chi Learning Place

 

On another note, there has been a lot of difficulty in the Taijiquan and Qigong Federation for Europe especially between yours truly and our French colleagues. They also attended the event so I made a point in the best British tradition of shaking the hand of their leader, Anya Meot. She said, "So it’s the last time?" I told her as we continued to shake of our wonderful British documentary, "Banzai!" and the function of Mr. Shake-hands-man.

 

Editor Ron, Dr. Luce and I left early while Chairman Gary and the rest of the crew went to Beijing. Faye did a great job and I hope she can continue to help the TCUGB forge ties with China in the coming years in her new role as Chinese liaison officer. Any Tai Chi Chuan practitioner thinking of a trip to China for the first time could not find a better guide.

 

 mag cover winter 0607

Front Cover, Tai Chi Chuan & Internal Arts, Winter 2006/7

Article published in Tai Chi Chuan & Internal Arts, Winter 2006/7, photographies took by Ronnie Robinson


 What Isn't Qigong
by Dan Docherty
The 2001 National Qigong Gathering (“Moving into wholeness; the transformational power of Qigong) took place at the Omega Institurte in Rhinebeck, upstate New York from October 4-8. I was invited along as TCUGB representative on the Taijiquan & Qigong Federation for Europe (TCFE) by Jim MacRitchie, Qigong author and old pal of Ronnie Robinson.

Coming just over 3 weeks after the terrible events of September 11 in New York City attendance was well down – around 200 people in place of the anticipated 500 plus and as a result the mood was rather more subdued than might otherwise have been the case. Indeed Jim himself did not come due to family concerns about the safety of flying. However, in his absence I was treated with every courtesy especially by the impressive Chairperson, Roger Jahnke, and the Administrative Director, Rebecca Kali. The organic food and the accommodation were first class.

I sat in on a number of workshops; not surprisingly, there was a strong emphasis on healing and energy, and I was generally very impressed with the professionalism of the presenters such as Richard Leirer and Mark Johnson. I enjoyed the keynote address by Michael Winn on “Qigong and the Evolution of the Three Human Brains”. These were the instinctive/primitive, the emotive and the logical and the idea was to know the “universal Qi laws” that can “accelerate the evolution of individual body-mind consciousness into a steady state of joy and bliss, known as the Qigong state”.

“The National Qigong (Chi Kung) Association (NQA) is the umbrella organisation that embraces and supports equally all schools, traditions, teaching styles and philosophies of Qigong and Tai Chi. We are a professional organisation as well as a community of Qigong enthusiasts with all levels of experience.” From my observations this is an accurate description of the NQA as evidenced by the presence of a group of Falun Gong practitioners and the most interesting though technical lecture and seminar from Dr. Lili Feng on “Recent Discoveries in Scientific Qigong Research”. What set the whole event apart from a proper academic approach to an art or science was that nobody really seemed to even want to question anything no matter how bizarre or obscure; everything was indeed “embraced and supported equally”. In one sense this is noble, in another it means that the Chinese Internal Arts have a credibility gap that cannot be narrowed until a more scientific approach is adopted.

I also attended an important “Panel Presentation: Standards, Credentials and National Examinations in Clinical Qigong”. The panel discussed suggested requirements such as “Instructors” having a minimum of 200 hours tuition over 2 years including (most sensibly) a “Qi Deviation Class”; while “Medical Specialists” would be expected to have 400 hours of experience in Qigong and related subjects such as anatomy and including a clinical element over 4 years. There was also a suggestion that acupuncturists should also teach Qi cultivation. These are all issues that we will have to face in Britain, but also in Europe eventually. The Americans are dealing with them now.

Before I left I was asked to say a few words and told the participants that I had arrived thinking I knew what Qigong is, but was leaving wondering quite what it isn’t.

The TCFE hope to continue the transatlantic connection. I would like to thank the NQA for their generosity and courtesy.


Metamorphosis
by Dan Docherty
Prague still retains some of the mystery and Old Worlde flavour of the days of Franz Kafka (some crazy guy; “Metamorphosis” has the all time great opening line where the protagonist wakes up to find he has turned into a giant bug; we’ve all been there, right?) and Hasek (anarchist and creator of  “The Good Soldier Svejk”) and this was the venue of the 4th European Forum & Congress. TCUGB  instructors selected to teach at the Forum included our esteemed editor, Eva & Karel Koskuba, and me, while members Peter Ballam (with friends) participated in the workshops.

