©Copyright 2011 by Robert Chuckrow

Cheng Man-ch’ing’s Short Form and The Yang-Style Long Form: Differences and Relative Benefits

Yang Cheng-fu (1883–1936) was a grandson of Yang Lu-chan, the originator of the Yang style of T’ai-Chi Ch’uan. Cheng Man-ch’ing (1902–1975) was an inner student of Yang Cheng-fu. After Yang Cheng-fu’s death and before coming to the United States, Cheng Man-ch’ing created a shortened version of the traditional form taught him by Yang Cheng-fu. That shortened version is now widely taught in the United States and other countries.

Practitioners of Cheng Man-ch’ing’s T’ai-Chi short form (C.M.C. form) are largely unaware of many of the changes he made. Most of them know that Prof. Cheng removed postures and repetitions from the Yang Cheng-fu T’ai-Chi long form (Yang form), changed “Step Back to Repulse the Monkey” to feet-parallel, and emphasized the “beauteous wrist.” But there are many other changes. It is important to understand what the changes are, why they were made, and the relative benefits of each of the two forms.

I learned the C.M.C. form under Prof. Cheng in Chinatown, NYC, from 1970–1975, at the T’ai-Chi Ch’uan Association and the Shr Jung School. I have been practicing that form since then and have taught it continuously since 1973. I also studied for six years during the 1970s with Grandmaster William C.C. Chen (Chen Chi-cheng), who originally learned T’ai Chi from Prof. Cheng in Taiwan. Chen’s form is an offshoot of Prof. Cheng’s, and parts of C.C. Chen’s form are done the way Prof. Cheng originally taught but later changed. When asked, C.C. Chen freely delineated between what he had originally learned from Prof. Cheng and what he had then changed. As a result, I learned some of the changes that Prof. Cheng had made since teaching Chen. I also observed some changes that Prof. Cheng made during the five years that I studied with him.

I learned the Yang form from the late Clifton Cooke in the mid 1970s and later from Harvey Sober. I have been teaching the Yang long form to my senior students for about two decades. Sober’s version came from the late Franklin Kwong (Kwong Yung-cheng), a direct student of Yang Cheng-fu (see a video of Kwong doing the Yang form: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dew02bd-SaM). According to some of his students, Kwong claimed that his version was authentic.

There is some variation in how those who studied with Yang Cheng-fu do his form, which may be explained as follows: (1) Yang Cheng-fu may have changed his way of doing the movements over the years, (2) At a given time, he may have taught different people differently, (3) students taught in the same way sometimes inadvertently do movements differently from what they were taught, and (4) his direct students may have made purposeful changes based on their state of physical health, the limitations of their students, or other considerations. Nevertheless, certain conclusions can and will be drawn.

The following links are for the names and sequence of movements of both the Yang and C.M.C. forms: http://www.chuckrowtaichi.com/LongForm.pdf and http://www.chuckrowtaichi.com/ShortForm.pdf.

In addition to Prof. Cheng’s elimination of some movements of the Yang form (discussed in §1, below) and the elimination of repetitions of movements (§2), there are general differences throughout (§3); differences in the order of the movements (§4); differences in movements that are in both forms (§5); transitions that occur in one style and not the other for movements common to both forms (§6); differences in transitions between successive movements common to both forms (§7); and differences between what Prof. Cheng taught, what he did, and what those of his students do and teach (§8).

1. Elimination of Postures

It should be mentioned that there is confusion with the name Downward Punch, which is used for different movements that occur in the same place in the both the C.M.C. form and the Yang form. In the Yang form, “Downward Punch” is directed almost vertically downward. However, what is called Downward Punch in the C.M.C. form is the same as the movement “Punch Opponent’s Pubic Region” in the Yang form. In what follows, we will use the terminology of the Yang form and, therefore, use the name Punch Opponent’s Pubic Region for the movement called Downward Punch in the C.M.C. form.

In shortening the long form, Prof. Cheng removed seventeen postures: “Needle at Sea Bottom,” “Fan Through Back,” “Turn and Chop with Fist,” “High Pat on Horse,” “Turn and Strike with Sole,” “Right Foot Kicks Upward,” “Hit a Tiger at Left,” “Hit a Tiger at Right,” “Strike Both Ears with Fists,” “Left Foot Kicks Upward,” “Parting the Horse’s Mane (L),” “Parting the Horse’s Mane (R),” “Horizontal Single Whip,” “White Snake Puts Out Tongue,” “Cross Palms,” “Turn and Cross Legs,” and “Downward Punch” (see Table 1 for a comparison of the movements of the two forms).

