Ride the Horse in the Direction it is Going – Notes on Cheng Man Ching’s Tai Chi System IX
I brought my son, Krae, to 211 Canal St. when he was 9 years old (1969) to see where I practiced Tai Chi and to meet Cheng Man Ch’ing. The Professor always bonded quickly with children.
Soon, to everyone’s delight, Krae and Cheng Man Ching began spontaneously to kick a piece of balled up paper back and forth like a soccer ball. After a few minutes they stopped and Cheng Man Ching, being in a playful mood, told one of the male students to pick Krae up. He indicated with his hands how the student should place his hands on Krae’s waist to lift and he told Krae to resist being lifted. Krae resisted by pushing down on the students hands. The student lifted him easily.
Then Cheng Man Ching told Krae (through Ed’s translation) “Make your body feel heavy and place your hands under the lifters hands and when he tries to lift, pull up on his hands”. Then, to everyone’s surprise, the student could not lift him. Another tried with the same result. The Professor said that this was an example of a main principle of Tai Chi, of Taoism and of life in general: to go with the flow and not to struggle against it.
Finally, Stanley Israel said, “Let me try”. Stanley was one of the Professors advanced students as well as a nationally ranked Judoka and exceptionally strong. He picked Krae up with little trouble, although Krae winced at the intense pressure on his waist. In all, two lessons were learned, the second being, ‘Circumstances alter situations’.
- Tai Chi’s general attitude (fight or flight),
- the serious effort to make Chinese visual language practically meaningful (swimming in the air),
- the interpretation of relaxation as something requiring hard work (On (mis)alignment),
- the intense study of single postures (Roll back),
- the need to practically reconnect one’s own form to the original meaning of Taiji (The Cheng Man Ching 37 Form),
- the ultimate art in life (Tai Chi’s Role),
- the relation to the Other (Push Hands),
- the principle of going with the flow (Ride the horse),
- and – ultimately – the artful combination of energy and direction (momentum).