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About the Author

 

 

Alan Sims

alan.sims35@yahoo.com

copyright Alan Sims

Residence: New York City

Instructors: James Eaton Jr.-Goju Karate

Lee Moy Shan-Ving Tsun Kung Fu

Larry Banks-Tai Chi Chuan-Student of Master Jou Tsung Hwa

Translation-Charles Wang

Articles Published-Tai Chi Chuan, The I Ching

 

 

In one of the Tai Chi Farm Newsletters, master Jou talks in length about a man by the name of Shen Jia Zhen. He mentions how when Shen had studied Tai Chi Chuan from Yang Chen Fu, Yang said that while he was pleased with Shen’s level of what I will call flexible energy, he felt that Shen’s firm energy needed a bit more work. Yang Chen Fu [according to the Tai Chi Newsletter] therefore showed his student some exercises to practice to develop this firm energy. Shen Jia Zhen thought that these exercises were suspect since none of them were present in the Yang form that he had learned.

It was later when he saw a demonstration of the second routine of the Chen Family’s Tai Chi by Chen Fa Kur that he recognized the very moves taught to him by master Yang.

Although I have discovered due to extensive reading that there is some controversy as to the total contributors of the Chen Family’s book on Tai Chi Chuan written in Chinese in 1963, the author listed is none other than Shen Jia Zhen. Also strangely in the same book, is a story [which is also in another of the Tai Chi Farm Newsletters] about a Tai Chi exhibition put on by Yang Chen Fu and Wu Chien Chyan, neither whom are known to be Chen Family boxers.

What I found interesting is that in Shen Jia Zhen’s commentary to what in the "Dao Of Tai Chi Chuan" is titled "Machine Cannon 1,2 and 3 of Cannon Fist, it is said that " according to the practitioner’s needs, one can perform this movement many times or one can perform it less." It also says that “however many times this move happens to be performed, the next section [" White Snake Unleashes It's Tongue"] should match this section in the number of movements performed."

This book written in Chinese in 1963 is not a small book. At least not when translated. I had 3 nice sized manuscripts typed up and I still didn't have everything translated. I'm well aware that many more informative books have come out since then, that is why these are background notes.

The First Routine has a lot of detail and long commentaries, but hardly anything on actual application or usage. Cannon Fist has a great deal of "if this doesn't work", another use of this posture is", "in order to free the hand", etc...

At this time I would like to list some basics about something that I have been writing about, and that is the Tai Chi Farm Exercises.

Some of the basic rules when performing the exercises that I am mentioning separately are:

 

No tilting of the head

No leaning over to any side

The feet are usually on a horizontal line

The breathing [or contraction and expansion of the abdomen] is divided into relax, expand, relax, contract, relax

At least one arm [depending on the exercise] is almost always straightened]

The middle of the lower back is involved in the contraction and expansion

The arms and hands often rotate without leaving their position

The legs and feet         "         "          "           "         "         "

 

As I mentioned in a previous article, I personally have to listen to music [using headphones] while I am practicing the exercises, and in that way, I receive the maximum enjoyment from the practice.

While looking at the translation of the second routine which I have in front of me, I'm reminded of the fact that Chen Fa Kur was an innovator. The commentary for the conclusion of the "Wave Hands In Clouds' or front "moving hands" and "rear moving hands" states that "as one turns from the high pat on horse to the opposite side, it is important that the curve is smooth and the spinning continues. As one turns around, one should make a small circle with the left hand to make the turning of the body smooth and continuous. The introduction of this move is directly credited to Chen Fa Kur who, in order to popularize Chen style Tai Chi, added on the "High Pat On Horse" and "Moving Hands" ["Wave Hands In Clouds"] within the sequence. Without these inclusions, it is even more difficult to go directly from the first "Moving Hands" to the next "High Pat on Horse". That is from the book.

Even though I don’t have the translation of the Chen Family’s first routine in front of me, I know that Chen Fa Kur also made at least one innovation in that form as well.

