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 ~

Thursday, October 05, 2023

Interview with Alex Dong, Head of Dong Family Taijiquan

One of Yang Cheng Fu's most senior students was the storied Dong Yingjie. His practice became the Dong Family style of Taijiquan. Today it is headed by Alex Dong, who wrote a book about his famous great grand father, Grand Master

Below is an excerpt from an interview with Alex Dong. The full interview may be found here.


Inheriting A Legacy: A Master’s Journey Through Martial Arts

Alex Dong is a dedicated practitioner with a lifelong passion for the discipline. Hailing from Renxian County, Hubei province in China, he embarked on his martial arts journey at the tender age of five, starting with Tai Chi and later dabbling in the external aspects of martial arts throughout his childhood.

The Tung/Dong family Tai Chi is a traditional lineage that traces its roots back to the famous Yang style. As the current lineage holder, Alex Dong continues the legacy, emphasizing a traditional approach to Tai Chi, focusing on martial applications and preserving the essence of the art.

The Lineage of Dong Family Tai Chi

The lineage of Dong family Tai Chi can be traced back to the renowned Yang-style Tai Chi founder Yang Luchan (楊露禪) through his grandsons Yang Chengfu (楊澄甫) and Yang Shaohuo (楊少侯). Dong Yingjie (董英傑) learned from both Luchan’s grandsons and several other prominent Tai Chi masters of the era. Yingjie became the first generation of the Dong family to learn Tai Chi. The lineage continued through Dong Yingjie’s son, Dong Huling (董虎岭), who passed on the art to his son, Dong Zengchen (董增晨). Dong Zeng Chen then taught his son, Alex Dong (董大德), the current lineage holder, who continues to carry on the family tradition of Tai Chi. Alex is passing on his family’s art to his young son Ryan (董添瑞).

Coming To America

Recounting his journey, he says, “When I moved to Hawaii at 13, I trained with my father and grandfather.” Now a seasoned instructor, Alex has been honing the craft for over three decades. “I started assisting my father at 19, translating for him and teaching classes solo,” he reflects. Proudly commemorating the 25th anniversary of his family’s art being taught in Seattle, Alex’s devotion to martial arts radiates through his accomplishments.

Having called Hawaii and New York City home for the last four decades, Alex Dong’s influence stretches beyond geographical boundaries. Although the pandemic nudged him towards online classes, he now anticipates returning to in-person workshops, invigorated after the forced hiatus.

With a renewed spirit and a wealth of knowledge, Alex Dong is poised to continue his journey, inspiring generations to come with the timeless art of Dong family Tai Chi.

Alex Dong’s Early Martial Arts Journey

As I delved deeper into the conversation with Alex Dong, his account of childhood training in the art of Dong Family Tai Chi transported me to a level of dedication and discipline seldom possible in the modern era. “In the beginning,” Alex recalls, “I was learning the traditional long form and my family’s fast form.”

The scenes he painted were reminiscent of unwavering commitment, with young Alex practicing relentlessly. Rising before the sun, he commenced his training, only to continue throughout the day. “Other than going to school,” he shares, “I’m training… during lunch breaks and after dinner.” Such was the enthusiasm of his pursuit.

 In those formative years, repetition was the key. Alex vividly described honing his skills by performing the shorter forms and weapons routines countless times.

This early immersion in the art laid the groundwork for the mastery Alex would later achieve. It was a time of pure dedication, where every moment seemed devoted to pursuing excellence.

Reflecting on these formative years, it becomes apparent that true greatness is nurtured through passion, diligence, and an unyielding connection to one’s heritage. Alex Dong’s journey exemplifies the power of tradition and the beauty of a childhood dedicated to his family’s timeless art.


A Dance of Disciplines: Alex Dong’s Entry Into Push Hands

In my pursuit to unveil the inspirational martial arts journey of Alex Dong, our conversation delved into his transition from forms to the intricate world of Push Hands. “When I relocated to Hawaii at 13,” Alex reveals, “that’s when I started incorporating Push Hands training.”

Before Hawaii, Alex’s early years in China were characterized by dedicated form practice and spirited wrestling bouts known as Shuai Jiao (摔跤). These playful challenges with fellow neighborhood kids honed his balance and grappling skills, setting the stage for what was to come.

It was in Hawaii, at the age of 13 or 14, that Alex officially embraced Push Hands under the watchful guidance of his father. Classes with his father’s students exposed him to a diverse array of martial arts practitioners, including those from karate, wing chun, and even street fighters. A beautiful blend of Push Hands and striking techniques filled the training sessions, sometimes escalating into the roughhouse-ing of spirited young men.

With a glimmer in his eyes, Alex shared memories of these sessions, where practitioners tested their skills in a controlled yet lively exchange. The eclectic mix of influences imparted invaluable insights, shaping Alex’s path.

While training with his grandfather was less frequent due to the elder’s reduced class schedule, the moments spent learning from the Grandmaster were invaluable. Alex recalls, “Although he didn’t train me like my father, what he gave me was very important.” The principles and techniques imparted by his grandfather added a profound layer to Alex’s formidable prowess.



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