This time round there were a lot of Chen style teachers, including organiser, Vit Vojta, and his wife, Song Feng-yun, who gave a knockout performance of Chinese folk songs at the farewell party with a Czech rock band called Gong Bao who sing most of their stuff in Chinese. Other old colleagues like Anya Meot, Marianne Plouvier and Antoine Lee from France, Georgi Denichin from Bulgaria and Roswitha Flucher from Austria (by no means the worse dancer in Europe) were also teaching.

Fortunately the food was military and not prison standard, though naturally not the kind of stuff you’d make at home or order in a restaurant.

It took a few days, but after a slow start the ice began to melt between the great nations of Europe. As well as workshops we also had demos from the teachers, including individual approaches and applications of techniques such as Single Whip and Parting Wild Horse’s Mane we used a similar approach in Hannover at Nils Klug’s push-hands event – next one will be in February 2002. It was refreshing to see that we have in Europe today some individuals who can give “Chinese” demonstrations complete with reference to the nebulous concept of energy and meridians. I guess some of them even believe all that stuff. We also did form demos on the Saturday and I particularly enjoyed doing mirror image long form demo with Roswitha who performed Yang Cheng Fu long form. At times we were close enough to touch at others twenty metres apart, but we finished at the same moment.

A new Executive was elected at the Congress on the 21st July after the Forum. Details at www.TCFE.org, as I don’t want to bore you with them. The next event will be the 2nd European TCC and Internal Arts Championships and Qi Gong Exhibition in Vejle, Denmark, in October next year, which will include fixed, restricted step and moving pushing hands, forms, demos veteran and junion events, and workshops in Qi Gong and Internal Arts. Details will be posted on the web. At the moment Bulgaria is the sole bidder for the next Forum in 2003 and Georgi has a couple of  venues in the Balkans in mind. For those interested in such matters, I can recommend the wine, while the feminine population is not the worst looking in Europe; be there or be square.


Old Boys
by Dan Docherty (Combat November 1999)


I've been attending the Rencontres Jasnieres Tai Chi camp in the Loire Valley in France, man and boy since 1991. It's a place where you can meet Tai Chi Chuan students and teachers from all over Europe and further afield. It's even a place where you can make friends.

I usually teach at the camp and this year was no exception, but I was surprised to see that the organisers had also secured the services of one William C.C. Chen now of New York City and late of Taiwan. Prior to the camp I'd received a letter from Claudy Jeanmougin, a French Tai Chi teacher and writer, who'd befriended me at Jasnieres some years before. It was to invite me to meet his master Wang Yen-nien who was running his own camp near Angers.

These two masters appear in Robert W. Smith's ground-breaking book, "CHINESE BOXING; Masters and Methods". Smith relates how he trained under William Chen in Taiwan and in New York City. He said, "He fools you. Meek, slender and quiet, he might be a scholar or a student of the Book of Changes, never a boxer. But most assuredly he is." My teacher and Chen were the only two successful Tai Chi fighers at middleweight and lightweight respectively in the Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao Chinese full contact tournament held in Taipei in 1956

Of Wang Yen-nien, Smith wrote, "Until it is demonstrated, one does not realize the great difference that exists between the merely competent amateur and the expert professional. Wang Yen-nien was indeed an expert professional in T'ai -chi, standing second only to Cheng Man-ching in Taiwan."

For the first two days of Jasnieres I watched William Chen in the afternoon as he pushed hands in a very relaxed and even humorous way with a variety of partners, showing in his mid-sixties, an attitude very far from the prima donna like posturings of many less talented masters. Robert W. Smith said that William Chen did push somewhat differently from his master, Cheng Man-ching, though he had even lived with Cheng at one time. I saw him bend back and lean forward in a way that would cause apoplexy to many a Cheng Man-ching style zealot, yet Chen at all times appeared balanced and at ease. On the last day he came up to me and introduced himself and we had a brief, but pleasant chat. He told my good friend, Bob Lowey, co-organiser with Ronnie Robinson of Tai Chi Caledonia that he would be happy to come to Britain to teach at Caledonia in June 2000; quite a coup for Bob and Ron. I was most impressed by Chen's attitude; he certainly merits Smith's encomium.

The same day I left Jasnieres for Challones where Claudy met me and brought me to meet his master, Wang Yen-nien, who was sat with a table of disciples, finishing dinner. Master Wang proved to be something of a character. He toasted us repeatedly urging "Gan Bei! (Bottoms Up)", the only thing was we were drinking wine; he was drinking milk.