I want to wish all practitioners excellent workouts and new breakthroughs. I plan to resume my writing on the Tai Chi Farm Exercises in detail, even in the midst of trying to get this published.

 

If You Can't Dance

By

Alan Sims

 

                Just the other night as I was practicing the Tai Chi Farm exercises, an idea that I couldn't ignore came to me.

                I had been writing about the Tai Chi Farm exercises that Jou Tsung Hwa developed during his final years at the Tai Chi Farm in Warwick New York, and although I have given thanks to my Tai Chi instructor Larry Banks, and praised him as a martial arts genius, I may not have given him his just due. Perhaps that is an impossibility.

                Usually when I choose a title for an article such as this one, my choices in my estimation are lacking. Not this time. This is a perfect title because it is a quotation from the man himself.

                 We have had a separation in terms of relationship partially due to some major changes which took place in his life, and partially I think, due to the fact that I failed to share some translations that I received because of my being told of the possibility of my being sued if I tried to publish my translated manuscripts [and in my estimation, if anyone else tried to also].

                 During the late seventies or early eighties, Larry and I were sparring in his basement, when he made the following statement: "If you can't dance you can't fight, so get down and boogie." It wasn’t directed at me, it was a philosophical statement. We didn’t talk about the statement too much and unfortunately, I don't remember what we did say about it. Different people can interpret it at different levels. It's a statement that I thought should be etched in stone.

                 In one of the issues of the Tai Chi Farm Newsletters, Jou Tsung Hwa stated that most Kung Fu players would beat most Tai Chi players. I totally agree with his statement. Kung Fu players can dance.

                 Mr. Jou also talks about formlessness to some degree in the newsletters and some I think in "The Dao of Tai Chi Chuan." I feel that my idea of formlessness and master Jou's idea of formlessness may differ somewhat, but that my idea of formlessness and Larry's was the same.

                  Larry and I practiced form, push hands, some Ta Lu, and sword form and swordplay as well, but in terms of non-stop empty hand sparring, formlessness meant that you knew stances and you simultaneously transcended them. Your stances were stance less and whatever position you were in, you were either in or an inch or two away from your favourite stance, which was all of them anyway.

                   It is my opinion that you can't get to formlessness from formlessness, and also that you can't get to formlessness from a formlessness form, such as the Hao or Yang form. The best way in my opinion to get there is by first learning the Chen 1 version that master Jou was working on at the Tai Chi Farm. That is a good start.

 

 

 

Autographed sword case by

Jou Tsung Hwa

 

The Heroic Spirit of Martial Arts

 

Hao Shao Ru has said in his book on Wu style Tai Chi Chuan: "To achieve a basic proficiency in Tai Chi, not to mention achieving high expertise requires a phenomenal amount of hard work."

It is on that note that I continue with this series on the Tai Chi Farm Exercises.

Although I am not finished writing about Piscataway New Jersey and the wonderful people I met, there is no guarantee that what I write in the future will necessarily be published. I have already written about some of the original students recently.

Despite the fact that I haven't really jumped ahead in my writings to the period after master Jou's transition from this earthly plane, I must thank Bob Arietta, and Mike Goldstein for their instruction in the Tai Chi Farm Exercises as well as the updated versions of both Chen forms and a little Yang form that I also reviewed. Mike paid careful attention to the doings of master Jou and was deeply into the exercises. Bob's form wasn't good or very good or excellent, it was downright superb. He embodied all of his forms with the essence of the principles expressed in the exercises themselves. As I was a big fan of his form, so was he a fan of my formlessness, which I demonstrated to him on occasion. He taught a group of us after the transition of master Jou and we paid a small fee to help pay for the rent in a building in Warwick.

Master Jou had a heroic spirit. He said what he felt whether people liked it or not but was never rude. He wasn't greedy and he had skill. On top of that, he also provided a place where people of all levels could demonstrate their skills and share what knowledge they had with others. In addition, there are the valuable Tai Chi Farm Newsletters.

