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Grandmaster Hong Jun-Sheng andHis Chen Style TaiJiQuan By Peter Wu Shi-zeng Translated by Hean K. Low / C. K. KanGrandmaster Hong Jun-sheng was born in the Jun county of Henan province in 1907. His name Jun-sheng literallymeant born in Jun county. His grandfather served in the government of the Qing dynasty (A.D. 1644 - 1912). Hefollowed his father to live and study in Beijing when he was young. He passed away in Jinan city, the capital city ofShandong province, in the north eastern part of China, on the 23rd of January, 1996. According to the traditionalChinese chronological calculation, he died at the age of 90.Hong was weak and frequently sick as a child. He stopped going to school at the age of 17 because of illness and hishealth remained poor. In 1930, he started to train in Wu style taijiquan under Master Liu Mu-san who was the leadingstudent of Grandmaster Wu Jian-quan. Several months later, Liu brought along more than thirty students to studyChen style taijiquan under Grandmaster Chen Fa-ke. Hong became a student of Chen Fa-ke from then on. Hongshealth was improved a lot by his training in taijiquan. This in turn enhanced his interest in taijiquan and also his closerelationship with Chen - they treated each other as father and son. Chen occasionally lived in Hongs home for aslong as two to three months. After the Japanese invasion and their occupation of Beijing, Hongs source of incomefrom his family had ceased. Sometimes he did not even have enough food to feed his six children and had to bringthem all to Chen Fa-kes home for meals.The deeds that we hear today about Chen Fa-kes prominent martial skills were largely recorded by Hong. Hong wasoriginally from an affluent family, but was in poor health and unemployed. This enabled him to accompany Chen everyday to witness and record these stories. They allow us to have a more detailed understanding of Chen Fa-kestaijiquan skills today. In 1944, Hong left Chen to work in Jinan city. In 1956, Hong was deeply upset by his wife’sdeath. He returned to Beijing for 4 months to revise the applications of taijiquan forms and push-hands with Chen Fa-ke. This brought his total training time under Chen Fa-ke in the fighting skills of Chen style taijiquan to 15 years.His life long experiments and research have enabled him to grasp the theory and techniques of Chen style taijiquan,allowing him to become one of this generations principal representatives. Two years have passed since the death ofGrandmaster Hong and I am writing this article to commemorate him. Apart from Grandmaster Hongs virtues andprofound martial skills, I believe the introduction of some of his detailed training techniques will be of great interest tothe reader.
The Prominent Figure among the Famous Taijiquan Masters of thePresent DayWith the passing of time, the function and status of taijiquan in peoples lives has changed dramatically. It iscommonly acknowledged that the famous taijiquan masters of today are far less skilful than the masters of theprevious generations such as Chen Fa-ke and Yang Cheng-fu. Since the beginning of the 1980s, I have had comeacross many taijiquan masters who are renowned for their skills in mainland China or overseas. On differentoccasions, I have either trained under them, attended their lectures, or seen their demonstration. Others I have onlyseen on video tapes. My feeling about these masters of the present day is that once they can competently perform fa-jin (issue power) in the tui-shou (push-hands) exercise to throw off their opponents, they come to be regarded as afamous master with real kung-fu (techniques). Of course, this does not include merely pre-arranged fa-jindemonstrations.In the 80s, I attended a big taijiquan competition in one city of China. One morning, one taijiquan master, who wasasked by the organisers to demonstrate in the competition, was invited by one of the representative groups fromanother city to give them instruction and guidance. After completing the routines, some of the practitioners asked forpush-hands drill instructions with him. This master arbitrarily selected one of the bystanders who was a retiredprofessor and was slightly younger than him to demonstrate peng (ward-off), lu (roll-back), ji (press) and an (push)techniques. After several arm-circling movements, the master suddenly separated his both hands, while leaning hisbody forward, attempting to lift his opponents armpits and push him away. However, his opponent immediately sankhis qi and the master was bounced back a step (the front foot stepped back as the back foot). Of course, even askilful master will not always win - that depends on his opponents skill level. In the above case, the opponent was astudent of the famous master of Wu (Hao) style taijiquan, Grandmaster Hao Sau-ru. Although his skills are not at agreat level, he has some skills and power (gong-li). The problem was that the push-hands method used by thismaster was not good. It was not the truely correct technique but it is one commonly used by many practitioners.Ultimately, this will only push the opponent away but it will not throw him off cleanly and sharply. Overall, I feel thatsome famous masters are not as good as we are led to believe.Among those taijiquan masters who can fa-jin sharply to throw off their opponents, there are not many who canuproot and send their opponents flying. Within this group of masters who can uproot their opponents, some use theirown jin to throw their opponents off after neutralising the incoming jin. This is not the best technique and is quiteexhausting. Some others can change the direction of the incoming jin, and rebound the jin back to their opponentswhile enhancing the total rebound force by adding their own jin to it. Only this is the best technique and the mostenergy-efficient. However, masters who can do this are extremely rare. Grandmaster Hong was one of these few.Before I met Grandmaster Hong, I had read his manuscripts and articles. I had also read other articles about himwhich were written by other taijiquan practitioners. I had corresponded with him by letter. However, I was not sureabout his level of skills. In late 1984, I went to Jinan city to live in his