Robert W. Smith, who died in July, was a prolific writer about Chinese internal martial arts. He opened the eyes of many Westerners to the subtleties of the arts. And he was a sincere and conscientious teacher.I didn’t have much contact with him, although he did call on me when he needed some out-of-print detective books. He asked me to contact Ray Bradbury, the science fiction writer, and I went to his office in Beverly Hills. He gave me the books and I sent them on to Robert Smith.
In the early 1970’s, I was living in Los Angeles but visited New York City. I remember going to Chinatown and visiting some bookstores and finding Robert Smith book, T’ai Chi. It was $4.95 for the hardcover copy.
Robert Smith led a very interesting life and was very successful in spite of suffering greatly during the Great Depression. He was certainly instrumental in turning many people on to Tai Chi Chuan. We should all be grateful for his work.
Chen Zhenglei in this issue writes a memorial on the 30th anniversary of the death of Chen Zhaokui, who played an important role in teaching at the Chen village, Chen Jia Gou. The article is translated by Jack Yan of Richmond, Ontario, Canada.Chen Zhaokui was the son of the famous Chen Fa-ke, who went from the Chen village to teaching in Beijing at the request of Chen Zhaopei.
Chen Zhenglei was one of a famous group of Chen practitioners in the Chen village who studied with Chen Zhaopei. When Chen Zhaopei died, Chen Zhaokui was recruited to come to the village to train people. The article in this issue explains some of the experiences that the students had.
Huan Zhang is the son of Zhang Luping, who studied with a number of teachers in China before he came to the U.S. to get a Ph.D. in math, which he eventually got.
I interviewed Zhang Luping a number of times. The first was at a tournament in Houston. At that time his English was hard to understand, but he was very bright and had lots of good ideas and skills.
Another time, he was teaching math as part of his doctoral program at the University of California campus in Irvine, CA. His doctoral program was directed by a professor at a university in Massachusetts.
After he received his Ph.D, I met him one last time at the Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Hollywood where he was being treated for a terminal illness. He felt that his condition was caused by his poor diet—mostly potatoes—during the Cultural Revolution.
Gregory Fong is a long time player who writes about elements of correct practice. It is always good to re-evaluate one’s practice. Over time, practice changes as one’s body. One also changes through accumulated insights and efforts.
So certain elements of correct practice gain new meaning just as our life experiences shape our understanding of how we and others behave.
Wang Fengming’s contribution is from a book he is working on about push hands.
Balance is something we always have to work on because it always changes. Initially, we can depend mostly on muscles to maintain our balance. At early stages muscles can overcome poor alignment or allow us to coexist with poor alignment.
Later, we learn to improve balance by relaxing muscles and correcting alignment. In one sense practice is a process of learning to relax large muscles and use smaller, more efficient muscles to get correct balance.
Roger Paulo writes about some very useful qigong practices. Some of these can be very useful supplements to regular Tai Chi practice because they are a means of balancing the inner energies.
As powerful as the practice of Tai Chi can be, it cannot do everything. So certain practices such as the Kan Diagram gong can still be useful.
Roger Paulo has studied martial arts and qiqong and Chinese medicine for over 12 years. He has taught in the U.S., Brazil and China for over six years.
He studied martial arts, qigong, internal alchemy and Chinese medicine from many world renown masters for over 12 years.
He has been training in China for four years with top students of Wang Peisheng, Zhao Zeren and Lu Shengli.
Vincent Chu of Brookline, MA, takes an in depth look at form and push hands training and discusses the benefits of both. He is the author of the book, “Tai Chi Chuan: A Comparative Study.”
He is the son of Gin Soon Chu, a disciple of Yang Sau Chung. Gin Soon Chu still teaches in the Boston area.•