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T’ai chi on YouTube, Part II

Tung Yin Chieh Yang form, filmed in 1950.

Master Tung was a senior student of Yang Cheng-fu (d.1936).

This film is probably the clearest example of the Yang form as taught by Yang Cheng-fu. The stances are low and long, which is achieved by bending the knees more. Master Tung’s back alignment is similar to that shown in pictures of Yang Cheng-fu. By this I mean that the spine is straight but the back is angled in a way that makes the Master appear to be leaning forward so that the upper body is slightly forward of the waist and legs. This alignment is even more apparent in photos of Master Yang Cheng-fu. It also influenced the alignment of the back in Wu Style, which was developed from Yang style in the late 19th century. It is interesting to note that in modern times fewer Yang style practitioners exaggerate this alignment and carry the spine much more upright. This can clearly be seen in the video of the contemporary Master Yang Jun, the 6th generation descendent of Yang Lu Chan, which was filmed within the past 10 years:

Here the Master keeps a more upright alignment with the characteristic leaning position only apparent at the end of the fully extended push position. The other characteristic features of Yang style Tai chi, such as extended steps and low stances, and pronounced bending of the knee and the large movement and arms and legs apparently fully extended, are very clear in the video.

By contrast, the Cheng Man-ch’ing 37 position form, though based on the Yang form as taught to Cheng Man-ch’ing, has such a different way of performing the movements and a different energy and dynamic about it, clearly must be regarded as a separate style. Quite apart from the fact that Master Cheng omitted certain stances:

Extensive analysis of the differences between traditional Yang Style T’ai chi and Cheng Man-ch’ing style can be found by Justin Meehan at http://www.taichiandqigong.com/yang_compare.php and by Robert Chuckrow at http://chuckrowtaichi.com/CMCvsYang.html.

Some cultural background and context to the technical discussions cited above can be found in an interview with Master Koh Ah Tee on Cheng Man-ching’s teaching by the Zhong Ding Traditional Chinese Martial Arts Association at http://wuweitaichi.com/articles/Master_Koh_Ah_Tee.htm.

Overall, as Meehan points out, Yang style emphases “peng” or Ward Off energy by using the structure and alignment of the body to connect to the ground and provide the strength to resist and deal with an incoming force. Cheng Man-ch’ing style places greater emphasis on being relaxed and neutralizing an incoming force. This involves never overcommitting to a particular position in the form, so that there is always the potential to shift fluidly from yang to yin or from substantial to insubstantial, or the reverse. Hence the impression is of a more relaxed and neutral energy to the form. Of course, within their own particular dynamics, both styles are equally valid and can be equally effective.

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