Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, 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 ~


Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Interview with Yang Jwing Ming


Yang Jwing Ming has had an impact on the transmission of Traditional Chinese Martial Arts in North America. Below is an excerpt from an interview with Dr Yang that appeared at Kung Fu Tea. The full interview may be read here.

Introduction

Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming generously sat down with Kung Fu Tea for a lengthy and wide ranging discussion of his martial arts experiences in both Taiwan and the United States. A major topic of conversation was the creation of YMAA Publications which remains one of the most important martial arts publishing houses. Also intriguing were Dr. Yang’s thoughts on the future direction of the Chinese martial arts and the role that they might play as modern societies continue to grapple with the disruption of labor markets by the rapid development of artificial intelligence and automation. The notes from that interview have been edited for length and clarity.

By way of introduction, Dr. Yang started his martial arts training at the age of fifteen under white crane Master Cheng Gin Gsao (曾金灶). The following year Dr. Yang began the study of Yang style taijiquan with Master Kao, Tao (高濤). He studied physics at Tamkang College in Taipei Xian and also began to practice Shaolin long fist with Master Li, Mao-Ching at the Tamkang College Guoshu Club (1964-1968). In 1971 Dr. Yang completed his M.S. degree in Physics at the National Taiwan University before serving in the Chinese Air Force from 1971 to 1972. In 1978 he completed his Doctorate in Mechanical Engineering at Perdue University in the United States. In 1984, Dr. Yang retired from his engineering career and undertook his life-long dream of teaching and researching the Chinese arts and introducing them to the West through his numerous books and publications.

Kung Fu Tea (KFT): I understand that as a youth in Taiwan you studied white crane, taijiquan and then Shaolin long fist while at university.  What do you think inspired your interest in the martial arts as a teenager?  Why, in your opinion, are we generally seeing less interest among young people in the traditional Chinese martial arts today?

Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming (YJM): First off, you have to understand what it was like in Taiwan in the 1960s. Military education was compulsory. When you became a teenager, they took you out and taught you how to shoot an M1 rifle and everyone was getting ready to fight the Chinese Communist army in a continuation of the civil war. And to actually fight the Chinese Communists was to die! As a result, many young people were trying to build up their inner courage, or just process their own mortality. They wanted to prove that they were brave. This led some people to fight or join gangs, and others studied martial arts.

When I first asked my parents about studying the martial arts, I was surprised that my father quickly said yes because some people used martial arts in gang activities.  When I asked my grandmother about this she explained that we were from a martial arts village.  In Yang village, before the war, everyone studied martial arts.  It was a simple family style for farmers. The number of techniques was limited but people really perfected them.

Everything is different today. We haven’t had society wide wars in a long time.  Young people are not scared or thinking about their own mortality. It was after the Vietnam War that martial arts really became popular in the United States.  There was such an explosion of interest in the early 1970s.  I remember watching Kung Fu with David Carradine and thinking that the martial arts choreography was not great, but at least people were really trying to explore a philosophy, which was good.  

All of that changed in the 1980s. There came to be so much violence in all of the media about martial arts. There was also an increasing emphasis on how things looked rather than actual technique or application.  The Chinese martial arts became like plastic flowers, a societal fashion rather than a pursuit of serious self-cultivation. “Gongfu” means time and energy, but most people have so little patience today.

 


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