Category Archives: issue-33

New Wave

by Dan Docherty Newwavedan

Character 1   Lan
Character 1 Lan

Character 2   Luan
Character 2 Luan

Character 3   Cai
Character 3 Cai

Character 4   Hua
Character 4 Hua

Character 5   Cai
Character 5 Cai

Character 6   Hua
Character 6 Hua

Character 7   Lang
Character 7 Lang

Some years ago at Tai Chi Caledonia I was translating for Chen style teacher and All China Taijiquan Champion Wang Haijun at a forum discussing pushing hands. However, I deliberately did not translate all he said. He referred to a concept called Lan Cai Hua and I knew that the only other person present who knew what he was talking about was Faye Yip. Trying to translate and to explain what was meant was not appropriate given time constraints and the level of the participants. It is also another of Tai Chi’s poisoned chalices.

To the best of my knowledge very little has been written about this in either Chinese or English even by such prolific scribes as Dr. Yang Jwing-ming and Mr. Robert W. Smith. It is time to remedy that.

Let us first examine some Chinese sources. My Zhong Guo Wushu Da Zidian (Chinese Martial Arts Big Dictionary) mentions Lan/Luan Cai Hua – See characters 1 (Lan), 2 (Luan), 3 (Cai) 4 (Hua). This can be roughly translated as ‘Randomly Trampling/Stamping on Flowers’.

The dictionary goes on to say that the method is done with lively stepping and is not limited to one direction, nor is the number of steps restricted. There is no fixed training method; both partners are mutually intertwined in contact so each can sense the other’s changes in movement and technique. Each responds with Cai (here the character for uprooting) and trickery. Either divert/neutralize or discharge; stick, connect, adhere, follow, don’t break contact or resist. The footwork follows the advancing and retreating of the opponent and changes of position. Cai Lan Hua is Tui Shou’s highest level of training. This method helps to improve Ting (listening), Hua (diverting/neutralizing) and the ability to Fa (discharge). All a bit nebulous you might think. You are not wrong.

Comrade Ma You-ching, long term disciple of the venerable Wu Tu-nan, edited a manual of Chinese martial arts terms with the English title of ‘Terms of Kung Fu’ (although none of it is in English) which also deals with the subject of Lan Cai Hua. His Lan/Luan Cai Hua uses a different character for Cai than that found in the Wushu

dictionary; it is the character we use in TCC to mean uproot. – see character 5.

Ma writes that Tuishou has, in its shapes and appearances, certain kinds of level such as the Jin (force/ tactic) of holding and pointing (Qinna and Dian Xue), or nimble movement like a bee or a butterfly on a flower gathering (Cai at character 5 which was used for uprooting earlier now means ‘gathering’). Ma says the name Cai Lan Hua was given by later generations. All again a bit nebulous you might think. You are not wrong.

Ma does, however, mention Cai Lang Hua (literally Uprooting/Gathering Wave Transforms) as another name for Lan Cai Hua. This he does not explain. The characters for Cai Lang Hua are shown are characters 5-7 (5 (Cai), 6 (Hua) & 7 (Lang) 6 Hua). This is the precise name of an advanced pushing hands and fighting concept trained in the Wu lineage, but almost lost to the present generation.

The differences in angle and transformations in Cai Lang Hua include:-

  1. TA LANG – Stepping/Trampling Wave, rising and falling from above to below; sometimes this is also called ‘COVERING WAVE’ from high to low.
  2. YONG LANG – Surging Wave from below to above.
  3. HUI XUAN LANG – Circling Round Wave – separate circular turns to left and right.
  4. ZHE DIE LANG – Folding OverWave – gathering and repeatedly pushing.
  5. FAN TENG LANG -Churning/Turbulent Wave – centripetal force followed by centrifugal force.
  6. JIAO YI LANG – Delivering Righteousness Wave -in a figure 8.

Cai Lang Hua therefore is an advanced concept which can be trained in pushing hands – mainly in moving step. The concept can be used in spear, sword, Die Pu, Shuai Jiao, Qinna, and striking applications. The essence of the concept is ‘Use the Tao (Way) of the opponent and return it to the opponent’s body.’

