Category Archives: taichi

Infinite Dao

Earlier this week I contacted a friend of mine living in Shanghai. I connected with him with the intention of reconnecting and finding out if he had any marital arts articles to share. At present he’s training at 9 Clouds Taiji in Shanghai under Patrick Kelly. Immediately, he connected with Patrick Kelly who give me permission to publish the preface and first chapter of his book Infinite Dao. So here is your first instalment.

《无极·道》作者:INFINITE DAO

前言 PREFACE

虽然,人们对各种灵修的历史发掘的越远,对其发展的认知就愈发扑朔迷离,但这一研究却能让我们清楚地意识到以下两点:首先,经过德才兼备的师父对虔诚弟子的精心传授,这些灵修的思想精髓得以绵延不断地传承至今;其次, 要表述和传授这些精髓的玄妙所在,每位师父就必须创作出自身独特的教学方法。教学传授,要么向外蜕变,要么向内衰亡。The further back in time we look, the more obscure becomes the history of all spiritual traditions, yet from the study of this past, two things become clear – first, that the inner-essence of these traditions flows down through genuine teachers to sincere pupils in unbroken chains, and second, that each teacher must devise his or her own training system to express and pass on this impersonal inner-essence. The teaching is bound to evolve outwardly or die inwardly.

本书记录了19722006年的35年间,我与道家、苏菲派和瑜伽派等派内一系列“杰出人物”的会面与修学。写作伊始,我本想就自身所获进行细述。但随着落笔的深入,我意识到自己想要传达的信息与其所处各种诱因状况以及那些帮助过我的人们的生活之间,具备着不可分割的联系;再往下写,就需要将更多的学习经验纳入到写作中。如此,我愈发认识到,相较于通过学习获得的简单事实,现实生活中的交互影响以及自身对这些影响的感受其实更为重要。而那些影响和经历,锤炼并锻造了我的认知基础。This book records my meetings and studies with a series of “remarkable people” within the Daoist, Sufi and Yogic traditions, during the 35 years from 1972 to 2006. When beginning to write, my intention was to describe in detail just what I had learnt, but during the initial writing I realised that this information was neither independent from the situations that gave rise to it, nor from the lives of the people who had helped me. Continuing to write, while including more of those learning experiences, I gradually realised moreover that those real-life interactions and resulting experiences that formed the anvil on which was forged my understanding, were even more important than the plain facts of what had been learnt. 

在学习与传授中,对己对人我都一贯力求扶持个体的心灵进步,做到日积跬步的进步,并促进内心的升华。在形式上,我倾向于道家的开明哲学和细化的培训方法;但内心里,我知道正确的道路只有一条,而那是一条超越你的思维、引导你穿越层层自我带你回到内心最深处的道路。My direction in learning and teaching has always been to support the spiritual process in myself and in others, both in the sense of gradual evolution in daily life and accelerated inner refinement. Outwardly my inclination was towards the open philosophy and refined training methods of the Daoists, but inwardly I knew there has only ever been one true Way. That is the Path that leads back through the layers of yourself to the deepest regions within – beyond the mind.

太极可以说是道教原则中最玄妙的一项。意识到这点后,我便义无反顾地投身于其中,以期发掘出太极深处的奥妙所在。命运让我与本书提及的最重要杰出人物 — 我的导师黄性贤大师相遇,也正是黄大师的太极成就了我35年来的心灵之路。而期间出现的另一位重要人物,苏菲派的谢赫·阿普杜拉·杜根大师,也同样成就了我这一心灵之路的无相精要。 除了为我构建心灵根基的这两位大师,我还遇见了其他许多拓宽并深化了我的视野的卓越人物,这其中对我影响时间最长、最终对我影响同样巨大的,就是沙漠瑜伽大师摩尼·马哈拉吉。Recognising Taiji as potentially a most subtle practice of Daoist Principles, I jumped in with the intention of diving to its depths – fate placing me for guidance in the care of Master Huang Xingxian, the principal “remarkable person” of this account. While his Taiji methods gave form to my inner journey throughout those 35 years, the formless essence of the Way was equally influenced by another remarkable person, Sufi Shaikh Abdullah Dougan. With these two as the base, further remarkable people helped my own vision to broaden and deepen, the most enduring and finally equally strong and influential, being the Desert Raja Yogi, Mouni Maharaj.

上述三位大师及诸多杰出人物的理念形成并酿就了我35年来的心灵成长体系(见《道家原则之践行》),如今我将之浓缩于本书之中。在他们的指导下,我的实践与教学随着自身内在认知的发展而不断演进。引导他人从最初对导师的依赖走向最终对内心真实自我的依靠,这一心灵的演变进程,就是我的授业目标。My system of inner-development (Daoist Principles in Practice) that has emerged and matured over that 35 year period, within the vision of these 3 remarkable people and more, is condensed and contained within this book. Under the direction of these teachers my practice and teaching has evolved with the growth of my own inner understanding. Leading others through this same gradual process of inner evolution, from external dependence on a teacher to internal dependence on their Real Self, is the aim of my teaching.   

