2nd European Cheng Man Ching Forum
31st July – 6th August 2004 in Hannover (Germany)
The year 2000 saw the centenary of the birth of the late Professor Cheng Man Ching who was one of the most renowned exponents of taijiquan in the western world. Cheng originally studied with Yang Cheng Fu, grandson of Yang Luchuan, the founder of the Yang style.
During the Cultural Revolution Cheng moved to Taiwan where he became an eminent instructor teaching, among many others, both the wife and the army of Cheng Kai Shek. In teaching taiji as a martial art there was not enough time for an army to learn the traditional 108 movement form so Cheng shortened it to the 37 step routine which has since gained popularity in many countries around the world. In the early 1960’s he moved to
San Francisco, then to New York where he established a regular taiji school. Cheng Man Ching style is now an internationally recognized style with schools in many countries across Europe, the US and beyond.
On the occasion of the 100th birthday of Cheng Man Ching a large commemoration ceremony took place in Taiwan, to which many personal students of Cheng Man Ching were invited. William Nelson, an Englishman, resident in France (student of Chu Hung Ping, who was direct student of Cheng Man Ching) attended the centenary celebration where he for- med the idea of staging a similar meeting in Europe and went on to host the 1st Cheng Man Ching Forum, two years later in Perigueaux, France. The idea of staging regular meetings for Cheng Man Ching taijiquan was born. Nils Klug a student of William C.C. Chen, who was the last personal student of Cheng Man Ching, took on the mantle of organising the second forum in the summer of 2004 in his native town of Hannover, Germany.
Speaking bluntly: The number of participants was disappointing, not only for the organiser, but also for those attending. In total there were only 300 participants – including 22 from Taiwan under the guidance of Rosa Chen and Wang Chin Shih, who are both coaches for the national Taiwanese team – many of whom who traveled the great distance for only the few days of the event. All had hoped that more Taiji players of the Cheng Man Ching tradition would be in Hanover to allow and exchange of ideas, to establish new contacts and to learn from direct students of Cheng Man Ching.
Those who did come probably wouldn ́t have regretted making the effort. The location was very good: Nils Klug ́s school is in a former factory site near a river, which is used now for numerous ecological and social projects. Inside this site there were four spaces (rooms) for workshops, with more rooms at the sports university, 5 minutes walk away. The mood among the participants was excellent, just as the weather and the food. There were two art exhibitions, one of Loni Lieberman ink drawings of taiji practice and the other of Ken van Sickle photographs of Cheng Man Ching. Most of the images we have seen of the late professor in the west seen were taken by Ken van Sickle and the exhibition also included some rarely seen prints. On Saturday and Sunday the atmosphere around the area was also boosted by the local annual “Fährmannsfest” which also shared the same location, beside the factory site and included live music and a flea market.
The main part of the forum ran from Saturday to Tuesday with a large choice of workshops on offer each day. Four direct students of Cheng Man Ching were among the instructors: Wang Chin Shih from Taiwan and from the USA William, C.C. Chen, Cheng Man Ching ́s daughter Katy Cheng and Ken van Sickle. The other instructors were all grandchild or great-grandchild students of Cheng Man Ching, among them were Lau K. King (Malaysia), Luis Molera (Spain), Nathan Menaged (USA), Wilhelm Mertens and Daniel Grolle (Germany), Epi van de Pol (Netherlands), Maria Roessler (Austria) and Wee Kee Jin (New Zealand). Unfortunately Chu Hong Ping, Hsu Yee Chung (both Taiwan) and Ben Lo (USA) could not come. Two years ago these close students of Cheng Man Ching had flown to Europe, but now they won ́t travel so far for health or age-related reasons. Nevertheless Nils Klug has organised a workshop programme, which offered many interesting themes on the practice of CMC style taiji. The tournament from Sunday and Monday suffered from the relatively low number of participants. In some competitions only a few competitors registered. The experienced and friendly crew of the “Stichting Taijiquan Nederland” (Taijiquan Foundation Netherlands) organised the tournament and handled various spontaneous registrations very well. The Dutch introduced a new innovation to the competition which I found particularly interesting, “Essential Push Hands”. Essentially this involved a new approach to marking where points were awarded more for applying good taiji technique rather than the traditional system of merely awarding points for who over-balanced their opponent. Three judges could give up to 3 points in accordance with quality of the technique and, for me, this changed the perspective of competing considerably. The behavior of the fighters differed greatly from the usual Fixed or Moving step Tuishou “bouts”. I think all organisers of competitions should consider this type of “fight”.