home and study under him, only then could Ihave the opportunity to see for myself his real skill. Hong could explain the application of taijiquan forms to others in afascinating manner, but that also could not show his great skills either. This was because the explanation of theapplications was just following the preset forms, and many such forms were designed for training the beginners. Theonly sure way to examine the skill level is in the push-hands drill.One day, several students came to visit Hong and we all got together to chat and discuss taijiquan. Two of them, onewas called Liu and the other person I called him Mr. A because I have forgotten his name, were practicing push-hands. When A tried to push Liu with force, Liu responded with lu-cai (roll-back and pull) technique, lifting both of A’sfeet off the ground, and throwing A behind him. Although this was not very far, only about half to one meter away, itreally amazed me. The reason was that they did not actually use much force in the drill and I was not sure how farMr. A would be thrown off in the situation where real force was used. At that time, I was not clear about the techniqueof uprooting and throwing opponent off with both feet off the ground. I have read about it and listened as other peopletalked about it. Some people said you first need to obtain the skill to execute fa-jin to throw off your opponent sharply.You keep training with the same technique until your qi is full and your jin is complete (qi zhu jin zheng), then you canuproot the opponent with both feet off the ground. This seemed to be mainly a question of qi and jin, and not aboutthe techniques. But once I saw their practice, I realised this was not the case. Whether you can send your opponentflying is still mainly dependent on the techniques. When you execute the pull technique correctly, you can send youropponent flying. The quantitative aspects of qi and jin will determine how far your opponent would fly. While it is noteasy to send your opponent flying backwards using the ji (press) and an (push) techniques, it is even harder toexecute the techniques of lu-cai (roll back and pull) to send your opponent flying behind you. If Hongs students couldexecute such a technique, there was no need to question Hongs skills any further.Another day Liu came to visit Hong with another student, Mr. B. Mr. B had originally practiced Chinese wrestling(shuai-jiao) before learning taijiquan under Hong. Once, Mr. B practiced push-hands with a famous taijiquan master.The taijiquan master could not do anything to B and praised Bs skills, saying they were not too bad. This taijiquanmaster also wrote a book about taijiquan and he seemed to have a lot of knowledge about taijiquan. Mr. B came to
ask Hong about push-hands. Hong and B then began to push-hands in the lounge room. No matter what techniquesB used, once Bs both hands began to use force, Hong would turn his body with very little hand movement, and insome cases, Hong did not step forward, while at other times Hong just stepped forward a little bit, B was uprooted(with both feet off the ground) and thrown backwards about a meter. In some cases the distance was a bit further,and B was thrown onto the sofa (the lounge room was small in size). This was very fascinating and made me veryhappy. After watching for a while, I could not help myself and said to B, "Once you use force, your whole body iscontrolled by Grandmaster Hong." This was very obvious, once B began to use force, Hong turned his body, B wasalready being put into a disadvantageous position. Since Bs force kept coming, the force was being sprung backtowards him.After a while, I said the same thing again. After hearing what I said, B turned back towards me with a smile and said,"Lets try.", then grabbed and twisted my right arm with his both hands. This was the first time we had met. B did notknow my level of skill, therefore we were both very gentle, not very fast and not applying a lot of force. I used theneutralising movement which I had recently learnt from Hong. After two consecutive attempts, B realised that I couldneutralise, and he then quickly used force to seize my right hand (i.e. B used his right hand to hold my right wristwhile his left hand was below my elbow and pushed upwards). I countered immediately by extending my peng-jin(ward-off energy) on my right hand, and turned my body slightly towards the right. My left hand also moved forwardand held his right elbow. At the same time, pushed forward with both hands. B was being uprooted (with both feet offthe ground) and jumped backwards with a distance of half a meter. B then smiled and said, "You also have theability". Mr Liu then said, "Of course, Master Wu has the ability". I quickly said, "I have to use both hands. MasterHong only needed one hand". Grandmaster Hong smiled after listening to what I have said. I said this courteouslybecause it was in front of Grandmaster Hong. This was mainly because I really knew there was an obvious differenceof skill levels between Grandmaster Hong and myself. I mainly used Bs both hands to make him hard to change andthen used my own force to throw him off. I neither controlled him first and put him into a disadvantaged position normade use of his own force to throw him off. The nature of this technique was different from what Grandmaster Hongused.On another occasion, my martial arts brother, Mr. Jiang Jia-jun, came to Jinan from Xuzhou to visit GrandmasterHong. Jiang previously trained under many famous Chen style taijiquan teachers like Master Chen Zhao-pi (1892 -1973, 18th generation of the Chen family), Master Chen Zhao-kui (1928 - 1981, 18th generation of the Chen family,son of great Grandmaster Chen Fa-ke) and Master Chen Jin-ao (18th generation of the Chen Family, learnt taijiquanfrom Chen Xin). Jiang later learnt taijiquan from Grandmaster Hong. Jiang also raised some questions regardingpush-hands. This time Hong and Jiang were in a bigger room. No matter what techniques Jiang used, once his bothhands used force, Hong turned his body and Jiang was being controlled and was put into a disadvantaged position.Sometimes Hong stepped forward. Jiang was being uprooted and thrown off one to two meters away. As Jiang usedmore force and