时至今日,我的太极拳教学都表现为以精神、情感和体质系统等为基础的教学,但它的精髓却是独立的,并远超太极拳道的表象之外。学习者会在适合自己所需级别的太极拳学习中获益,其学习的动机也因个体的不同而千差万别。太极拳在予人健康方面,具备很高的价值。通过不断的练习,太极拳践行者能拥有行云流水般的行动力,宁静致远的内在平和力,以及清晰镇静的思考力。太极拳对力道与能量的运用艺术不仅令人着迷,其实用性也非常之强。Externally, until now, I have based my teaching on the mental, emotional and physical system of Taijiquan – but the essence of my teaching is independent of and goes far beyond the obvious methods of Taijiquan. People benefit from it on the level that suits their needs. The motivations to practise are almost as many and as individual as there are Taiji practitioners. The health aspect of Taiji is of value. The increasing ability to move freely and naturally, feel calmly and deeply, and think clearly and quietly is appreciated by all. The art of dealing with forces and energies is profoundly interesting and practically useful.

对初学者而言,我的太极拳教学法能让他们免受各种生硬规则的束缚。其实,除了规则,世上还有各种经改良后会随着学习者的进步也不断演进的教授方法。太极典籍虽制定了各种原则, 但我们每名学习者还须亲身再次体验这些原则的真谛所在。对这些基本原则的领悟并不是一成不变的,因为随着太极的发展,那些领悟也会出现更加微妙的变化。而一旦寻得某种真谛,你就一定要将其融入到实践中。如此以往,你终将做到自我依靠下的独立学习。My presentation of Taiji has been designed to free people from the restrictions of the various rigid rules commonly taught to beginners. Rather than rules there exist various training methods that are programmed to evolve as people develop. The principles are laid out in the Taiji Classics but each person must re-experience their truth for themselves. The understanding of those principles is not static – it necessarily becomes more subtle as our Taiji progresses. However once you find something true for yourself then you must incorporate it into your practice. This way you gradually take responsibility for your own learning.

由于师从郑曼青大师,师公又是杨澄甫大师,黄师父门下弟子众多,但这并不是说,成为其弟子多年就一定能习得其太极艺术的精妙所在。“我没料到你会学到那么多”,这是师父给我的临终遗言,它一语道出了这一不确定性。As with his teacher Grandmaster Zheng Manqing (Cheng Man-ching) and his teacher’s teacher The Great Yang Chengfu, Master Huang had many pupils, but just the fact of being his student for a long time did not ensure success in learning the subtlety of his art. There were no guarantees. Even the last significant words Master Huang spoke to me before his death, “I never expected that you would learn so much”, clearly expressed this uncertainty.

无论是在实践中还是在生活中,即便是在写作本书时,我都重视、牢记并尽可能地,在以自然规律为中心下,让自己对平衡、勇气、品德,以及外柔内刚等的运用,都达到最理想的境界,虽然这一切都还有待臻善。In writing this book, as in my own practice and in my own life, I valued, remembered and made my best, though imperfect, attempt to apply, the ideals of balance, courage, integrity, external gentleness and internal strength, all within the embracing principle of naturalness.

作为指南,在阅读本书时,请谨记道家这句名谚:忘心忘境,忘我忘人,不著一物;住于虚无,方可入道。As guidance to reading this book, remember the Daoist saying, ”Behind the words is a picture and behind the picture is the intention. When you get the picture forget the words and when you get the intention forget the picture – then you will be close to the reality.” 

Continued………

pk2web克利 Patrick A Kelly

began Taiji with an experienced student of Master Huang Xingxian in 1973. In 1977 he moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where he studied full time in Master Huang’s school. In 1979, following tradition, Master Huang accepted Patrick as his personal disciple – the only non-Chinese to ever enter Huang’s inner-school. From that time Patrick Kelly travelled and taught beween Asia, Australasia and Europe while continuing to learn personally with Master Huang untill his death late 1992. Simultaneously Patrick worked closely both with the Naqshibandi Gnostic Sage Abdullah Dougan for 14 years until Abdullah’s death in 1987 and for 30 years with the Raja Yogi Mounimaharaj of Rajasthan who died in 2007 at more than 105 years old.