Actually, the number of categories of removed movements can be counted as thirteen. Three of the removed movements, “Hit a Tiger,” “Foot Kicks Upward,” and “Parting the Horse’s Mane,” are repeated on both sides. Moreover, “Horizontal Single Whip” is not substantively different from the ordinary “Single Whip.”

Some practitioners may feel that “Diagonal Flying” and “Parting the Horse’s Mane” are essentially the same. However, these two movements are different. “Parting the Horse’s Mane,” which is done in a series of three movements (R, L, R), involves unique transitions. Also, the two movements have different martial applications. “Parting the Horse’s Mane” involves a snaking and splitting movement to gain access to the inside of the opponent’s arms in order to attack. “Diagonal Flying,” on the other hand, involves stepping behind the opponent’s forward leg and tripping him backward with your forward leg and outstretched arm.

It is interesting that the Standardized 24-Movement Form starts out with “Parting the Wild Horse’s Mane”—one of the movements removed by Prof. Cheng.

Name of PostureNumber of Occurrences in the C.M.C. FormNumber of Occurrences in the Yang Form
Preparation 1 0
Beginning 1 1
Ward off with Left Hand 2 3
Ward off with Right Hand 3 5
Roll Back 4 8
Press 4 8
Push 5 10
Single Whip 4 9
Lift Hands 1 3
Lean Forward 1 3
The Crane Spreads its Wings 1 3
Brush Knee Twist Step (L) 3 8
Hands Playing the P’i Pa 1 2
Brush Knee Twist Step (R) 1 2
Chop with Fist 0 3
Step Forward, Deflect Downward, Intercept, and Punch 2 6
Apparent Close-Up 1 2
Diagonal Single Whip 1 1
Embrace the Tiger to Return to the Mountain 1 2
Looking at the Fist Under the Elbow 1 1
Step Back to Repulse the Monkey (R) 3 6
Step Back to Repulse the Monkey (L) 2 4
Diagonal Flying 1 2
Needle at Sea Bottom 0 2
Fan Through Back 0 2
Turn and Chop with Fist 0 2
Cloud Hands Left 3 9
Cloud Hands Right 2 9
High Pat on Horse 0 2
Separate Right Foot 1 1
Separate Left Foot 1 1
Turn and Strike with Sole 0 3
Turn and Strike with Heel 1 1
Right Foot Kicks Upward 0 2
Hit a Tiger at Left 0 1
Hit a Tiger at Right 0 1
Strike Both Ears with Fists 0 1
Left Foot Kicks Upward 0 1
Parting the Horse’s Mane (L) 0 1
Parting the Horse’s Mane (R) 0 1
Horizontal Single Whip 0 1
Fair Lady Works at the Shuttles 4 4
Descending Single Whip 2 2
Golden Cock Stands on One Leg (R) 1 1
Golden Cock Stands on One Leg (L) 1 1
White Snake Puts Out Tongue 0 1
Cross Palms 0 1
Turn and Cross Legs 0 1
Punch Opponent’s Pubic Region 1 1
Downward Punch 0 1
Brush Knee and Punch Down 0 1
Step Forward to the Seven Stars of the Big Dipper 1 1
Step Back to Ride the Tiger 1 1
Turn the Body to Sweep the Lotus 1 1
Bend the Bow to Shoot the Tiger 1 1
Close Up 1 1



Total 66 152

Table 1. A comparison of the movements of the two forms. Note that the name Punch Opponent’s Pubic Region has been used for the movement called Downward Punch in the C.M.C. form

2. Elimination of Repetitions.

Table 2 shows that, of the movements that are common to both forms, there are 124 – 65 = 59 more repetitions of movements in the long form. That is, in the C.M.C. form, almost half of the occurrences of repeated movements taken from the long form are absent.