became quicker, he was being uprooted faster and was thrown away even further. The sounds fromboth of his feet as he landed on the ground became louder. However, Jiang could still maintain his body in an uprightposition, as if he was ready to attack again. It was very fascinating and amusing to watch. I started to laugh loudly.Before I met Grandmaster Hong, I read an article by Jiang regarding his push-hands experience with Hong in 1971.In the article, it was stated that "When I pushed hands with Grandmaster Hong, I always felt as if my hands wereshorter, whereas the hands of Grandmaster Hongs seemed to be longer. I inadvertently asked Hong, If the opponentsuddenly push you against your chest, can you counter without using hand techniques ?. Hong smiled and then said,You can try me with force and I will not use my hands to intercept. With a puzzling mind, I then really pushed Hongschest abruptly with great power. I felt that my hands were pushing against a wall of springs. Suddenly I was beingsprung and pushed back about 4 to 5 meters away. After this incident, I was so scared that my whole body began toperspire".I asked Hong how he could bounce brother Jiang away. He then let me have a try. When I pushed against his bodywith my both hands, I felt that I could not control him, my hands could not find any substantial places. I only felt theinternal of his body was turning and changing, without any visible external movements, as if I was pushing against avery sensitive spinning device. Therefore, I became more cautious in using force. While I was hesitating, Hong took asmall step forward, using his body through my hands and pushed me backwards (i.e. my front leg stepped back). Iasked Hong, "Do you have to step forward ?". He replied, "No, this is because you did not use any force and then Ineed to step forward". I understood that if I used more force to press, I would be thrown even farther away.Grandmaster Hong told me this story: Once he was practicing taijiquan applications with a student on one side of abuilding which was about the size of three bedrooms in total. Hongs wife was squatting down in the middle of theroom to do some housework. The student attacked with his right fist, Hong then used the hand intercepting techniquefrom the first posture of Chen style taijiquan routine - "Buddha pounds the mortar" (jin-gang dao dui), where one handwas used to intercept the opponents wrist and the other hand to intercept the elbow. As soon as Hong used his righthand to intercept the external side of the students wrist, the student was sent flying over Hongs wife, falling at theother end of the room about 5 to 6 meters away from his original position. This gave Hongs wife a shock. From thenon, whenever Hong practiced push-hands with someone, she would walk off the area. Hong said that this studentwas originally a practitioner of the xingyiquan (form and mind boxing). That particular punch from him was extremelypowerful and swift, and consequently he was bounced back in such a long distance.
In Shanghai, there was a famous wushu (martial art) master called Li Dong-yuan. He had a lot of real fightingexperience. He once learnt Chen style taijiquan under great Grandmaster Chen Fa-ke. In 1982, Hong went toShanghai to attend the National Taijiquan Famous Masters Demonstration. Li Dong-yuan saw Hongs demonstration.After he met Hong, he told one of his students, "Grandmaster Hongs kung-fu is very good. It is much better thanMaster XXX (who was a very famous Chen style taijiquan practitioner and frequently came to Shanghai to visit Li),they are not of the same level.". The student told me about this when she migrated to Melbourne in Australia.The Exquisite and Profound SkillsPrior to discussing the taijiquan skills of Grandmaster Hong, we need to clarify several issues regarding the taijiquanskills and techniques.Some people believe that taijiquan skills and techniques are all the same. Whatever one master teaches should alsobe taught by others. Otherwise, the master will be regarded as incompetent. In fact this is a misunderstanding intaijiquan. Taijiquan has a recorded history of over 300 years. Millions of people have practiced the art. Every skilfulexpert will have his own techniques and characteristics. For instance, Grandmaster Yang Lu-chan had very goodmartial skills. His two sons also had very good kung-fu. However, not only were each son’s techniques not exactly thesame as their fathers but they were also different from each others. In fact it is normal to see variations in thetechniques between different martial arts experts. This is because everyone has his own unique physical conditionand a different psychology. Their characters and upbringings are also different. When their kung-fu has reached acertain level, they certainly will develop the techniques and specialties that are most suitable for themselves.Therefore, one should imitate his own master as much as possible during the learning phase. He should try his bestto understand and experiment what has been taught by his teacher. Once the skills have reached a high level, thetechniques will become different from his masters. If ones techniques are exactly the same as the master, his kung-fu will not have reached a high level. He still has not developed and made full use of his own advantages. This isbecause not everybody will have the same conditions as the master. Therefore, the variations may be fairly significantfor the same taijiquan technique. Nowadays, what some masters teach are in fact not real taijiquan techniques. Somewere borrowed from other martial arts that do not match with characteristics of taijiquan. Some of them are evenwrong practices. Not only that, even within the real taijiquan techniques, there are various skill levels. Some are highwhile others are low.For example, the requirement of "qi chen dantian" (sinking the qi down to the dantian) can frequently be mentionedby many taijiquan practitioners and can be seen in many books. For those who have not achieved a high level yet, itis not easy to sink their qi down to the dantian. In 1984, I went to Xi-an city to study Chen style taijiquan under MasterChen Li-qing. I met with a descendant from the Chen village, who has fairly good taijiquan