1973年,派瑞克利开始向黄性贤大师的一位资深学生学习太极。1977年,他来到马来西亚吉隆坡,在黄性贤大师的学校全日制学习太极。1979年,遵循传统惯例,黄性贤大师收派瑞克利为徒,他成为了黄性贤大师唯一的非华人入室弟子。自那时起,派瑞克利往来于亚洲、澳洲及欧洲教拳,同时继续私下向黄性贤大师学习,直至大师于1992年末去世。同一时期,派瑞克利还跟随纳什般迪派和诺斯替派哲人阿卜杜拉多安学习十四年,直到1987年阿卜杜拉去世,跟随拉贾斯坦的胜王瑜伽大师穆尼玛哈拉吉学习三十余年,直至穆尼大师在2007年以105岁高龄去世。

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An Introduction to Wuji Quan

Wujiquan (Chinese (無極拳): Pinyin: Wujiquan; Wade-Giles: Wu Chi Chuan): ‘Ultimate Void Boxing’: Is a rare and Secret Ultimate Void Boxing Skill, and is said to be the Mother Art of Taijiquan; from Wuji comes Tai-ji. The Wujiquan System is composed of 36 ‘Characters’: 18 kinds of natural climatic phenomena, and 18 of Qi applications.

One of the rarest of traditional Shaolin Boxing systems, Wujiquan is also one of the purest of traditional Chinese soft-internal boxing systems(Neijia): being taught to very few in its entirety and only after years of rigorous training and testing for aptitude; it never became widely known, which meant that unlike the better known, Taijiquan, there was no opportunity for the system to undergo the experimentation and mixing with other systems and arts which during recent centuries led to the variety of styles which characterize Taijiquan.

wujiheader3

Wu Ji boxing comes from the “Yi Jing” or ”Book of Changes”. Taiji is born from the state of Wu Ji (complete nothingness, or complete harmony with the universe). Yin Yang, or a single continuous line running from one point across to another, is born from the state of Taiji (Taiji gives rise to Yin Yang). A single line stretching between 2 points gives rise to a surface area or square (Yin Yang gives rise to 4 directions or surface area). A surface area or square gives rise to 8 trigrams or a 3 dimensional cube (4 directions give rise to 8 trigrams or 8 directions).

“Wuji quan” is the martial applications and techniques handed down from Wu’s ancestors.

The Wuji quan curriculum

After students are trained in the elementary level of Wu Ji, two disciplines become the focus, one of which is called Hun Yuan and the other is called Ba Gua Zhang.

The training system incorporates: 

Wu Ji Health Exercise System.

Wu Ji Standing Postures

Wu Ji 12 single movement training

Wu Ji leg and root training

Hun Yuan Discipline ↙       ↓      ↘ Ba Gua Discipline

      Wu Ji’s 18 rules

Hun Yuan Palm (1)    Wu Ji internal strength secret  Ba Gua Palm’s Upper body work/ upper body energy

     ↓

Hun Yuan Palm (2)    Wu Ji medical knowledge skills   Ba Gua Palm’s Root and leg work/ root and leg energy

     ↓

Hun Yuan Palm (3)   Wu Ji Dim Mak or acupoint striking Ba Gua Palm’s 9 cross- pattern footwork

     ↓

Hun Yuan Palm (4)    Ba Gua Palm’s Spirit and energy training

Wu Ji’s methods of diet and nutrition

  ↘          ↓        ↙

      Soft silk palm technique

   Cloud hands palm

   Silk pulling palm technique

   Explosive palm technique

Wu Ji elementary level

The middle-aged and the elderly can also practice the Wu Ji’s Health Exercise System and Wu Ji’s 6 essential guiding principles.

Wu Ji’s five-animal boxing forms (Wu Qin Xi) including:

Head rotations, Crane drinking, Wolf observes all directions, Hen sleeps and Ape reflexes.

Wu Ji’s 32 body building boxing: in addition to the 5 aforementioned animal forms, it also includes: Opening the trunk energy and internal splitting energy.

Wu Ji Standing Postures (for juveniles)

Leg and root training and energy/power training (for juveniles)

Wu Ji intermediate levelwuji-becomes-taiji

According to one’s body condition, there are two disciplines. The Ba Gua discipline is for those who don’t have high blood pressure, and includes:

Upper body work/ upper body energy work

Root and leg work/ root and leg energy work, 9 cross-pattern footwork and Spirit and energy training (more information can be found in the form treatise).

The Hun Yuan discipline’s foundations are based on internal energy. The first set of Hun Yuan Palm, the second set, the third and the fourth can be found in the form treatise.

Internal applications and techniques

  1. Internal secrets: internal elementary training methods.
  2. Dim Mak or acupoint striking (please refer to the Form treatise).
  3. Medical knowledge skills:

Martial artists should be aware of proper diet and nutrition and watch what they eat and what their meals are composed of. Internal applications and techniques are practiced by both schools – Hun Yuan and Ba Gua.

  1. Wu Ji’s 18 rules are the main applications and techniques of Wu Ji’s internal skills. Internal skills can also improve the practitioners’ external skills.

