Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Friday, March 15, 2019

Reaction Without Thought

Below is an excerpt from an interview with Herman Kauz, a senior student of Cheng Man Ching (Zheng Man Qing) from the NYC days, what was posted by the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. The full post may be read here.

Herman Kauz has been a prominent teacher of tai chi for over 60 years. For the past 15 years, he has instructed the free Push-Hands class on the San Diego campus. In the 1970s, he trained with Cheng Man-ching, himself a student of Yang Chengfu, who was one of the most famous teachers of tai chi ever to have lived. Cheng Man-ching’s short-form Yang-style tai chi, one of the first to be introduced to the West, has since become the most widespread style of the art in the Unites States. He is the author of several well-regarded books in the field, including The Martial Spirit, A Path to Liberation, Push-Hands: The Handbook for Non-Competitive Tai Chi Practice with a Partner, and The Tai Chi Handbook.

How did you start on the path to tai chi?

At first, I studied judo in Hawaii in 1948, while I was in the Navy. I won the 1953 and 1954 champion heavyweight judo tournaments. Shortly afterward I was injured, then ended up taking karate after I had recuperated. I eventually traveled to Japan to learn more karate.

So how did you end up switching from the harder martial arts, like karate and judo, to a soft art like tai chi?

I was looking for something more meditative. Both judo and karate could be thought to have that element in their approach, but I was reading about Zen and decided to go to Japan to study. I discovered, though, that I didn’t really like just sitting. I found it difficult to change from such an action-oriented approach, so I returned to New York and found Cheng Man-ching.
I’d previously studied with Stanley Israel (ed: considered to be one of, if not the best of the 1960s American judo practitioners, who pursued tai chi almost exclusively after meeting Man-ching), and Stanley recommended Cheng Man-ching. Some of my Hawaii friends had also studied with him.
Man-ching needed enough money to support his family, so the people of Chinatown permitted him to teach outsiders, which at the time was extremely unusual. I was just after the first wave of people to learn from Man-ching. Originally, the beatniks that were part of the first wave were just looking for a “sage”, and Cheng Man-ching with his wispy beard, and as the Master of Five Excellences—those being painting, calligraphy, poetry, tai chi, and Chinese medicine—fit the type. The beatniks stuck around for push-hands once they found out about it, even though the Americans were so low-level they couldn’t really begin to touch Cheng Man-ching.
Tai chi grew on me and I stuck with it.

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