On Saturday evening a two-hour “Tai Chi Gala“ took place in the “Theater am Aegi”, the largest theatre of Hannover. Most of the instructors performed at the show. The group from Taiwan demonstrated very nicely choreographed taijiquan and all performances were well received by an enthusiastic crowd. The variety of material on show was stimulating including Wee Kee Jin ́s impressive Fa Jing skills, Luis Molera ́s Fan Form to the live flamenco music, Nathan Menanged ́s Water Form and Epi Van De Pol ́s beautiful Sword Form. William C.C. Chen demonstrated applications with Nils Klug and Rosa Chen and Wang Chin Shih performed san shou and da liu as well as Rosa ́s nice saber form.
Another highpoint of the Forum occurred on Sunday morning when all participants met at a large meadow nearby to perform the hand form together. This had been announced before in the press, so that many spectators and journalists appeared to watch. Wang Chen Shih stood in front leading the group with his Taiwanese students forming a semi-circle around the mass demonstrators, in order that all would maintain the same speed.
On Sunday evening Epi van de Pol sho- wed a film, which he had taken during his sabbatical year, which he spent on the tracks of Cheng Man Ching. Among other things he filmed the house and the grave of Cheng Man Ching in Taiwan. Afterwards Katy and Ellen Cheng told some little stories from the life of their father, supported by William C.C. Chen, who lived seven years in his teacher ́s house. In this evening I felt Cheng Man Ching much closer than at any other time during the Forum.
From Wednesday to Friday, the last three days of the Cheng Man Ching Forum mo- re workshops were scheduled. Another opportunity for intensive learning …
In the end one essential question re- mains, why did so few people came to this forum? Was the place and date unfavorable? Hannover is truly no destination for summer holidays, but anyone, who is interested in Cheng Man Ching taijiquan should be able to arrange six days for such a meeting. Hannover is well situated in the north of Germany and because of that I would have expected more people from Hamburg and Bremen, two main cities in northern Germany, where a lot of Cheng Man Ching taijiquan is taught and practiced. Was the Forum not well promoted? I do not think so. At least in Germany and Great Britain the taiji players were informed by the taiji magazines, and Nils Klug, who also organises the annual International Push Hands Meeting, has a big stock of addresses, which he mailed or emailed several times. Was the program attractive enough? Four close students of Cheng Man Ching and many well- known European taiji in- structors were teaching. Was the number too little, or are there just too many taiji gatherings or workshops in Europe, where people can already train with these teachers? Did this Forum take place in a bad year where many other major events were taking place? The numbers in other large taiji meetings such as Recontre Jasnieres and the Push Hands Meeting we- re also considerably down compared to previous years. Is the market satisfied? The question remains whether there is sufficient interest in a “Cheng Man Ching family meeting” to stage a regular biannual event? Nils Klug received little support from Cheng Man Ching schools, who, although had been informed, obviously had not passed the information on to their students. Maybe the frequency is just too much and perhaps every four years would be better?
I ́m sure that answers to the above questions would be invaluable to the organisers of the major European events. What do you think? Are there now too many choices? Is there something more that you want from such meetings that perhaps isn ́t been met? Why not send your views to the European Internal Arts Journal – I ́m sure they ́ll be well received. The next meeting is scheduled in the summer 2006 in Montecatini Terme in Italy. Hopefully the organiser Massimiliano Biondi will set up an attractive program and receive more support.
Author Helmut Oberlack
Images: Nils Klug, Ken van Sickle
Videos of the Cheng Man Ching Forum
On Nils Klug’s YouTube channel you will find many videos of the event. They are extracts from the DVD documentation of the event.
Booklet of the event
Articles about Prof. Cheng Man Ching’s Tai Chi Chuan: Booklet of the 2nd Cheng Man Ching Forum Meeting.
Our Professor Cheng Man Ching Series
Cheng Man Ching was also named the “Master of Five Excellences“. He was one of the first who taught Taijiquan in the West and his Taijiquan style is spread all over the world. Here you will find many articles about his teaching and how it is taught by his his students.
Cheng Man Ching’s way of teaching (4): On being a master Cheng Man Ching’s teaching was marked by underlining sameness and diversity at the expense of hierarchy and difference. This approach formed the basis of his unique way of bridging the cultural gap between East and West.
Cheng Man Ching’s way of teaching (3): On meditation Our idea of meditation is mainly influenced by two aspects, the visual and the practical aspect. The mind’s uniform picture of a meditating person is someone sitting still in a peaceful environment, in a monastery or on a mountain.