In the beginning, people can work on their internal power by means of external exercises. When they get to a certain stage with their internal energy work, they should then focus on working on their internal skills and energy to improve their external skills.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

无极拳简介

无极拳来源于易经,(无极生太极,太极生两仪,两仪生四象,四象生八卦),它是吴家的祖传拳法。祖先吴岐仙所传,到我这辈已有6代。我爷爷不会拳法,是我太爷传给我父亲的。再往上推称吴岐仙是谁传的无法考证。

无极拳分为初级阶段拳法、中级阶段拳法和高级阶段拳法,还有共同学习的内路拳法。

无极拳的图解

无极拳初级练完后,可分为两大派,一派是浑混元派,另一派是八卦派。

无极健身拳

无极架子拳

无极十二单式

无极腿工

              混元派↙       ↓      ↘八卦派

                无极十八则

 

            混元掌(一)    无极内功秘诀  天门八卦掌

              

            混元掌(二)    无极医道术    地门八卦掌

               

            混元掌(三)    无极点穴术    九宫八卦掌

               

            混元掌(四)    无极武德学说  神门八卦掌

                           

                 无极善饮术

              ↘        ↓       ↙

               棉丝掌

云盘掌

丝旋掌

幻影掌

1      无极初级拳

1     中老年人可学习无极健身拳

1         无极健身六崇诀

2         无极小五禽戏:匀首、鹤饮、狼顾、雉睡、猿伸

3         无极三十二健身术:以上五种外、干疏、内搓等(见健身篇)。

2  无极架子拳  适合青少年

3  腿法、功法  适合青少年

2      无极中级拳

根据个人的身体情况,分为两大派系。走八卦派的,适合没有高血压的人。天门、地门、九宫、神门详见拳谱。

混元派是在内功基础上进行的。第一套混元掌,第二套、第三套、第四套详见拳谱。

3      内路拳法

1、内功秘诀:内功初级练法,内功层次划分,九言真经之一、之二、之三,最后为九阳真经。

2、点穴术(见拳谱)

3、医道术:摔打受伤的拿法、药法

4、善饮术:练功人吃什么、配餐等

内路拳法是两大派共同学习的。

5、无极十八则是无极内功拳术的主要拳法,用内带外。练拳人开始都以外功代内功。放拳练到一定阶段,内功大增,就要以内功代外功。

An interview with Marc Meyer the writer of Taichi: The Story of a Chinese Master in America

Last month I had the pleasure of interviewing Marc Meyer a writer, martial artists and musician about his latest book Taichi: The Story of a Chinese Master in America.

Marc’s novel tells the story of a man who leaves China in the early 1960’s to open a T’ai Chi school and reconnect with his Asian American family in Chinatown, New York City. The main character in the story was once the bodyguard of Mme Chiang Kai Shek. It’s bright red cover below spells out the words T’ai Chi Chuan in Chinese pictograms. And the novel is a must read for lovers of tai chi  and Asian American fiction alike. It was inspired by the legendary T’ai Chi grandmaster Cheng Man-Ching and his American students during the period of the 1960’s in New York City. It tells of a time, years before the advent of Bruce Lee movies, when the Kung Fu art of T’ai Chi Chuan was first introduced into the United States and was secretly practiced only in small enclaves of America’s Chinatowns.

Marc can you tell me little about your book? And some of the Characters in it?

Allow me to reiterate my book is a work of fiction.  As you are possibly aware, authenticity when it comes to T’ai Chi Chuan in and of itself is a murky business, due mainly to the fact that much of the teaching we have was passed down to us orally by it’s forebears. Very little about it was actually written down. Many of the forebears of T’ai Chi chuan were illiterate and its origins go back several thousand years. This makes the art form somewhat mysterious which is actually what I like about it. I’ve found Douglas Wyle’s books to be one of the more reliable sources of reference when it comes to the origins and practice of T’ai Chi Chuan, specifically Yang style which I practice and one that I draw upon recurrently in my book. Specifically on the subject of Yang style T’ai Chi which I’ve been practing and studying for the past 18 yrs. Let me stress that study and practice of T’ai Chi should occur simultaneously and continuously for the dedicated teacher.

In the book, a T’ai Chi master named Kuo Yun San leaves mainland China in the 1960’s for what he thinks is the last time. His goals are simple, he envisions opening a successful T’ai Chi school and strengthening the bonds between himself and his Asian American family in Chinatown with whom he has had little to no communication in years.  The results are surprising as Master Kuo finds himself trading one Cultural Revolution for another and his newfound friends and family members, thinking they were going to educate him into adopting an American lifestyle, find he has more to teach them.

From some of the details in your book its obvious you have a solid martial arts background. Can you tell me about your own martial arts experience? 