Name of PostureNumber of Occurrences in the C.M.C. FormNumber of Occurrences in the Yang Form
Beginning 1 1
Ward off with Left Hand 2 3
Ward off with Right Hand 3 5
Roll Back 4 8
Press 4 8
Push 5 10
Single Whip 4 9
Lift Hands 1 3
Lean Forward 1 3
The Crane Spreads its Wings 1 3
Brush Knee Twist Step (L) 3 8
Hands Playing the P’i Pa 1 2
Brush Knee Twist Step (R) 1 2
Step Forward, Deflect Downward, Intercept, and Punch 2 6
Apparent Close-Up 1 2
Diagonal Single Whip 1 1
Embrace the Tiger to Return to the Mountain 1 2
Looking at the Fist Under the Elbow 1 1
Step Back to Repulse the Monkey (R) 3 6
Step Back to Repulse the Monkey (L) 2 4
Diagonal Flying 1 2
Cloud Hands Left 3 9
Cloud Hands Right 2 9
Separate Right Foot 1 1
Separate Left Foot 1 1
Turn and Strike with Heel 1 1
Fair Lady Works at the Shuttles 4 4
Descending Single Whip 2 2
Golden Cock Stands on One Leg (R) 1 1
Golden Cock Stands on One Leg (L) 1 1
Punch Opponent’s Pubic Region 1 1
Step Forward to the Seven Stars of the Big Dipper 1 1
Step Back to Ride the Tiger 1 1
Turn the Body to Sweep the Lotus 1 1
Bend the Bow to Shoot the Tiger 1 1
Close Up 1 1



Total 65 124

Table 2. Summary of occurrences of movements common to both forms.

Advantages and Disadvantages of so Few / so Many Movements. In my experience, teaching the C.M.C. form allows instilling principles at an earlier stage without becoming bogged down with teaching a lot of new movements. Nevertheless, I am convinced of the benefit of teaching students the Yang form after they have become proficient at the C.M.C. form. In a self-defense situation, the subconscious mind must process a large amount of sensory information over an extended period of time, and the conscious mind is far too slow and limited to do so. The Yang form trains the subconscious mind to encompass a large number of movements, with repetitions of certain movements leading to a different succession of movements. For example, in the C.M.C. form, “Single Whip” transitions into “Raise Hands,” “Four Corners,” and “Downward Single Whip” (two times). By comparison, in the Yang form, “Single Whip” transitions into those same movements plus “Cloud Hands” (three times) and “High Pat on Horse” (two times). Thus the long form has about twice as many transitions from “Single Whip,” which presents quite a challenge to the mind not to drift, which is important in today’s world.

Another example is that of the different transitions from “Brush Knee (L)” to the next posture. In the C.M.C. form, “Brush Knee (L)” transitions into “Hands Playing the P’i Pa,” “Punch,” and “Brush Knee (R).” In the long form, however, “Brush Knee (L)” transitions into “Hands Playing the P’i Pa” (two times), “Chop with Fist,” “Needle at Sea Bottom” (two times), “Brush Knee (R)” (two times), and “Downward Punch.” Thus the long form has eight transitions from “Brush Knee (L)” compared to three such transitions in the C.M.C. form.

Will Practicing a Shortened Form Make You Sick? Erle Montaigue (1949–2011) wrote that practicing a shortened form can make you sick (see www.taijiworld.com/shortened-forms.html). In that article, Montaigue says, “I hear from so many who have been practicing shortened forms of Tai Chi for many years who are beginning to get ill for no apparent reason. Then when I tell them about shortened forms and why they shouldn’t do them, they begin one of the original longer forms and hey ho, they get well again.”

The anecdotal nature and lack of any scientific proof involved in the above cause-and-effect assertion is apparent: Was the changeover to an original longer form with the same teacher? What other changes did the students make? How many shortened-form students become ill and recover without ever changing forms? How many longer-form students become ill and then recover after changing to a shortened form? Many people the world over get ill “for no apparent reason” and then recover without ever doing any T’ai Chi at all!

Prof. Cheng was a renowned doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine. In the absence of any proof, it is inappropriate to accuse him of making people sick.