Cai Lang Hua is not secret but it is not something for beginners. I don’t apologise for not translating Lan Cai Hua and trying to explain all this at Tai Chi Caledonia years ago. If I had, the participants would not have been waving, but drowning.

The excellent calligraphy is the work of my good friend Moira Ni, for which many thanks – DD

10th International Push Hands Meeting, Hannover, Germany

10th International Push Hands Meeting, Hannover, Germany

review by Alastair Scott

Frieder Anders
Frieder Anders

The 10th International Push Hands meeting took place over nine days in February in Nils Klug’s Tai Chi Studio in the Linden district of Hannover.

This was my first time at this event so I did not know what to expect but it was all good. Travelling over with Bob Lowey and Ronnie Robinson had the advantage in that we were picked up at the airport and driven into Hannover. However, for the benefit of anyone thinking of making this trip in the future, as I saw when I made my own way back to the airport 10 days later, this journey is quite straightforward.

The format of each day was a workshop in the morning and push hands in the afternoon. A variety of instructors led the 3-hour workshops each morning in the studio and the nearby arts hall. As the title of the event might suggest, the emphasis of these was on some aspect of pushing hands: from Rob & Erich Volke’s exploration of using the taiji classics in push hands to Paul Silverstrale’s use of the angulation and distance of 7 star step push hands in applications, always interesting and fun.

As each instructor taught for only two or three days there was the opportunity to work with at least four different instructors during the whole event. Alternatively, those with less time available chose to attend for only the part of the event that allowed them to work with the instructor(s) of their choice.

Every morning, to waken people up and get their energy flowing before the workshops began, Ronnie Robinson led a qigong session. After a light breakfast of coffee and a small croissant he got everybody going in his own inimitable bright and breezy fashion.

In the afternoons, after lunch in an adjacent café, there were three hours of free pushing hands. As you would expect there was quite a mixture of experience evident in these sessions, some of which proved challenging, to say the least. Of particular help to me during some of these sessions were Paul Silverstrale, Henk Jenssen and Wang Ning all of whom had some invaluable advice. In fact, the whole proceedings were conducted in a general spirit of sharing and co-operation. This was perhaps best exemplified by instructor Zhai Hua’s father who had accompanied her to the event and on the spur of the moment offered to present some workshops.

Each morning there was a choice of at least three workshops, sometimes four. Given the array of instructors on offer – Angela Menzel, Bob Lowey, Roberto Benetti, Frieder Anders, Fernando Chedel, Serge Dreyer, George Saby, Michael Plotz, Rob & Erich Volke, Paul Silverstrale, Mario Napoli, Wilhelm Mertens, Cornelia Gruber, Zhai Hua and Wang Ning – it was difficult to choose whose to attend. In the end I opted for a mixture of some I had never worked with before and some I had. None were a disappointment and from talking to others who attended different workshops this seemed to be the general consensus.

Roberto Benetti
Roberto Benetti

Roberto Benetti looked at being connected and disconnected at the same time and gave us a number of exercises to practice this. In doing this we learned to appreciate more possibilities of connection/disconnection under different circumstances.

Fernando Chedel broke down some of the postures from the form to clarify where the yin and yang aspects were. Exercises utilising these postures illustrated the use of yin and yang in a practical manner. This also had the benefit of making us more aware of where we were on our feet.

Michael Plotz explored muscle activity with a particular emphasis on elasticity coming naturally from the movements and we had some interesting partner exercises to experiment with this.

Mario Napoli led us in some quite physical exercises despite having a sprained ankle although, if it had not been for his use of a walking stick outwith the classes, I doubt if any of us would have been aware of his injury. Mario’s emphasis was on how to yield to put your partner in a position of weakness. The exercises he gave us to practice this were also good for developing leg strength. In some of Mario’s push hands exercises I was paired with Willhelm Mertens whom I would like to take this opportunity to thank for being such a generous partner and giving me so much help and advice.