I came to T’ai Chi Chuan through the back door in a sense. A dining club my girlfriend and I belonged to offered lessons in T’ai Chi on the beach where I live in Naples Florida as one of the perks of its membership. Fortunately for me, though I didn’t know it then, both instructors who taught this class had been students of Bob Amaker, a resident of Florida who co-authored books with Cheng Man-Ching. Cheng Man-Ching was one of the main proponents of Yang style T’ai Chi Chuan in this country. I subsequently went on to receive what’s known as form correction from Lawrence Galante, a student himself of four T’ai Chi Chuan grandmasters, Paul Guo, Yu Chen Hsiang, TsunTsai Liang and Chen Man-Ching. I received final instruction from a first generation student of Professor Cheng as he was called, from Maggie Newman, one of his last living pupils in 2006, then in her mid eighties.

In your book you discuss the student teacher relationship. Can you tell us a bit more about where that inspiration came from?

It’s my firm belief that every teacher involved with T’ai Chi has something to contribute to the student’s education, although many times the approaches can be radically different and often make a student doubtful about the quality of instruction that he or she is receiving. If you are getting instruction from someone in Taichi you’re unsure about, my advice is to be patient and hang in there. Looking back you may find what they had to teach gave you useful insight even if you didn’t think so at the time. For example one of my teachers had a very holistic and somewhat esoteric approach but I learned much from him about some of the more mystical aspects of T’ai Chi I might not otherwise have been privvy to. Another was very “nuts and bolts” about his approach but taught me the kind of accuracy that is absolutely essential for the study and practice of the art. I actually recommend that if you intend to take up T’ai Chi as a practice, that you go out of your way to learn from different teachers because you can often come away with a rounder and more beneficial education from doing so. Remember if you take up the practice of T’ai Chi you’re in it for the long haul. It can take up to a year to learn just one single form properly and up to ten years to learn it as an applicable martial art. “It’s all about the journey” sounds cliched but in the case of T’ai Chi it’s absolutely true and ongoing. You’re constantly perfecting and polishing that stone every day week, month and year of your life, which for me has turned out to be a blessing and one of it’s most cherished aspects.

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The book mentions a number of important martial arts milestones. Can you share a few of the most important ones?

Another one of the more interesting perspectives of this fascinating, mystical and multi-faceted art is its tendency to tailor itself individually to the practitioner. For me it has offered something of use from a health standpoint at almost every age related juncture of my life since i began practicing it in my early forties. In my forties I struggled with the onset of tinnitus, a horrible and constant high pitched ringing in the ears. T’ai Chi helped to calm me down, calm my anxious feelings about it and sleep better. After I found I could sleep more easily, the problem didn’t seem to bother me so much during the day and has finally faded into the background to the point where I don’t even notice it anymore. Another more serious problem developed when I turned sixty called Neuropathy. Another constant painful nerve related chronic disease which had equilibrium problems as one of it’s symptoms. It has taken a full year but thanks in part to Taichi I have been able to manage my symptoms and get them under control. When the doctor later asked me if if I wanted to take a class in learning how to keep my balance to prevent myself from falling I was happy to tell her “I TEACH balance!”.T’ai Chi Chuan is literally the gift that keeps on giving.

Finally, what’s next for Marc Meyer?  Do you have other books in the pipeline?

I have at least three more novels in me that I have begun working on simultaneously. One is a memoir, one is about an elderly batchelor who finds his way toward the end of his life and one is a young adult novel about five very unusual preteens in the possesion of individual healing powers. Of course getting ideas is easy, setting them down in a readable form that will capture an audience’s interest is very hard.

You can find Marc’s book here by clicking the amazon link  to the left. Any purchase you make via the affiliate link we will put back into www.StudyMartialArts.Org in order to help more students connect with genuine Master of Martial Arts.

 

How an American Dancer Introduced Tai Chi to America

In 1954, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, a 51-year-old woman in loose, comfortable clothing moved through a series of movements. A crowd gathered amidst abstract paintings to watch her. With the grace of a dancer, she slowly raised and lowered her hands, shifted her weight from side to side, and bowed her head. Her face was calm and serene.

The woman’s name was Sophia Delza. She was a dancer of some renown in the world of modern dance. When she first performed solo at the Guild Theater in New York at age 27, the New York Times called it “a distinguished debut” that “revealed her as an artist of individuality and authority.”

Although the woman’s slow pace would have bored a concert hall audience, her practiced movements radiated power. She moved like a coiled spring, full of harnessed energy. To the MoMA audience in 1954, Delza’s demonstration was a novelty. Today, many Americans would instantly recognize that she was demonstrating tai chi, the Chinese martial art.

Americans often don’t think of tai chi, which is commonly practiced by senior citizens in public parks, as a martial art. Although many variations exist, tai chi fundamentally involves moving slowly and fluidly through postures with names like “The Snake Creeps Down” and “The Golden Cockerel Stands on One Leg.” Tai chi often looks more like slow yoga than judo or karate-two martial arts that involve kicking and grappling. For this reason, many people practice tai chi as a gentle exercise, without any interest in its martial component.