3. General Differences Throughout.

Yang Cheng-fu in “Push” postureCheng Man-ch’ing in “Push” posture

Fig. 1. Left, Yang Cheng-fu in “Push” Posture.1 Right, Cheng Man-ch’ing in same posture.2

Bent Versus “Beauteous” Wrist. One immediate difference apparent to those practitioners of the C.M.C. form is that of Yang’s bent wrist (Fig. 1, left). Prof. Cheng emphasized the “beauteous wrist,” (Fig. 1, right) for which there is no bending. He stated that his reason for adopting the beauteous wrist was that the tension of a bent wrist restricts the flow of ch’i to the fingers. An additional interpretation is that in a self-defense situation, any tension in the hand or wrist “telegraphs” your intention to the opponent, thereby giving him an advantage (see article, “A Hand is Not a Hand”: http://www.chuckrowtaichi.com/AHandIsNotAHand.html).

Body Vertical Versus Leaning Forward. It is clear to me that Prof. Cheng’s purpose in having the body erect rather than leaning forward, as do many Yang-style practitioners, is to help the body to relax. When the body is leaning in any direction, muscle tension must come into play in order to keep the body from falling in that direction. Having the body “stacked” vertically takes almost no effort. When exerting force on an opponent, it might be necessary to lean to keep from falling backward. When doing the form, however, the necessity to exert force is absent, and leaning forward is unnecessary.

Propulsion of Force. Even through Yang Cheng-fu is not upright, his back is straight, and most interestingly, the extension of the line of his spine intersects the center of his rear foot (Fig. 2). Note also that each line drawn from the center of each of Yang’s feet to his forward palm is along each respective shin bone (Fig. 3). These relationships appear to be essential for expressing the martial power for which Yang Cheng-fu was renowned. That is, the forces from Yang’s feet are directed along his shins and vector into his forward palm. Nevertheless, Prof. Cheng did not seem to have much trouble in exerting forward force without leaning forward (Fig. 4). Note in Fig. 4 that a line drawn from Prof. Cheng’s rear foot to the arm being pushed by others is along his rear leg and through the center of his body.

The line of Yang Cheng-fu’s back

Fig. 2. Note that the line of Yang Cheng-fu’s back intersects the center of his rear foot.

The lines from the centers of Yang Cheng-fu’s feet to his forward palm

Fig. 3. Note that each line drawn from the center of each of Yang Cheng-fu’s feet to his forward palm is along each respective shin bone.

Cheng Man-ch’ing withstanding people pushing his arm

Fig. 4. Note that even though Cheng Man-ch’ing is not leaning forward, he is able to withstand strong people pushing his arm.3 Note also that the line drawn from his rear foot to the point of contact on the arm being pushed is along his rear leg and through the center of his body. (see http://www.chuckrowtaichi.com/RootingAnalysis.html for a treatment of the factors involved in such rooting.)

Degree of Bending of Rear Leg. Another difference related to Yang’s leaning forward in 70-30 stances is that of his almost straight rear leg; namely, straightening the rear leg causes the body to lean forward. Interestingly, those who practice Shotokan Karate also straighten the rear leg but then arch the lower back to make the trunk vertical. Prof. Cheng emphasized bending the rear leg, which enables the spine to be upright without arching the lower back.

The “Preset Foot.” An important difference between the C.M.C. form and the long form as done by some practitioners is something that my teacher, Harvey Sober, calls the preset foot. In one version of the Yang long form, some transitions involve presetting (turning inward by 45°) what will become the rear foot at the start of the movement rather than at the end. By contrast, in the C.M.C. form, the rear foot is turned inward by 45° at the end of the movement.

In the preset-foot version, the transition from “Ward off Left” (a 70-30 posture with 70% of the weight on the left foot) to “Ward off Right” involves shifting 100% onto the right foot, turning the body and left foot 45° to the right, then shifting back 100% onto the left foot, stepping with the right foot, and shifting into the final posture.

On the other hand, in the C.M.C. form, the transition from “Ward off Left” to “Ward off Right” involves shifting 100% onto the left foot, turning 45° to the right, stepping into a width with the right foot, shifting 70% of the weight onto the right foot, and then turning the body an additional 45° to the right, at the same time turning the left foot 45° to the right on its heel. Thus, in the C.M.C. form, the rear foot turns at the very end of the movement. Moreover, in the C.M.C. form, the thigh joints are much more open during stepping. Opening the thigh joints to that degree was something that Prof. Cheng considered to be important.