Cheng Man Ching’s way of teaching (2): The Dantian The discussion about the nature of the Dantian is old and it remains unresolved until today: Is the Dantian a bodily, material reality or an ideal concept of Traditional Chinese Medicine to explain certain psychosomatic correlations? The debate cannot simply be described as a conflict between East and West or between Tradition and Modernity.
Cheng Man Ching’s way of teaching (1): “I am not a guru.” Cheng Man Ching, student of Yang Chengfu, came to New York in the 60s, at first teaching Taijiquan in the Chinese community, later also teaching Westerners. Being a university professor from a family of scholars and deeply rooted in traditional Chinese culture, he was confronted with flower children searching for a guru.
Cheng Man Ching on the dao of Taijiquan – a poem Cheng Man Ching is portrayed by his students as an example of total dedication and commitment to the Chinese Arts, especially concerning Taijiquan.
Self-massage as taught by Prof. Cheng Man Ching Cheng Man Ching was known as a master of the five excellences. As a teacher, he taught calligraphy and Traditional Chinese Medicine as well as Taijiquan, Push Hands and sword fencing. Advocating Taijiquan as a method of self-cultivation and health-preservation, he also used to teach his Taijiquan students aspects of other Chinese arts.
Cheng Man Ching Yang style Professor Cheng Man Ching (1900 – 1975) learned Tai Chi Chuan in the tradition of the classical Yang style from Yang Chengfu in Shanghai. There he was close friends with Ma Yueliang, the representative figure of the new Wu style. After the death of his teacher Yang Chengfu in 1935, and with the permission of Chen Weiming, a student of Yang Chengfu, and his father Yang Jianhou, Cheng Man Ching developed the so-called “short form”, in which 37 positions are counted, from the the well-known long form with 85 or 108 positions, depending on how they are counted.
Ken van Sickle on Cheng Man Ching In this 5-part interview series, Ken van Sickle, photographer, Tai Chi Master and student of Cheng Man Ching in New York, talks about studying with Cheng Man Ching and his desire to capture Cheng Man Ching’s spirit of learning and developing in the movie “The Professor – Tai Chi’s Journey West”. Further points are the sense and non-sense of lineages, the crucial question of “what to get from a master?”, Tai Chi goals and finally the meaning of Tai Chi weapon training, especially concerning the sword as instrument of the Dao…
My Father by Katy Cheng My father was born in the last century, well imbued with the traditional Chinese culture. But he was not weighed down by the old. He was open-minded, a tireless teacher, creating new ideas with full enthusiasm and keeping doggedly his principles in those fashion-filled times. After inheriting the past, he was a forerunner for the present, without being contaminated by the new heresies.
A Grandfather’s Heritage – Professor Cheng: Professor Cheng’s essays and commentaries on the Chinese classics give us rare insight into the mind of a …
Interview with direct Cheng Man Ching students William CC Chen, Benjamin Lo, Hsu Yee Chung and Hung Ping Chu answered question on Cheng Man Ching Tai Chi.
The Professor: Tai Chi’s Journey West – A Review The documentary The Professor: Tai Chi’s Journey West by Barry Strugatz/Ken van Sickle can be warmly recommended. Both Barry Strugatz and Ken van Sickle are themselves practitioners of Taijiquan, the latter being a master Student of Cheng Man Ching himself – their documentary view is thus one from the inside…
The title of “Master” in the Tai Chi lineage Back in (historic) China, the terms used to formally address one’s Taijiquan teacher in the proper way depended on the actual student-teacher relationship. While the Chinese terms differ widely, in English language the use of “Master” became widely accepted. Being formally addressed as a Master by one’s student has been and still is a question of courtesy and respect for many practitioners and teachers, although some schools in the European Cheng Man Ching tradition have dispensed completely with these formal honorary titles…
Cheng Man Ching’s students on mastery Cheng Man Ching’s direct students – the “second generation” if one sees Cheng Man Ching’s influence as determining a new approach – seem to follow this new tradition while continuing to adapt further to modernity…
Grandmasters, Big Sisters and Elder Brothers As Taijiquan in the Cheng Man Ching tradition has gone beyond the traditional system of Baishi and formal acceptance into the “family” or the monastic community as a Tudi or disciple back in the 1960s, the honorable naming of elder teachers and students follows a mixed system. One logical line goes from Master to Grandmaster to Greatgrandmaster. These titles capture the direct (and historical) connection between the student, the teacher and the teacher’s teacher. They thereby depict an aspect of teaching which in traditional lines is referred to as “line of transmission” or…