Photo by Jakub Haiun

Yet tai chi has been translated as “supreme ultimate fist” and “great extremes boxing.” As practitioners like Sophia Delza understood, tai chi’s slow pace represents control-not weakness. Mastering the movements allows devotees to develop strength, balance, and a unity between mind and action. This is useful for both longevity and self-defense-and tai chi training that involves sparring and weapons.

In the 1950s, Eastern martial arts, and particularly tai chi, were not well known. Sophia Delza’s 1954 performance at the Museum of Modern Art was likely the first public demonstration of tai chi in the United States. Delza had studied tai chi with a master of the Wu style while living in China. When she taught, demonstrated, and wrote about tai chi on her return to the United States, she was one of the first, if not the first, to do so extensively outside Chinese-American communities.

This makes Sophia Delza a pioneer of American tai chi. Although she never achieved the fame of martial arts legends like Bruce Lee, she is worth remembering. Like tai chi, she had a gentle side that hid a powerful will. Delza loved dance, wrote academically, and de-emphasized the martial applications of tai chi. She was also one tough lady: Although American women did not have the right to vote until Delza was 17-years-old, she engaged in radical politics that made her a federal person of interest, and burst through barriers to forge a career in dance and, ultimately, as a mother of American martial arts.

Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History

Long before Peggy Olson broke the glass ceiling at the Sterling Cooper ad agency in Mad Men, Sophia Delza lived the mantra “well-behaved women seldom make history.”

Delza was born in Brooklyn in 1903, an environment likely to produce an artist, but not a martial artist. She majored in the sciences at Hunter College, a women’s college, but pursued dance due to the influence of her older sister Elizabeth, who became a professional dancer and Sophia’s first dance teacher.

When Sophia followed her sister’s footsteps, she had to compete for a limited number of professional dance opportunities. She took a variety of jobs in plays and films until she triumphed with her successful solo performance at the Guild Theater in New York. When she next performed a series of original compositions, a New York Times reviewer praised her “strong feeling for visual line” and “general good taste.” Delza also developed a performance style that mixed monologues and dance, studied composition in Paris, and traveled to Mexico to study folk dances.

Her career was remarkable in an era when less than a third of women worked. It is downright daring when you consider that her work was very political-and that she kept at it despite the risk of rabid anti-communist backlash.

Delza did not study folk dance in Mexico merely out of artistic interest. According to scholar Ellen Graff, Delza associated with a close community of artists who supported socialist and communist causes. Delza studied folk dance to make a proletariat argument for embracing traditional dances by describing them as “mass dances” that could unite communities. When civil war broke out in Spain in 1936-and became a cause celebre among artists and intellectuals-Delza created and performed works that criticized the fascism of General Franco and raised money for the leftist forces in Spain that opposed him. Later in her life, Delza donated time in her dance studio to radical dance groups.

Today communism and socialism are only associated with the failings of the Soviet Union, but in the 1920s and 1930s, they represented progressive politics. The American Communist Party organized marches of tens of thousands to advocate for the unemployed. Nearly every intellectual, including George Orwell and Ernest Hemingway, admired or supported socialism.

The 1920s was also the beginning of the Red Scare and apocalyptic fears over the spread of communism in America. Both Sophia and her sister Elizabeth were the subjects of reports for the House Un-American Activities Committee, which investigated “disloyalty” and “subversive activities” among American citizens and leftist groups. Sophia’s brother Leo Hurwitz (Sophia had adopted Delza as a stage name), an award-winning documentary filmmaker, also appeared in the reports and was blacklisted by the film industry in the 1950s due to his political views.

This opposition to radical politics does not seem to have stopped Sophia or her siblings. In an interview, Sophia’s nephew explained that Sophia and his father Leo “felt… that they really could change the world.” The Communist Party in America, he continued, “spanned progressive causes like the desire to fight Fascism as it was growing in Europe, the growth of unions, the desire to stop people from being evicted from their houses, and the movement for racial justice.”East Meets West

In 1948, at age 45, Sophia Delza was married and moved to Shanghai with her husband, Cook Glassgold. China was recovering from its occupation during World War II, and Glassgold had a diplomatic posting as Director of International Refugee and Relief Operations. During the couple’s four year stay, however, Delza did much more than appear on her husband’s arm at official functions.

Delza engaged in a vigorous cultural exchange. She taught modern dance, which was novel in China, and studied and learned Chinese dance and theater. Her zeal for exploration changed her life during a trip to Beijing, where she discovered tai chi. Delza later wrote about the dramatic scene she stumbled upon at dawn in T’ai Mizo Park:

Dozens of people, young and old, were each doing his exercise, each clearly centered on himself. No outside sound of voice or instrument directed the movement. The slow, continuous flow of form and the impeccably even tempo seemed to come not only from some mastey within each one but also from the intrinsic nature of the action itself.

Delza was fascinated. “Looking amazingly light and stable at the same time,” she recalled, “each person’s movements seemed effortless.”