There is an old video on youtube.com of Yang Cheng-fu’s first son, Yang Sau-chung (1910–1985), doing the long form (see http://youtu.be/Bze07WyY0C0), which may be close to the way Yang Cheng-fu taught it at the time when Prof. Cheng was his student. Cheng Man-ch’ing (1902–1975) was only about eight years older than Yang Sau-chung. In that video, Yang Sau-chung turns the rear foot at the end of the move as in the C.M.C. form (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v=t_hCCTTG3UY).

Yang Cheng-fu’s youngest son, Yang Zhen-duo (1926– ), was about ten years old when his father died and utilizes the preset foot throughout (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_hCCTTG3UY). It would seem that the preset-foot version is newer, and it may well be that Prof. Cheng’s way of turning the rear foot is how he was taught and is not a change he made.

I like and practice both versions of turning the rear foot, and teach both ways. In fact, the preset-foot version is preferable for seniors, who tend to have balance problems and limited range of movement of their hip joints.

Angle of the Rear Foot in 100% Postures. A consequence of the preset-foot version is that in 100% postures in the Yang form, the rear foot is at 45° to the direction of the stance. By comparison, in 100% postures in the C.M.C. form, the rear foot is at 90° to the direction of the stance. For example, in the Yang form, the transition from “Single Whip” to “Lift Hands” involves shifting 100% onto the right foot, turning the body and left foot 45° to the right, then shifting back 100% onto the left foot for the final posture. By comparison, in the C.M.C. form, the left foot remains stationary, and the weight just shifts 100% to that foot as the body turns, and the right foot is placed at 90°, heel touching lightly. Thus, in 100% postures of the C.M.C. form, the rear foot is at 90° to the direction of the final posture instead of 45° as in the Yang form. Consequently, in the C.M.C. form, the thigh joints are much more open in 100% stances.

One problem of the weighted foot pointing 90° to the direction of the final stance in 100% postures in the C.M.C. style is that some students erroneously try to have the nose and navel line up. The nose-navel rule only holds for 70-30 stances. Because the head points in the direction of all final stances, attempting to have the navel also point in the direction of a 100% stance results in forcing the weighted knee inward from its optimal alignment of being vertically above the center line of the 100%-weighted foot.

Shifting and Turning. In the C.M.C. form, the sequence is step, shift, and turn. In the Yang form, the sequence is step, turn, and shift. This difference is a logical consequence of presetting what will become the rear foot in the long form and turning the rear foot at the end of the movement in the C.M.C. form. That is, if the rear foot is turned at the beginning of the movement, the body must turn at the beginning of the movement, and if the rear foot is turned to its final position at the end of the movement, the body must turn at the end of the movement.

4. Differences in the Order of Movements Between Both Forms. In the long form, “Fair Lady Works at the Shuttles” occurs before the sequence “Downward Single Whip” and “Golden Cock Stands on One Leg (L) and (R).” That order is reversed in the C.M.C. form. Moreover, in the long form, the sequence “Brush Knee Left and Right” occurs in the first section after “Hands Playing the P’i Pa” and again after “Turn and Strike with Heel.” In the C.M.C. form, that sequence occurs only once, after “Turn and Strike with Heel.” There appears not to be any problem with these two changes in order.

5. Differences in Movements That Occur in Both Forms.

In “Step Back to Repulse the Monkey” in the Yang form, the front foot steps back and is placed at 45° to the forward direction, in a cat stance. By comparison, in the C.M.C. form, the feet step backward with their center lines on parallel tracks a shoulder width apart. Prof. Cheng said, “Stepping feet-parallel opens the front and back of the body equally. If you see someone doing ‘Step Back to Repulse the Monkey’ with feet parallel anywhere in the world, that can be traced to me.” Moreover, it can be seen from examining a skeleton or model thereof that having feet parallel places the thigh joints in their centered position when the navel points in the same direction as the feet. That physiological relationship helps the pelvis attain its optimal alignment. Doing “Step Back to Repulse the Monkey” with feet-parallel is more challenging but, in my view, an improvement over the former way.