On the evening of the final Saturday was the Gala. This began with an introduction, in which Nils Klug’s efforts in developing this event were acknowledged, along with his significant contribution over the years to the Taiji Network, Germany’s equivalent of the TCUGB. We were then treated to a display by the instructors. We saw various forms – hand and sword – fast and slow, qigong, applications and even part of the little-seen Seven Stars form from Zhai Hua’s father. All this was to a live musical accompaniment and to the high standard you would expect. There was also a very interesting discourse on etymology and calligraphy from the irrepressible Wang Ning. The various elements of the display were pulled together by the whimsical MCing of Helmut Oberlacker.

Paying for a hotel for ten nights would have added too much to the cost for me so I was one of a number who took a sleeping bag and opted to stay in the studio. The studio is in an area of Hannover with many reasonably-priced eating and drinking establishments nearby. Staying and eating locally with my fellow participants helped me get to know a number of them better and added to the whole experience – as well as my extremely limited German (brattkartoffen ist gut!). It was nice meeting you Anneke, Mica, Ceciel, Pim, Roderik, Axel, Ollie and Myte to name but a few. In a conversation one evening Wilhelm Mertens said that any time he attended a workshop that he could take even just one thing away from then it had been a success. I believe that I managed to take something from each day of this event, so for me it was very definitely a successful 9 days.

As well as leading the morning qigong, Ronnie organised video recordings of the proceedings as well as interviews with some participants and instructors. These will be available in the fullness of time – some on the Taiji Europa website and some on a forthcoming DVD.

The turnover of both instructors and participants over the course of the nine days required a high degree of organisation. Astrid, helped by Brigid, Dirk, and Jochen, did a great job in this respect and are due a big thank you from all of us who attended.

Final thanks are to Nils Klug who originated and organises the meeting, both for the quality of this event and for his hospitality.

Internationales Push Hands

Davidine Siaw-Voon Sim

Anna Dashwood

How many years have you been practicing Taijiquan?
I began serious training about 15 years ago. I believe the number of years is not as important as the amount of practice you put in. Someone may go to a class for 10 years, doing an hour a week with no practice in between, and understood and achieved little. Or another who has done less years but practices everyday and has the interest to study the entire art.

What stimulated your interest?
Circumstances in my life took me away from my root, being relocated to England as a teenager and being socialised into another culture. As often happens, in maturity one returns to search for one’s root, and I picked up where I left off.

What does Taijiquan mean to you?
Taijiquan is a perfect representation of Chinese culture. Its profound philosophical roots, allied to a holistic training syllabus, makes it perfect for developing the whole person – physically challenging, emotionally calming and intellectually stimulating.

What is the most important aspect for you?
Most important is that Taijiquan retains its authenticity. Regardless of whether one’s main area of interest is in the health building aspects or martial arts, Taijiquan should be practiced following the very clear rules that have been handed down through the generations. The Taijiquan theory is not just a physical discipline, but also a blueprint for life.

Do you have any personal goals in Taiji?
To progress in my own practice and understanding of this great art. To continue promoting authentic Taijiquan through making accessible some of the teachers I have been fortunate to learn from. To dispel the misconceptions surrounding the art and the mystification of Taijiquan – through teaching and also through writing. I have co-authored two books “Chen Style Taijiquan: The Source of Taiji Boxing” and the recently published “The Essence of Taijiquan”. Taijiquan is an inherently pragmatic discipline. Chen Style Taijiquan has been passed down through generations of hardy and practical people and much of its “mystification” can be shared between simple cultural misunderstanding and New Age type appropriation of the art. I hope my writing enables non-Chinese readers access to information available only in Chinese, and breaks down some of the cultural barriers facing Westerners.