He told me that his Nei Kung teacher, a master Xie, had lived to more than one hundred years of age; that Xie's master had lived to more than one hundred and eighty years; and that his master in turn, from the Kun Lun Mountains had lived to more than two hundred and forty years. I expressed a wish that Master Wang (who is in his 85th year) might, like his master, live to be more than one hundred years, but he immediately replied that this was too little and that he wanted to reach at least one hundred and eighty two.

We discussed variations in the Yang Lineage curriculum. His replies were direct and to the point. He believed that Yang Cheng-fu (1883-1936), third generation of the Yang family Tai Chi lineage, did not receive the full transmission from his father, Yang Jian-hou (1839-1917), because his father died when Yang was only 34. On the other hand he considers that the reason for the big difference in ability between Cheng Man-ching and his senior students (this was referred to more than once by Robert W. Smith - himself a student of Cheng) was due to Cheng giving only a partial transmission of his knowledge to his students.

The name of Master Wang's school is Yang Jia Michuan (Yang family Hidden/Secret Transmission). From 1932-7, Wang trained Tai Chi Chuan under Wang Xing -wu, who was a student of Yang Ban-hou, son of Yang Lu-chan. Later Wang Yen-nien, like Cheng Man-ching, was a student under Zhang Qin-Ling (1883-?).

Master Wang does not now formally use Bai Shi (ritual initiation) in his Tai Chi teaching, although initiates do still bow to him to accept him as their master. However, those who wish to learn Taoist Nei Kung from Master Wang do need to go through an initiation. Indeed Master Wang emphasised to me several times the importance of Nei Kung practice; my own master also emphasised how much more important Nei Kung practice is as compared with form.

Zhang Qin-ling is another mysterious Tai Chi figure. Claudy relates in his book on Yang Jia Michuan how Zhang at the age of 14 became the gardener at Yang Jian-hou's house and trained under Yang Cheng-fu until, in place of his master, meeting the challenge of Wan Lai-sheng of Natural Boxing, he was rewarded by Yang Jianhou, who made Zhang his inside the door disciple.and taught him techniques that Yang Lu-chan had hidden from the Manchus and from his other students.

Zhang's most famous students were Cheng Man-ching who came to him to learn Tui Shou after Zhang became a champion in empty hand forms, Hu Yao-zhen, an expert in Xingyi and Wang. Wang was introduced to Zhang Qin-ling, by Zhang Mao-lin who was Wang's master and Zhang Qin-ling's brother in the Taoist sect of The Golden Pearl. Wang trained with Zhang Qin-ling from 1945-9.

It is not known what happened to Zhang Qin-ling, as Wang lost contact with his master during the Chinese Communist Revolution after the "Bamboo Curtain" had fallen. The same thing happened to my teacher and his master, Qi Min-xuan.

As is the case with Cheng Man-ching, Wang for whatever reason does not teach the Dao (sabre/broadsword). However, as well as teaching Tai Chi sword, he teaches complex fan and staff forms.

Lao Zi (or Lao tzu) is assumed to be the name of the author of The Tao Te Ching (Classic of the Way and of Virtue). Lao means old and therefore venerable; Zi means boy/son and has come to mean philosopher. These two old boys, these two venerable philosophers are a credit to their art. I've had my differences with Robert Smith, but, if you want to learn about these old boys and the good old/bad old days I recommend you take a look at Mr. Smith's writings.


I've been attending the Rencontres Jasnieres Tai Chi camp in the Loire Valley in France, man and boy since 1991. It's a place where you can meet Tai Chi Chuan students and teachers from all over Europe and further afield. It's even a place where you can make friends.

I usually teach at the camp and this year was no exception, but I was surprised to see that the organisers had also secured the services of one William C.C. Chen now of New York City and late of Taiwan. Prior to the camp I'd received a letter from Claudy Jeanmougin, a French Tai Chi teacher and writer, who'd befriended me at Jasnieres some years before. It was to invite me to meet his master Wang Yen-nien who was running his own camp near Angers.

These two masters appear in Robert W. Smith's ground-breaking book, "CHINESE BOXING; Masters and Methods". Smith relates how he trained under William Chen in Taiwan and in New York City. He said, "He fools you. Meek, slender and quiet, he might be a scholar or a student of the Book of Changes, never a boxer. But most assuredly he is." My teacher and Chen were the only two successful Tai Chi fighers at middleweight and lightweight respectively in the Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao Chinese full contact tournament held in Taipei in 1956

Of Wang Yen-nien, Smith wrote, "Until it is demonstrated, one does not realize the great difference that exists between the merely competent amateur and the expert professional. Wang Yen-nien was indeed an expert professional in T'ai -chi, standing second only to Cheng Man-ching in Taiwan."