6. Transitions That Occur in One Style and Not in the Other for Movements Common to Both Forms.

In the C.M.C. form, “Diagonal Flying” transitions directly into “Cloud Hands.” That is, after “Diagonal Flying,” and before and “Cloud Hands,” the following sequence is eliminated from the long form: “Raise Hands,” “Lean Forward,” “The Crane Spreads its Wings,” “Brush Knee Twist Step (L),” “Needle at Sea Bottom,” “Fan Through Back,” “Turn and Chop with Fist,” “Step Forward, Deflect Downward, Intercept, and Punch,” “Ward off with Right Hand,” “Roll Back,” “Press,” “Push,” “Single Whip.” In fact, this sequence is repeated in the long form, the second time with “White Snake Puts Out Tongue” added after “Turn and Chop with Fist.”

In the long form, the transition from “Cloud Hands” to “Single Whip,” occurs after doing the left side of “Cloud Hands.” In the C.M.C. form, the transition from “Cloud Hands ” to “Single Whip,” occurs after doing the right side of “Cloud Hands.” That is, in the long form, the left and right sides of “Cloud Hands” are both done the same number of times, but in the C.M.C. form, “Cloud Hands (L)” occurs three times, and “Cloud Hands (R)” only occurs two times. I do not know why this change was made, but it appears not to be a problem.

In the Yang form, “Golden Cock Stands on One Leg (R)” transitions into “Step Back to Repulse the Monkey (R).” In the C.M.C. form, “Golden Cock Stands on One Leg (R)” transitions into “Separate Left Foot.”

In the Yang form, “Downward Punch” transitions into “Turn and Chop with Fist,” and later, “Punch opponent’s Pubic Region,” which is similar, transitions into “Ward off Right.” At two other places in the long form, “Deflect Downward, Parry, and Punch” also transitions into “Ward off Right.” Whereas in the C.M.C. form, “Punch opponent’s Pubic Region” transitions into “Ward off Right,” there is no transition from “Deflect Downward, Parry and Punch” to “Ward off Right.”

In general, all transitions from 70-30 postures to 100% ones differ between the two forms because of the preset foot in the Yang form and the stationary foot in the C.M.C. form. That is, presetting the foot involves turning the body at the beginning of the transition, and keeping the foot stationary involves turning the body mainly at the end of the transition.


Transition
From
To Occurs in C.M.C. Form Only Occurs in Yang-Style Long Form Only Occurs in Both Forms But Differently
1 Diagonal Flying Cloud Hands yes

2 Diagonal Flying Raise Hands
yes
3 Golden Cock Stands on One Leg (R) Separate Left Foot yes

4 Golden Cock Stands on One Leg (R) Step Back to Repulse the Monkey (R)
yes
5 Single Whip Cloud Hands
yes
6 Deflect Downward, Intercept and Punch Ward off Right
yes
7 Single Whip Raise Hands

yes
8 Raise Hands Lean Forward

yes
9 White Crane Brush Knee (L)

yes
10 Brush Knee (L) Hands Playing the P’i Pa

yes
11 Cloud Hands Single Whip

yes
12 Punch Opponent’s Pubic Region Ward off Right

yes
13 Four Corners Ward off Left

yes

Table 3. Some transitions of the Yang and C.M.C. forms.

7. Differences in Transitions Between Successive Movements that are Common to Both Forms.

In the Yang form, the transition from “White Crane” to “Brush Knee (L)” involves keeping the left foot stationary as the body turns to the right. In the C.M.C. form, that transition involves pivoting the left foot on its ball as the body turns. Such pivoting seems to be a natural consequence of having the weighted foot at 90° to the direction of the final stance; that is, not pivoting would limit turning of the body, which now can be 45° more. A similar statement about pivoting can be made concerning the transition from “Hands Playing the P’i Pa” to “Brush Knee (L).” Moreover, in that same transition in the Yang form, the left hand makes a large clockwise circle past the face. In the C.M.C. form, that hand swings almost horizontally to the right and then to the left. This latter change was evidently made to induce students to relax more.

In general, Prof. Cheng changed a number of transitions to involve circling a hand to its lowest-possible position. For example, in the Yang form, the transition from “Ward off right” to “Roll Back and Press” and from “Push” to “Single Whip” involve circling both hands to the side, in a horizontal plane. In the C.M.C. form, those transitions involve circling the left hand downward in a vertical plane. Similar statements can be made of the right hand in the final part of “Deflect Downward, Parry, and Punch” and the right hand in the transition from “White Crane” to “Brush Knee (L).” My understanding is that Prof. Cheng wanted us to do the form in the most relaxed manner and felt that lowering those circles would help to teach us that.