As far as the exercises are concerned, I have personally found that the best way to actually enjoy the practice of the Tai Chi Farm Exercises is through the use of music using headphones. I feel that this adds an entirely new dimension to the overall practice.

 

Tai Chi Exercise

                          

Place the left foot on the ground with the foot facing approximately 9:30 with the body facing the front, the right hand gently on the lower abdomen, the left hand [fingers together thumb facing up] at shoulder level extended over the left foot also at about 9:30. The right foot is placed to the right of the left foot, extended and facing approximately 2:00 basically on a line with the left foot with the heel raised from the surface. The left leg carries most of if not all of the weight. The body at this time and for that matter in all of the exercises, remains erect. The abdomen at this point is relaxed between contraction and expansion. The right hand remaining on the abdomen during the entire exercise. The abdomen begins contracting as the body begins turning to the right ending up facing around 2:30 [or more] while the right foot rotates with the heel turning in an arc towards the front with the abdomen fully contracted. The body and the right foot and leg matching in direction. The left palm which was originally facing diagonally forward, turns upwards and ends up facing the sky when the maximum degree in turning is attained, with the abdomen filly contracted and the body turned furthest away from the left hand, which still remains above the left foot at shoulder level. At this time, the body is facing the right with the right hand always on the abdomen. Reverse the motions just performed to return to the original position. This means relaxing the abdomen, turning the body to the front, turning the right heel to the rear in an arc, and turning palm from facing upwards to facing diagonally forward ending with the smallest finger facing nearest to the ground. The abdomen continues to expand as the body now turns leftward and finally facing the left hand which is still over the left foot as the palm is rotating from facing diagonally forward to diagonally downwards, to just down, as the abdomen is now fully expanded with the right heel rotated to the rear right. Reverse the motions to return to the original position and switch feet and hands.

             I would like to thank my Tai Chi instructor and martial arts genius, Larry Banks for not only teaching me Tai Chi Chuan, but also for introducing me to master Jou Tsung Hwa and his other dedicated students.

 

 

Wing Chun

                                     James Eaton Jr. Lee Moy Shan and Me

            Although I have written about my Tai Chi Chuan instructor Larry Banks and his

Instructor Jou Tsung Hwa, I have neglected writing about James Eaton Jr.[also known as Jim],

And Lee Moy Shan, who sometimes used the name Douglas Lee.

             Jim who I met first, taught me very basic elements of Goju Karate. He was the first person to put me on the path of martial arts as a working practice and discipline. He was a big fan of Bruce Lee or Kato as he was basically known then, as well as having a sincere appreciation of kung-fu.

              I remember turning him on to the Japanese film star Yasuaki Kurata, whose movies would play most often at the Canal Cinema on Canal Street in New York's Chinatown.

Jim would call him "our man" when referring to his techniques on screen as opposed to those

of the other actors who were using kung-fu. Seven to One and "Fists of Vengence" are among

those that immediately come to mind, although "Fist of Legend" starring Jet Li is very impressive

for a man who is a contemporary of Bruce Lee.

               The last time I heard from him or his sister [which was decades ago], he had moved to

Connecticut. Jim never forced Karate on me and was very open to my expanding my horizons in

terms of martial arts in general.

              He told me that he trained with his Sensei who taught in Cambria Heights, Queens, and that he and his classmate Steve would carry knives on them because after practicing, they

would be too tired to be able to defend themselves. He also told me that his Sensei would go to Japan and return with new katas for them to practice.

               I also remember Jim wearing what I will call a "Kato" type suit similar to the one that Bruce would wear in the "Green Hornet", and casually throwing kicks at old fashion parking meters.

               After studying with him rather casually but as a junior and a friend, I read James Lee's

book on Wing Chun Kung-Fu and decided to study that, but it all started with James Eaton Jr.

