GSC: Okay, my very first lesson with Master Yang, I showed him what I had learned from Master Lai. A woman student standing next to Master Yang commented that I was sinking much lower into my postures than my friend Chan Ping Tim. Master Yang nodded, which made me very pleased. I was then asked to show Master Yang my pushing hands exercises: ward off, roll back, press, push (as a senior student with Master Lai I used to practice push hands with him a lot). Master Yang again nodded, so I thought I had done a very nice job. However, Master Yang then said I lacked the most important ingredient, ward-off power (peng jing). I then pushed hands with him, and he showed me how this worked--when he applied this power I was shocked and unable to move my arms! Then I knew how much more I had to learn! Since that day I have spent a lot of time developing Peng jing through dynamic pushing hands. I emphasize this a lot in my teaching--it is the essence in all aspects of Tai Chi Chuan.
GSC: Chi to me is something inside our body that keeps us alive. It is the energy originating from the blood. In Tai Chi Chuan, the power is often called chi, but more properly it is jing. This is the combination of power from the tendons and ligaments with chi. This power can only be gained through persistent practice. My classmate, Master Ip Tai Tak always says: "Power training is very boring. It is like saving a penny every day". We do not look for the immediate result, we are looking long term.
TCAH: There are many interpretations of how Yang style should be practiced. How important is it to practice the right way? Does it matter as long as the principles are applied?
GSC: It is very important to practice Tai Chi Chuan the right way--otherwise one is wasting time and money. If you practice according to the principles, you are practicing correctly. However, there are many ways to interpret the principles. Yang style interprets them in one specific way and one way only; so if you do not follow that interpretation, you cannot truly be said to be practicing Yang style.
*This interview was originally published in Tai Chi & Alternative Health Magazine, Volume I, Issue 2, Autumn 1994. Copyright © British Tai Chi Chuan Centre