In the Yang form, the transition from “Brush Knee (L)” to “Hands Playing the P’i Pa” involves taking a step forward with the rear foot. In the C.M.C. form, that transition involves lifting the rear foot and then placing it back in approximately its original location.

In the Yang form, the transition from the second “Fair Lady Works at the Shuttles” to the third one involves only shifting the weight onto the left foot, back onto the right foot, and then stepping into the final stance with the left foot. In the C.M.C. form, that transition involves shifting the weight onto the left foot, taking a small step to the left with the right foot, and then stepping into the final stance with the left foot. This extra step the C.M.C. form does not involve stepping across the body but only involves the natural swing of the leg resulting from the momentum of shifting the body. The small step to the left is not in any other movement in either form and, for me, is a valuable addition.

There are other transitions that differ between the Yang and C.M.C. forms in terms of the motion of the arms. Examples are the transitions from “Raise Hands” to “Shoulder Strike,” “Single Whip” to “Raise Hands,” “Raise Hands” to “Lean Forward,” “Hands Playing the P’i Pa” to “Brush Knee (L),” and the last “Fair Lady Works Shuttles” to “Ward off Left.”

8. Differences Between what Prof. Cheng Taught, what he did, and what his Students do and Teach.

Prof. Cheng did not speak English, and any verbal instruction to English speakers had to be translated from Chinese into English by one or both of his interpreters, Ed Young and the late Tam Gibbs. Moreover, questions and answers had to pass in both directions. Thus, misunderstandings were possible. Also, Prof. Cheng would often instruct us non-verbally by pointing to parts of his body. I remember one instance of Prof. Cheng leading the class. Students were doing “Brush Knee Left” by circling their right hands past their shoulders with the fingers pointed directly upward. Prof. Cheng pointed to his right hand and moved it up and down at the wrist in a waving motion to show that the wrist should be relaxed. As a result, for a while, some students then did “Brush Knee Left,” waving their hands in the same way that Prof. Cheng had done. The question arises as to how much of what Prof. Cheng taught was misunderstood.

One Prof. Cheng’s main goals was to teach students to relax because many of them were into body-building and hard-style martial arts, resulting in their holding frozen tension throughout their bodies. To this end, Prof. Cheng changed some of the movements to those with hands circling lower than those of Yang-style practitioners. Examples are “Roll Back,” “Brush Knee,” “Punch,” and “Single Whip.” I remember his reaction when he saw beginners prematurely lifting their left hands before the shifting and turning into the final posture of “Single Whip.” He walked over to a student and held his hand down to prevent this atrocity. To this day, Prof. Cheng’s original students and successive generations of their students hold their left hands down in deference to Prof. Cheng when doing that transition. Also, when doing other movements, many of Prof. Cheng's lineage prevent their hands from moving when stepping. But if you view any of the videos of Prof. Cheng (for example, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USJPmCZ6Efc), you will see that the movement of his left hand in “Single Whip” is much more smooth and continuous than that of his students. In my view, not transcending instructions given to rank beginners is foolhardy.

Conclusion

Because Cheng Man-ch’ing introduced so many changes to the traditional Yang style, we can conclude that he created a separate style. A similar conclusion was reached by Master Koh Ah-tee in an interview by Nigel Sutton of the Zhong Ding Traditional Chinese Martial Arts Association (see http://wuweitaichi.com/articles/Master_Koh_Ah_Tee.htm).


References

1Photo from Dr. Tseng Chiu Yien, The Chart of Tai Chi Chuan, Union Press Limited, 14 Dorset Crescent, Kowlon Tong, Kowloon, Hong Kong, no date given, p. 28.

2Photo from Cheng Man-ch’ing, T’ai Chi Ch’uan: A Simplified Method of Calisthenics for Health & Self Defense, Shih Chung Tai-chi Chuan Center, Taipei, Taiwan, 1962, p. 77.

3Photo from T’ai-Chi Ch’uan, Body and Mind, published by Tai Chi Chuan Association, 211 Canal Street, New York, NY, 1968, p. 32.


©Copyright 2011 by Robert Chuckrow


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