THE SWORD AND CALLIGRAPHY – Tai Chi Sword 22

calligraphy sword

SWORD AND CALLIGRAPHY

In China calligraphy is as esteemed as painting. Calligraphers are recognized and venerated and their work receives critical acclaim or disdain. It is bought for prices rivalling that of paintings and is collected by connoisseurs.

Long ago when China was a meritocracy the emperors courted the favour of the royalty and cultural elite, encouraging mastery of the art and furthering it as one of the supreme excellences.

The more than 40,000 characters in the Mandarin ‘alphabet’ began with a few simple strokes, which are called ‘radicals’ to represent ‘things’, each one looking like the object it portrayed. These characters are depictions, not abstract symbols, as with most languages. As time passed the characters changed, resembling the original objects less and less. However, it is studied starting with the original style and going through all the steps of its evolution. In this manner the students retain the essence of the original ‘picture’.

calligraphy sword
THE SWORD AND CALLIGRAPHY – Tai Chi Sword

Calligraphy and fencing are considered companion arts in China, the skills of one enhancing the skills of the other. Frequently a calligrapher will illustrate the correct energy and movement for the brush by displaying a sword movement, and vice versa.

Occasionally, Cheng Man Ch’ing would lightly pull a student’s brush upward as they were executing a stroke. If they were holding the brush too tightly it would mess up the character they were making, and if it were too loose the brush would slip out of their grasp, leaving black stains on their fingers. If they were holding the brush correctly their hand would simply rise with the brush, again similar to sword principle.

Cheng Man Ch’ing said that one who learns and communicates through a language that depicts, develops a different kind of mind than one who learns a language that uses abstract figures.

Author and Images: Ken van Sickle

German version of this article

Our Cheng Man Ching Series
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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…

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