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In context, it seems obvious that a modern dancer would be one of the first outsiders to appreciate tai chi. When Delza described her “first unforgettable impression” of the Chinese Theater in Peking, she wrote, “The colorful creatures moved so quickly that it seemed the stage itself were revolving.” Her recollection of the next scene marvels at the same slow, graceful aspects that struck her when she saw tai chi:

A simple, elegant figure, entering from the upstage right corner, quietly took a deliberate pose. He balanced himself on one leg, and extended the other in easy lightness, head high. Then replacing his leg in slow motion, he moved diagonally across the stage with the restraint and simplicity and… grace of a fairy-tale god.

At the Beijing park that morning, Delza quickly realized that “it was not dance [she] was seeing.” Yet she wanted to know more. She was introduced to Ma Yueh-liang, a famed teacher of tai chi in the Wu style, and his wife Wu Ying-hua, his co-instructor. She convinced the couple to teach her, and took up regular practice.

As Ben Judkins notes in a blog post about Sophia Delza, this put her in the unique situation of receiving several years of training “directly from one of the most talented martial artists of his generation.” She came to appreciate how, in her words, maintaining “a consistently slow tempo” in tai chi “is an indication, not only that the body has acquired strength and control, but also that the mind is in harmony with the action.”

When Delza and her husband returned to New York in 1951, she had trained for years with a foremost authority on Wu tai chi, and knew more about the practice and philosophy of tai chi than almost any American.

Bringing Tai Chi to Manhattan

In the 1950s, the practice of Eastern martial arts existed in the United States, but it was not widespread.

Hundreds of thousands of mainly Chinese immigrants passed through San Francisco’s Angel Island from 1910 to 1940, bringing with them martial arts like tai chi and judo. American soldiers stationed in Japan after the war returned to open dojos. Gene Lebell-who is now a mixed martial artist famous for teaching Chuck Norris and allegedly choking out Steven Seagal until he soiled himself-won an amateur National Judo Championship held in the United States in 1954.

But Americans like Lebell-who learned Eastern martial arts despite being outsiders to Asian communities-were rarities. Choy Hok Pang, a well-known, early teacher of tai chi in 1940s America, taught almost entirely Chinese students until the 1960s. It was not until Bruce Lee and Hong Kong “kung fu” films exploded in popularity in the 1970s that Americans widely adopted martial arts training. Some casual histories of tai chi simply write that it was introduced to the United States in the 1970s.

When Delza returned to New York from China in 1951, it was in this environment in which martial arts, and particularly tai chi, were known but relatively unfamiliar outside Asian communities.

The cover of Sophia Delza’s book, the first tai chi book published in English

Delza acted as a cultural emissary on her return, lecturing, writing, and teaching tai chi and Chinese theatre. Ultimately tai chi became her main focus.

The initial response was modest. One early student at the tai chi school Delza opened in New York regretfully recalled that her classes were poorly attended. When Delza performed tai chi at the Museum of Modern Art, it was the first demonstration of its kind, but also seems to have been a minor event. The demonstration does not turn up in the MoMA’s archived schedules from 1954, and one author credits Delza with giving the first public demonstration of tai chi in the United States two years later at the United Nations.

This did not deter Delza, who kept teaching and writing. In 1961, she published the first English language book about tai chi. As the popularity of tai chi and martial arts increased in the 1960s, partially thanks to her efforts, she appeared on television and her tai chi school thrived.

Her influence can be seen in a 1960 Popular Mechanics article about tai chi that is unmistakably a trend piece. The author-who breathlessly writes that “In Shanghai, where matches have been held, no Western boxer has yet beaten a boxer who trained on T’ai Chi to get balance and power”-makes Sophia Delza the focus of his article. He notes that her television appearances result in hundreds of inquiries from around the country, and that her students include “stage and screen stars.” Another article from 1963 relates that tai chi schools are overflowing with more students than teachers like Sophia Delza can handle.

If Bruce Lee-who more than anyone popularized martial arts in America through karate competitions and action films-was a Hollywood blockbuster or comic book, then Sophia Delza was an art film or New Yorker article. Delza taught from a studio in Carnegie Hall, which members of the Actor’s Guild could attend for free, and instructed celebrities and famous actors. In a move that foreshadowed Americans’ adoption of yoga purely as an exercise, Delza de-emphasized the martial aspects of tai chi in favor of its health and concentration benefits. Yet she always retained her academic bent, writing about the philosophy and history of tai chi in journals and books.

Sophia Delza’s role was to be one of the first advocates for tai chi, and to translate it for a non Chinese-American audience. At a time when articles marvelled at an exercise that did not involve barbells, medicine balls, or even sweat, Delza told her students that “We in the West are apt to overexert ourselves in exercise and sports, believing that a hard, tense movement indicates strength.” In tai chi, she continued, true strength, energy, and balance comes from exercise that does not strain the muscles or leave one winded.