skills. During the culturalrevolution, he went back to live in Chen village for several years and learnt taijiquan from a couple of senior mastersthere. After we became familiar with each other, once I went to visit his home. He sincerely told me some of the Chenstyle taijiquan training methods. When talking about "qi chen dantian", he said that the qi should sink down to thebottom of the feet in order to be able to uproot your opponent into the air with both feet off the ground. I felt what hesaid was sensible. Later when I mentioned this to Master Liu Ji-shun and he said that the qi should actually sink intothe ground.After a period of experiment, I came to realise that sinking the qi to the dantian, or to the bottom of the feet, or intothe ground are all correct. It was just the same skill at a different levels. If you only knew about sinking the qi down tothe dantian, and did not know about whether to sink the qi to the bottom of the feet or into the ground, or you thoughtthat sinking the qi to the bottom of the feet or into the ground were both incorrect, then you would only attain a certainlevel of skills and would not progress further. Thus, after you have the opportunity to learn some taijiquan techniques,you should not believe or consider yourself to have understood the secrets of taijiquan, while other people do not.Instead, you must learn the techniques from different perspective, to compare and experiment with various techniquesin order to find out which one is correct, and which skill is of the higher level.Some people believe that whatever written in the taijiquan books is all correct and truth, especially the old taijiquanclassics. I once explained to a student the requirement of a technique. Another student who has learnt taijiquanelsewhere for many years, he then later learnt taijiquan from me. He said that he had never read about thisrequirement in any taijiquan books. I replied that there were a lot of things not mentioned in the books and some ofthe materials were wrong. He was surprised and said, "Would it be wrong in the taijiquan book ?". In fact, many of theolden day Chinese wushu (martial art) masters were not well educated and did not know how to write articles. Eventhough if they could write, they would adopt a conservative approach not to tell very clearly. Therefore, there areheaps of materials out there more than that mentioned in the books. Some of the materials in the books may bewrong or of low levels. There is a saying in the Chinese martial arts community which could be translated literally as:"To pass down [the knowledge] only through a phrase but not in three books", meaning if a master really wanted topass down his true technique, it could be concluded within a phrase. Of course, even in this saying, there are a lot ofspecific methods that were needed to be explained further. If a master did not wish to pass down his skills, he wouldnot let you understand what he meant even though he had written down his knowledge in as many as three books.
Provided the master might sincerely want to write down the knowledge, there were also differences between thewritten words and their interpretations.In the Chinese proverbs there is a saying "To find a steed according to the book". The story said that once there wasa famous horse expert, called Bo-le, who was able to distinguish steeds from ordinary horses. He wrote a book bysumming up his many years of experience in this field. Everybody said this was a well-written book. Bo-le’s sonstudied the book very hard and soon he was able to remember all the details mentioned in the book. He thought hewas already capable of distinguishing steeds from ordinary horses. His father let him to go out to look for a steed. Hecame across many steeds, but failed to recognise any of them. Finally, he caught a large toad instead that hereckoned would satisfy all the requirements of a steed mentioned in his fathers book.Taijiquan books can assist people to learn taijiquan, but one cannot solely rely on them. There are also some peoplewho, after reading a few taijiquan books and watching some taijiquan videos, believe that they have mastered the artof taijiquan and began to write articles in an authoritative manner. These people not only deceive themselves but alsomislead others.Grandmaster Hong told me that in the 1960s, someone had written a book on Chen style taijiquan. After reading thebook, Grandmaster Hong felt that many theories or the routine movements mentioned in the books were not inaccordance with the teachings of Grandmaster Chen Fa-ke. As he read the book, he made comments and criticismson the available spaces in the book. Eventually, his comments were more than the original book. Grandmaster Hong’scomments totalled two books which were kept by his student.Grandmaster Hong’s main taijiquan techniques were all learnt from Grandmaster Chen Fa-ke. Hong was a veryintelligent person. After learning from Grandmaster Chen Fa-ke for a period of 15 years, he had obtained a deepunderstanding of Grandmaster Chen Fa-ke’s techniques and applications. He then tested and experimented thetechniques with his students. Therefore, his techniques and applications were very practical and were of a high level.Some of the minor movements in Hong’s form were different from Grandmaster Chen Fa-ke. This is because thepractice of each movement of the Grandmaster Hong’s form was according to the actual technique application -meaning how you apply the technique will determine how you practice the movement. In olden days, people weremore conservative. Some of the movements they taught would miss the details of the corresponding applications.Looking at the movements, the application techniques are not there or they are not practical. Just to look at the formwould not make you understand how to apply them, or how to apply them effectively. Only after explanation by theteacher can one understand the specifics of the applications. Take for example the intercepting hand movement in theform "jin-gang dao dui" (Buddha pounds the mortar). What Grandmaster Chen Fa-ke originally taught was to raiseboth hands simultaneously, with the palms facing each other, up to shoulder level. But when he explained theapplication, it was