                I don't remember how I came in contact with Lee Moy Shan, but I think it was through

the Yellow Pages. After joining the school, we as students were to address him as Sifu. Other than that, the relationship and training was rather casual and spirited. In other words it was natural. Sifu believed in being natural as a human being and as a fighter. He said that he was his Sifu's [our Sigung] top student, and that he once met Yip Man. His teacher Moy Yat was naturally older than Sifu, but Sifu was just a little older than myself. I was better off training with

Sifu because he was a people person, and wanted his class to look like the United Nations.

                I trained fairly hard and regularly learning pak-sao, lop-dar, single and double hand chi-sao, and siu-lim-tao, chum-kiu, biu-jee, the wooden man [except for the end because I left], and I think that was it. I practiced also blindfold chi-sao and occasionally, a real skirmish would break out, but since throwing punches at each other was the norm, it would subside.

               There were 2 kinds of students in the class, regular students such as myself, and special students who went through a special ceremony.

               Sifu once made a statement that not many people can truly make: he said "if you can't get along with me you're in bad shape because I get along with everybody".

               I once asked him if he could only practice 1 form, what would that be. He immediately answered "siu-lim-tao. I'm writing this strickly from memory with no books or on-line help, but I'm not that interested in spelling that much at this point.

               I trained for approximately 2 years sometimes 6 days a week, but after a while, I felt as if I had reached my peak in my twenties.

               I have Donnie Yen"s autograph and the Beijing Opera Troupe"s autograph as well, but if I ever ran into Sifu again, I would like to get his.

              A special thanks to Derek Frearson for his giving me a page to express special thoughts as these.

 

Chen Family's Xiao Jia 1st Routine

by

Alan Sims

The first routine of small frame Chen's Taijiquan basically follows the same sequence as the first routine of the new frame Chen's Taijiquan [as promoted by Chen Fa Kur and his son and illustrated in Shen Jia Zhen's book]. I'm quite sure that it should therefore follow the sequence of Chen's Taiji old frame or Lao Jia as well, but since I don't have access to the Lao Jia sequence at this time, I'll just leave it there.

What I would like to do is to explain a few details of the small frame first routine illustrating some main differences from the other 1st routines of Chen's Taijiquan.

The 1st major thing that one notices is that there is a "holding the ball" posture before the completion of the "Jin Gang Dao Dui" or Buddha's Warrior Attendant Pounds Mortar. The form is divided into 64 sections but not 64 movements. When performing "Lazily Tying The Coat", the right hand forms a fist before moving to the right and ending with an open hand with the palm finally facing downward and to the front while the left hand begins the same posture in a crane"s beak before finally resting on the left hip. Immediately afterwards, both hands turn into a crane's beak with the left hand beak pointing down and the right crane"s beak pointing to the rear.

In the posture "Crane Spreads Wings", the feet are basically parallel with the toes and the body facing 10 or 11 o'clock, weight on the rear left leg and hands forming what I will call loose five fingered claws, right hand at the throat level facing Northwest and the left hand at stomach level facing Northeast, while the head faces more North than West.

"Chop Opponent with Fist" is very different than the 83 movement form as illustrated in "The Dao Of Taijiquan" by Jou Tsung Hwa with pictures taken from Shen Jia Zhen's book.

After the "Buddha's Warrior Attendant Pounds Mortar" or "King Kong Nailed Fist"[in Mr. Jou's book], during the first execution, the hands rise to the left and right sides of the body arms extended and knuckles facing up. The right foot is brought close to the left foot and slightly forward with the right fist slightly extended in front of the chest being brought in from the right in an upward curve. The left fist is brought near the right elbow as if punching it, with the left arm in the shape of an L, the knuckles of both fist facing up. The right foot then steps out creating a "Horse Stance"with the left fist under the right elbow with the right fist at mouth level from an upward leftward circle forming a backfist. The whole body bends over leftward over the left knee in a circle going to the right as the left elbow and forearm brush the left knee with a left open hand, and going up and still to the left as the body and right fist move towards the right in a low sweep with both hands being fists and rising to the left [upper] and right{lower] going into "Bend Back And Shoulder Strike and "Punch Opponents Groin".