Delza also lamented that “Too often I am asked no question other than whether this or that movement will make one thin.” She challenged her American students to appreciate other benefits of exercise, including the mental challenge of perfecting the tai chi postures.

Despite her academic inclinations, Sophia Delza is remembered as a teacher more than a scholar. Today, former students leave warm comments on blog posts about Delza that praise her instruction. One man who studied with Delza when she was in her eighties remembered her as “a tough lady” who taught tai chi “the same way a ballet master would teach.”

In 1996, Sophia Delza passed away. It had been almost 50 years since she first saw tai chi performed at dawn in T’ai Mizo Park, and she had spent over three decades as an instructor. When Delza published her first book in 1961, she had to explain every aspect of tai chi. The year she died, the State University of New York Press published her final book on tai chi. By then, it was almost impossible to imagine an America where people did not know about tai chi or martial arts. Few people know it, but that is Sophia Delza’s legacy.

A guest post from www.udemy.com – We’re the world’s online learning marketplace, where 8 million+ students are taking courses in everything from programming to yoga to photography–and much, much more. Each of our 32,000+ courses is taught by an expert instructor, and every course is available on-demand, so students can learn at their own pace, on their own time, and on any device.

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Becoming A Seventh-Generation Disciple of Yang Lu Chan

This is the story of how three men from the US became seventh-generation disciples of Yang Lu Chan, the creator of Imperial Yang style of tai chi.

On the 25th April and until to the 5 of May, Ray Abeyta and Wolf Carter from the Texas School of Tai Chi in El Paso and Michael Paler from Colorado Springs will on the invitation of Dr. John Fung, officially a sixth-generation disciple of Imperial Yang Style will visit Beijing, to spend 10 days learning from his kung fu sister Wei XiLan the daughter of the late GM Wei Shuren. These three men will become the first Americans to be included in this particular linage of tai chi.

The story began when on the request of Ray Abeyta, Dr John Fung a 6th generation lineage holder of Imperial Yang living in Sydney Australia visited El Paso to teach a number of seminars. On seeing the dedication, skills, plus attitudes and personalities of Ray, Wolf and Michael as well as with much reflection Dr Fung decided to ask them if they would like to become disciples and join the Imperial tai chi family.

Dr John Fung’s lineage: 

Wei Shuren – Wang Yongquan – Yang Jianhou – Yang Luchan.

Yang Lu Chan
Yang Lu Chan

This in itself is a huge deal for the tai chi community in the United States as Ray and his fellow tai chi brothers are all keen to return and share their knowledge with those who attend their classes as well as further afield.

Ray said. “There are other Yang family organizations, but this is the only one considered Imperial Yang style. You have to remember originally, Yang Lu Chan was hired by the emperor to teach his guards how to fight. He was the best fighter in the land back then. That continued in Beijing, where he continued to teach people. We are going to become official disciples of this linage. Very few people are picked. I don’t deserve it, but I’ll take it. I’ve going to do my best to honour the art.”

Knowing what I do of Ray I know this to be true as he is already sharing the information he’s learned from Dr. John Fung not only to the people in his existing classes in El Paso, but also to students in Santa Fe where he teaches every three months, and also with some people up in Colorado Springs. Anywhere people want to learn, Ray will share with them.

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Wei Xinlan daughter of the late GM Wei Shuren, Dr John Fung, 6th Generation Lineage holder, Sifu Wolf Carter, Sifu Ray Abeyta, Sifu Michael Paler, 7th Generation Lineage holders.

Catching up with the group on my return to Beijing from Cebu I enjoyed listening to their stories and the whole groups enthusiasm for this rare art which is effectively what Bruce Frantzis calls Old Yang Style Taichi. An art that comes directly from Yang Lu Chan who was said to have only taught the emperor’s guard, the aristocracy and a select few disciples to a high level of excellence. The best of these students were his sons Yang Chien Hou, and Yang Pan Hou and Wu Chuan Yu from which Wu Style Taichi originates and which then subsequently led to the development of Sun Style Taichi.

Over some delicious Yunnan food we discussed taichi and martial arts related topics. Listening to John Fung and Ray I was struck by their genuine openness, kindness, knowledge and of course passion to share this fascinating art.

A delicious dinner of Yunnan food with my new friends, the day before the left Beijing.
A delicious dinner of Yunnan food with my new friends, the day before they left Beijing.

If you are ever in Sydney, Australia or Texas, USA and would like to learn more about Imperial Style Taichi. Check out the following links:

Sydney: with Dr John Fung – www.imperialtaichi.com

Texas: Ray Abyeta – Www.TexasSchoolTaiChi.com

Colorado Springs: Michael Paler – www.taichicoloradosprings.com

At http://www.studymartialarts.org we are keen to support those on their various epic martial arts journeys so please let us know if you have anything you would like to share.