one hand at the front and the other at the back while one hand was higher than the other. Onehand moved in the "ni chan" (opposite spiralling motion) while the other hand moved in "shun chan" (along thespiralling motion). One hand which intercepted the opponent’s wrist while the other hand intercepted the opponent’selbow. After seeking the approval from Grandmaster Chen Fa-ke, Hong then practiced the forms in accordance to theactual technique applications. In addition, there were also some other movements absorbed from other martial arts.These were all previous mentioned in details in Grandmaster Hongs manuscripts.In the 80s, the daughter of Grandmaster Chen Fa-ke, Chen Yu-xia went to Jinan city twice to visit and stay withGrandmaster Hong so as to learn taijiquan form applications and tui-shou techniques from him. After watching thepractice of Grandmaster Hong, she said it was just like watching her father practicing taijiquan. She even said thatvisiting Hong was just like returning home. She treated Grandmaster Hong like her elder brother, as her father andelder brother had both passed away.Since Grandmaster Hong used practical and higher level taijiquan techniques to instruct his students, many of themhad acquired very good push-hands skills. Some of them had even attained a high level of skills. Nowadays in China,there are annual national push-hands competition. The competition was categorised into five classes according tobody weight. If a student of a particular taijiquan teacher wins a gold medal, the teacher will be very happy aseveryone will regard him as a good teacher. The students taught by Grandmaster Hong’s students have for manyyears been representing the Shandong province in the national push-hands competition. They have been achievingvery good results for many years. They frequently won the majority of the five gold medals. Sometime they even wongold medals in all five weight categories. This can also be used as a proof of Grandmaster Hong’s teachings. Evenwith these good results, Grandmaster Hong was still not satisfied. He told me in his letter that these good results didnot prove that these students of his students had already attained the high level taijiquan techniques. This was onlybecause their opponents’ skills were lower. Grandmaster Hong always encouraged his students to strive forexcellence in real taijiquan.Here, I am not prepared to comprehensively introduce and describe the techniques of Grandmaster Hong’s taijiquan.This is impossible to describe all that even in one book. I will only mention his several outstanding and importanttechniques for the reference of the readers:
1. The True "wai rou nei gang" (Externally Soft and Internally Hard)Grandmaster Hong said, "taijiquan is peng-jin", meaning taijiquan is the fist of ward-off jin and if there is no peng-jinthen there is no taijiquan. Peng-jin (outward radial jin) is the basis of all the taijiquan martial techniques. In fact, manytaijiquan masters, such as Chen Fa-ke and Yang Cheng-fu, had made similar proposal. They emphasised that oneshould attain peng-jin in taijiquan training, until it developed into the stage of "externally soft and internally hard".Some taijiquan practitioners emphasise relaxation and softness, and disagree on the emphasis of peng-jin. They saythat the practice of peng-jin adversely affects the relaxation and softness, and as a result ding-jin (opposing jin) mayoccur in the push-hands. In fact, the reason for saying that is mainly due to their lack of correct understanding ofpeng-jin, and do not know what peng-jin actually is. They think that peng-jin is the stretching out of the torso and thelimbs in a circular manner that looks elastic. There are also people who misunderstand Chen style taijiquan, thinkingthat there are fa-jin movements in the tao-lu (forms), and these movements must utilise brute force and must be veryfirm and hard. If one has had the opportunity to see how Grandmaster Hong demonstrated the Chen style taijiquanroutines, and to practice push-hands with him, then he will have a new understanding of the peng-jin and Chen styletaijiquan.Grandmaster Hong practiced taijiquan with great relaxation and softness. Some of his movements required bigcircular motions at the joints, in particular the palm and arm movements. You would feel that this could only beachieved by relaxing, softening and opening up his joints. When Grandmaster Hong performed fa-jin, you would notfeel any brute muscular force. Instead, it was only the sudden change of speed of his motion that expelled hisopponent away swiftly. If you had the opportunity to practice push-hands drill with Grandmaster Hong, the touchingfeeling with his arms were soft and relaxed. But you would also feel there was peng-jin inside and this peng-jin wasneither opposing your force nor has it any overwhelming pressure on you. Hongs practice was soft but you would feelthe softness of his movements was not insubstance, hollow and light but relax, firm and stable. You knew his peng-jinwas there during the push-hands, but you would feel it rotating very slippery and smoothly. Experienced opponentswould not initiate an attack on him without caution.The benefits of loosening the joints and maintaining softness in the push-hands exercise are as follows:(1) to allow adherence, ‘sticking’, more easily once in contact with your opponent(2) to increase your touching sensitivity (Ting-jin: Listening jin)(3) to follow better, so that more time can be spared to know your opponents jin and to determine your own response(4) to prevent your opponents force transferring to your body and to make your opponents jin ineffective(5) to make it easier to change to other postures.There are people who overemphasise the benefits of relaxation and softness but they dare not, and do not know how,to fill their relaxation with peng-jin. Consequently, they can only deal with opponents who only know the simpletechniques and are physically stiff. They cannot deal with the pressures that are imposed by opponents who knowhow to move with relaxation and to sink their qi. Without peng-jin, their line of defence will be basically lost whenfacing opponents who can issue speedy and powerful jin. Another advantage of having relaxation, softness and peng-jin in Grandmaster Hongs techniques was that it would induce his opponents to mistakenly believe that they couldeasily break into the centre of defence, leading them to initiate an attack without much cautions. The attacker’s forcewould then rebound back onto the attackers themselves. If relaxation and softness exist without peng-jin, cautious