For the first two days of Jasnieres I watched William Chen in the afternoon as he pushed hands in a very relaxed and even humorous way with a variety of partners, showing in his mid-sixties, an attitude very far from the prima donna like posturings of many less talented masters. Robert W. Smith said that William Chen did push somewhat differently from his master, Cheng Man-ching, though he had even lived with Cheng at one time. I saw him bend back and lean forward in a way that would cause apoplexy to many a Cheng Man-ching style zealot, yet Chen at all times appeared balanced and at ease. On the last day he came up to me and introduced himself and we had a brief, but pleasant chat. He told my good friend, Bob Lowey, co-organiser with Ronnie Robinson of Tai Chi Caledonia that he would be happy to come to Britain to teach at Caledonia in June 2000; quite a coup for Bob and Ron. I was most impressed by Chen's attitude; he certainly merits Smith's encomium.

The same day I left Jasnieres for Challones where Claudy met me and brought me to meet his master, Wang Yen-nien, who was sat with a table of disciples, finishing dinner. Master Wang proved to be something of a character. He toasted us repeatedly urging "Gan Bei! (Bottoms Up)", the only thing was we were drinking wine; he was drinking milk.

He told me that his Nei Kung teacher, a master Xie, had lived to more than one hundred years of age; that Xie's master had lived to more than one hundred and eighty years; and that his master in turn, from the Kun Lun Mountains had lived to more than two hundred and forty years. I expressed a wish that Master Wang (who is in his 85th year) might, like his master, live to be more than one hundred years, but he immediately replied that this was too little and that he wanted to reach at least one hundred and eighty two.

We discussed variations in the Yang Lineage curriculum. His replies were direct and to the point. He believed that Yang Cheng-fu (1883-1936), third generation of the Yang family Tai Chi lineage, did not receive the full transmission from his father, Yang Jian-hou (1839-1917), because his father died when Yang was only 34. On the other hand he considers that the reason for the big difference in ability between Cheng Man-ching and his senior students (this was referred to more than once by Robert W. Smith - himself a student of Cheng) was due to Cheng giving only a partial transmission of his knowledge to his students.

The name of Master Wang's school is Yang Jia Michuan (Yang family Hidden/Secret Transmission). From 1932-7, Wang trained Tai Chi Chuan under Wang Xing -wu, who was a student of Yang Ban-hou, son of Yang Lu-chan. Later Wang Yen-nien, like Cheng Man-ching, was a student under Zhang Qin-Ling (1883-?).

Master Wang does not now formally use Bai Shi (ritual initiation) in his Tai Chi teaching, although initiates do still bow to him to accept him as their master. However, those who wish to learn Taoist Nei Kung from Master Wang do need to go through an initiation. Indeed Master Wang emphasised to me several times the importance of Nei Kung practice; my own master also emphasised how much more important Nei Kung practice is as compared with form.

Zhang Qin-ling is another mysterious Tai Chi figure. Claudy relates in his book on Yang Jia Michuan how Zhang at the age of 14 became the gardener at Yang Jian-hou's house and trained under Yang Cheng-fu until, in place of his master, meeting the challenge of Wan Lai-sheng of Natural Boxing, he was rewarded by Yang Jianhou, who made Zhang his inside the door disciple.and taught him techniques that Yang Lu-chan had hidden from the Manchus and from his other students.

Zhang's most famous students were Cheng Man-ching who came to him to learn Tui Shou after Zhang became a champion in empty hand forms, Hu Yao-zhen, an expert in Xingyi and Wang. Wang was introduced to Zhang Qin-ling, by Zhang Mao-lin who was Wang's master and Zhang Qin-ling's brother in the Taoist sect of The Golden Pearl. Wang trained with Zhang Qin-ling from 1945-9.

It is not known what happened to Zhang Qin-ling, as Wang lost contact with his master during the Chinese Communist Revolution after the "Bamboo Curtain" had fallen. The same thing happened to my teacher and his master, Qi Min-xuan.

As is the case with Cheng Man-ching, Wang for whatever reason does not teach the Dao (sabre/broadsword). However, as well as teaching Tai Chi sword, he teaches complex fan and staff forms.

Lao Zi (or Lao tzu) is assumed to be the name of the author of The Tao Te Ching (Classic of the Way and of Virtue). Lao means old and therefore venerable; Zi means boy/son and has come to mean philosopher. These two old boys, these two venerable philosophers are a credit to their art. I've had my differences with Robert Smith, but, if you want to learn about these old boys and the good old/bad old days I recommend you take a look at Mr. Smith's writings.