Who or what inspired you?
An old Chinese saying says: “when you drink the water remember the person who dug the well”. In that sense I’ve been inspired by the people who have entered my Taijiquan life at various times and in various forms. Chen Xiaoxing, Chen Xiaowang and Zhu Tiancai are wonderful teachers who have guided me in my practice. Chenjiagou, the birthplace of my art, that I visit at least once a year, has shown me Taijiquan in its simplicity and its richness. And then there are those who have taught me how not to be…

What do you make of Taijiquan’s current popularity?
Taijiquan is popular in terms of numbers with new classes springing up everywhere, but much of the quality is dubious. The move towards fast-tracking instructors in simplified and shortened forms is, I think, particularly damaging. I regularly have people enquiring about instructor’s courses who have little or no Taijiquan experience. Taijiquan is a complex art and before thinking of becoming a teacher one must first be a student who practices diligently for an extended period. This does not mean going to a seminar once in a while but to regular coaching from a qualified teacher. To me it’s like demanding to be a concert pianist just because you can play a few notes on the piano. In the long term there is a danger that this wave of low standard teachers will fatally undermine the public credibility of Taijiquan.

As a teacher, how do you feel about the martial aspect of the art?
Taijiquan is a powerful and sophisticated martial art system. To deny this is to show a lack of knowledge of its roots and function. On the other hand, many people are often too impatient to get to the combat aspects and applications. Combat skills are built upon the foundation of structural integrity and correct movement principles and the integration of the physical and mental (external/internal) aspects. One must follow the syllabus of the system meticulously.

What are your views on competition?
It is a way of testing out one’s skill in a controlled environment. It gives a platform for people to “show off” their attainment. It gives the practitioner a tangible reward for effort. It provides an opportunity for different groups to meet and exchange views. For the success and credibility of competitions, it is important that the judges are qualified to assess and judge. It is not enough to go on a course to qualify as a judge. Judges should have experience of practice, have knowledge of Taijiquan in its different forms, and are conversant with Taijiquan’s underlying theories and principles.

What direction would you like to see Taijiquan going in the future? I would like to see Taijiquan retain its original form and not be diluted. A skill that is worth learning takes time to master. I would like to see some kind of regulations in order to ensure good quality and accurate transmission. I would like to see more involvement from young people, to dispel the perception that Taijiquan is only for the old and weak

Davidine Siaw-Voon Sim is based in Cheshire and can be contacted on 01925 767597 or by email
Chenjiagou Taijiquan GB School

Meet Ashley Cheeseman

Anna Dashwood

How many years have you been practicing Tai Chi?
I’ve been training in the art for over 14 years now and have run my own school in Catford London for 10 years. What stimulated your interest? It was actually my local doctor, after some changes in my life I had stopped going to the gym that we trained at and was actually becoming aggressive, my doctor suggested to me that I try tai chi or swimming. Luckily for us I took up tai chi rather than swimming.

What does TC mean to you?
It’s a way of life within a normal life, I don’t need any tools or equipment and I can practice the art whenever and wherever I want to “now that it’s total freedom”. What is the most important aspect to you? To stay healthy is probably the most important factor for me.

Do you have any personal goals with TC?
I don’t have any goals I just enjoy what I do and watching the people I train become healthy and happy in their life, and people who wish to further the art become training instructurs and then go on to open their own schools, I’ve actualy got 3 of my students who all have their own schools now.

Who or what inspired you?
My interest in martial art goes back to David Carradine from the Kung Fu series. With his never ending passion and drive in this art form which I can honestly say has never faltered over the years of knowing him What do you make of tai chi’s current popularity? I think that the amount of classes that have opened within the last five years has increased massively, but there is a varying quality of what people are teaching.

As a teacher how do you feel about the martial aspects of Tai Chi?
Personally I think is very important that students understand where the art form comes from, I actually teach my students both the soft aspect and the hard aspect of what each move is. Some people actually react better to knowing the martial side of the art form where as others prefer the soft side giving people both I think is very important.

What are your views on competitions?
Competitions are a personal preference. When I visited a very great friend of mine who has since sadly passed away, her house was full of trophies from tai chi competitions. When Linda asked me how many competitions I’ve competed in I said none and to this day I have still never entered a competition and have no ambition to, I have nothing to prove.

What direction would you like to see TC take in the future?
I would love to see tai chi taught in schools and factories as the benefits would be spectacular in these areas.

Ashley Cheeseman contact details in out instructor listing.