opponents will not initiate an attack on the insubstantial locations, in the same way that no one would bother to hit asoft hanging tree branch with force. An experienced practitioner will use relaxed and sinking jin to pressure theopponent until the opponent can no longer alter his position and then execute fa-jin at the substantial point once it islocated.Grandmaster Hong emphasised the need to loosen up every single joint of the body (this instruction was originallysaid by Grandmaster Chen Fa-ke). Only then could one maintain the peng-jin within the softness. This kind ofopening up of the joints should come naturally without intentionally stretching the muscles with strength. GrandmasterHong specifically emphasised the need to open up the finger joints which should not be bent and slack. Furthermore,attention should be paid to their direction and angle of opening up. Previously when I read Grandmaster Hongsmanuscripts, in regard to the need to match the fingers pointing directions with certain kind of motions, it made mefeel hard to comprehend. It seemed that these kind of recommendations were troublesome. Later when I studiedunder Grandmaster Hong, I then gradually realised that the angle direction of opening up the fingers should beadjusted according to the change of jin used in the motion. Only when this was done properly and then diu-jin(disconnected energy) and ding-jin (opposing energy) would not occur. The more I experimented with thesetechniques, the more interesting they became. Some people can perform the fa-jin movements in a form powerfullywhile practicing but their fingers are bent and slack in other relaxed and soft movements. This explains that the fingerjoints have not been opened up and peng-jin has been lost. When this situation occurs in the push-hands drill, anexperienced opponent would seize this opportunity to break into your defence.Many people agree that peng-jin should be attained in taijiquan training, but there are different opinions on how toachieve this. For instance, how would you respond by extending peng-jin when your opponent presses on one of yourfront arms. One of the usual practices is to extend your front arms as much as possible. The elbows do not touch therib cage, as if there are springs placed under your armpits to stretch your front arms, wrists and palms in a circularmanner. This will result your opponents incoming jin to be lifted up. This can be regarded as a type of peng-jin, but itis a lower level, simple technique. Such peng-jin may seem to survive the pressure from the incoming jin but youropponent may make use of your extended jin by performing lu-jin (pull back). Over-extending of jin can maketransitional changes relatively difficult and slow. For the same hand peng-jin technique, Grandmaster Hong wouldopen up his shoulder joints by sinking the elbows downward while at the same time extending the fingers upward inorder to open up the joints at the elbows, wrists and fingers. Such peng-jin was mainly generated by the pulling forcein the opposite directions, upwards and downwards. There is neither forward opposing force nor backward retreatingforce that can be utilised by your opponent. When the attacking force is coming straight in, I will open up the jointssideways. Hong also suggested that ones elbows can touch his own rib cage when necessary. One may think theopponents incoming force may transfer from your arms to your rib cage. In fact, it will not happen. Although the elbowmay look like it is in contact with the ribs, the jin of the elbow is not loosely touching the rib but sunk down to maintainthe peng-jin. There is still a tiny gap between the elbows and ribs. Your opponents jin will not reach the ribs. Theadvantage of this is that it will give you more space to perform hua-jin (deflection jin) without ding-jin (opposing jin).The joints are opened up and articulate enough to make changes.Whoever had the chance to practice push-hands drill with Grandmaster Chen Fa-ke could tell you about theirexperience. When Chen really took the drill seriously, his opponents would feel big shocks in their internal organs,tears would come out of their eyes and there was a temptation to vomit as if experiencing an electric shock. He couldsend his opponent flying with the very first fa-jin. In 1956, Grandmaster Hong went back to Beijing from Jinan city torevisit his skills with Chen Fa-ke. During the push-hands exercise, Hong could neutralise Chens first fa-jin attack.When Hong was sent flying by Chens second attack, Chens wife praised Hongs progress, saying "Even though Iwas outside and didnt see what had happened, I could tell that the sound was different from others when you weresent flying by your teacher". In regard to the lesser impact on Hong in reaction to Chens fa-jin, Hong said humbly,"Maybe my hands have no power". In fact, this was because Hong had maintained peng-jin in his relaxation andsoftness. If it was only no power and no peng-jin in Hongs hands, Chens jin would hit directly onto Hongs body.There would have been no way Hong could have neutralised Chens force.Because of the great relaxation and softness in Grandmaster Hongs taijiquan practice, he could execute fa-jin withfull control. When he was nearly 80 years old, he demonstrated the whole Pao-chui (Cannon fist) routine in an openexhibition in just over 2 minutes. This cannot be done easily even by a young practitioner.2. The True Spherical Spiral MovementA lot of taijiquan practitioners know the need to have Spiral jin in taijiquan. Chen style taijiquan has more obviousspiral rotations, called "chensi-jin" (silk reeling jin). Many people usually refer to it as how their hands and legs shouldperform the normal and reverse reeling techniques. In fact, they are only talking about its external movement but notthe jin itself. Chensi movement can be commonly found in daily life. An innocent baby can move his or her handsspirally when they are getting excited but we can not say they are practicing chensi-jin. Jin, in Chinese martial artsterms, is the focus of power and energy to move the whole body towards a direction in a coordinated manner bymeans of certain kinds of formal training. Therefore, chensi-jin or spiral jin is to perform a certain spiral movementthrough the concentration and coordination of the whole bodys jin and force. The rotation of the hands must be led
by the jin from the whole body. Only such a movement will constitute the chensi-jin which is pursued by taijiquanpractitioners.It is generally recognised by every taijiquan practitioner that "jin originates from the root of the feet" (not necessarilythe heel), but the issue is how the jin should continue to progress once it is generated from the root of the feet.Different people have different practices, and because of that, the quality of spiral jin varies depending upon the skilllevel of the practitioners. This also prevents people from further progress after achieving a certain level of skill. SinceGrandmaster Hong could perform chensi-jin very well, he could deflect, control, uproot and send his opponents flyingeasily. Here, we can not thoroughly discuss how to perform chensi-jin in detail. I can only introduce one of the keypoints that Hong emphasised. This key point is on how to execute good chensi-jin.Let us examine one of the common practices among the taijiquan practitioners: double hand push with the right bowstance (i.e. the right leg is bending forward at the front while the left leg is stretching backwards behind). Normallypeople would push opponent with both hands by extending the left foot and bending the right knee with both knees ofthe same height. This will lead the waist and torso to turn right (where the two sides of the hip bone are of the sameheight as well) which in turn brings the hands forward. The jin produced by these postures of legs and waist isrotating in a level plane. The generated power is basically moving horizontally. Your opponent can be pushed awaybut cannot be uprooted and sent flying. It is necessary to position your centre of gravity lower than your opponent andto push slightly upwards in order to execute uproot technique. The chance to send your opponent flying is very small.Grandmaster Hong emphasised the use of upwards and downwards movements of both knees so that the jin willencapsulate spherical and spiral motion from the start. For the same movement, Hong would sink his left knee andpull up his right knee such that the left is lower than the right. To lead the waist to rotate to the right, the left side ofthe hip bone follows the left knee to sink down a little bit so that the right hip bone is slightly higher. This makes therotation of leg and waist not level any more. Rather, the motion is spherical in nature.I once discussed taijiquan with a friend who had been studying taijiquan for many years specifically under a famouspush-hands master. I mentioned to him how Grandmaster Hong performed his spiral jin. In order to make himunderstand, I let him push me with both hands. He pressed on both sides of my waist with his two hands andattempted to push me backward forcefully. Once I received his jin, I sank one knee down while pulling the other up.This made one of his hands higher than the other and consequently his torsos balance was upset. He found it hardto comprehend because he knew it is necessary to turn the waist to perform any taijiquan technique. He then usedboth his hands to lock the two sides of my waist in order to prevent my waist from turning so that I would not be ableto change. However, he again nearly fell to the ground but I did not retreat. I let him do it again by experimenting andexplaining slowly. I received both his hands force and knew that I could not rotate left or right. But I used the upwardand downward movements of my knees to lead my hip to rotate up and down as well. This brought his hands into aone up and one down position, leading his torso to turn and unbalance. In fact, my technique was not good enough.This is because I rotated upward and downward too much after I received his jin. This made his hands jin completelychanged directions to an up and down positions. When he lost his balance, he only used part of his jin. He did notuse his most powerful jin. If this was Hong who did it, once the opponent used force he would rotate just right to thepoint. He would only allow the opponents jin to deviate a little bit but his balance would not be largely upset. Theopponent still would be able to push even harder. This would allow the jin to rebound back and send the opponentflying. This technique is more delicate and skilful.Someone said Grandmaster Hong had not learnt the secret technique of "dantian nei zhuan" (internally rotate yourdantian) but his criticism merely exposes his own ignorance and shallow knowledge. Not only because he had notseen Hongs taijiquan, but also because he did not know how to train to rotate the dantian. Once you have seenHongs demonstration you realise that his dantian did rotate obviously, precisely and right to the point. If you have haddantian internal rotation training yourself, you will know that the external appearance of the training method is veryobvious and is very hard to cover up. For those who know the technique how to rotate their dantian, he could preventit from showing while practicing, but it will certainly be utilised in push-hands drill. Hong was intelligent and wouldprobably have understood the rotation of dantian on his own in 15 days, no need to mention about the fact that hehad had trained under Grandmaster Chen Fa-ke for 15 years. I knew the need to rotate dantian while practicingtaijiquan routines, but had not heard about "dantian nei zhuan". This fitted the characteristics of Chen style taijiquanwhen the term was used in one particular martial arts article later on. However, I was not sure whether this was a newsecret training method or just a new term for the same traditional method. I consulted several people, then I wrote toGrandmaster Hong and he simply said Grandmaster Chen Fa-ke did not teach him "dantian nei zhuan". The fact wasthat Chen Fa-ke only taught his disciples, including Hong and other students, the technique of rotating the dantian,but did not mention "dantian nei zhuan". If we refer to many other old articles, including Master Chen Zhao-kuis longarticle on the rotation of the dantian when practicing chensi-jin in Chen style taijiquan routines and push-hands backin 1963, where the requirement for "qi chan dantian" was mentioned and the importance of rotating the dantian whenpracticing chensi-jin. But it did not mention the term "dantian nei zhuan". I guess the term was later made up byMaster Chen Zhao-kui in order to remind people to pay attention to the need of rotating the dantian in training. Manytraditional Chen style techniques did not have any specific terms to describe them until someone gave them newnames afterwards. Grandmaster Hong told me a story. During a visit to Hong by Master Chen Zhao-kui in Jinan city,Chen mentioned the name of a technique that Hong had not heard of. Chen asked, "Martial art brother, havent you
trained with this technique before ?". Hong said, "Can you show me ?". Hong started to laugh after Chen haddemonstrated the technique. Hong said, "This is the basic training that should be practiced prior to learning anyroutines". This basic technique, which is to draw circles in the air with a single hand, did not have any namespreviously. Hong did not get the meaning from Chen only that because Chen used new term to describe it. In factHong did value this basic technique a lot. He not only requested that his new students practice the technique, butalso insisted on constant training by the more experienced students. Simply to draw circular motions in the air withthe hands to train for the rotation of the chensi-jin of the whole body. Grandmaster Hong grouped the motions into twotypes: the normal hand circle and the reverse hand circle.People would wonder why Hong did not use the term "dantian nei zhuan". This was possibly due to avoidance ofconfusion. In Grandmaster Hongs technique the motion of the dantian did not originate from itself. The dantianshould not move by itself. The movement of the dantian is led by the upward and downward movements of the knees.Moreover, dantian should be tilted on one side. There is no technique that should move the whole dantian to circle upand down. To move the whole dantian up and down will only affect the stability of your centre of gravity. Nevertheless,to move the dantian with one side up while keeping the other side down will keep your centre of gravity stable andfirm. I have not seen Master Chen Zhao-kuis taijiquan demonstration and do not know how he performs "dantian neizhuan". In addition, his students seemed to do it differently among themselves. In 1984, I went to train in anotherprovince where I met a student who had trained for 10 years under Master Chen Zhao-kui. His movements wereelegant. His chensi movement was distinct and obvious, but I felt the degree of rotation of his dantian was far too big,leading to the rising up of his centre of gravity. I asked Master Chen Li-qing whether Master Chen Zhao-kui trainedlike that himself and the answer from him was a straight "Never !".Some people say the dantian is the centre. To lead the rotation of the body by the rotation of the dantian will makethe starting point of jin too high, and the centre of gravity will rise up easily and make it very hard to send youropponent flying. Also, the development of the jin power will become limited. On the other hand, Grandmaster Hongused the legs jin to lead the rotation movement of the dantian. This made the centre of gravity sink and becomestable and firm. The starting point of jin was very low and made it easier to send your opponent flying. This alsobenefits the future development of the jin.Most taijiquan practitioners know that the hand movements should move in an arc or in a circle. At the same time, thearms should also twist or spiral. It is normally quite easy to swing your hands in a circular motion but fairly hard tosynchronise the spiralling of the arms with the whole bodys movement. It is necessary to understand the fightingtechnique of each movement in order to determine the degree of spiralling of the arms. Inexperienced people rotatetheir arms either too much or insufficiently. In one of Grandmaster Hongs manuscripts, he indicated that the fingersshould point to, and the inner palm should face a particular direction while executing certain movements. Without afull understanding, I felt that these requirements were far too complex and appeared to be unnecessary. It was notuntil Grandmaster Hong did the demonstration and also through my own experiments that I realised the importance ofthese requirements. I sometimes experimented with my students to observe the effect of various aspects of thetechniques. Only when they were done properly would it unveil the miraculous and the fun part of taijiquan. MasterLei Mu-ni said, "Master Hongs hands rotate a lot and it is correct. It is the realisation of chensi-jin". Master Feng Zhi-qiang also said, "Master Hongs hands rotate a lot". Here, I would like to point out that the rotation is referring to thetwisting of Master Hongs hands, rather than the overall circular swinging movements of his arms.3. The True "bu sui shen huan" (Footwork follows the Change of Torso Movements)Taijiquan practitioners know the need to coordinate the movements of the upper and lower torsos, "bu sui shen huan".However, many people would become stationary once they tried to apply force to the opponent. They also do notknow how to change their footwork. After training for a while, people may know how to change the centre of gravitybetween the two legs, however they still would not know how to change their footwork. Only when the changing offootwork has become familiar would it then allow for the effective execution of various techniques of the upper torso.Grandmaster Hong had mentioned an incident. In 1930, he started to train under Grandmaster Chen Fa-ke. Severalyears later, while on the way to another place, he saw a man (who looked like a taijiquan "Master") practicing push-hands in turn with his students. It amused Hong and he decided to join in. When the "Master" tried to perform the lu(pull back) technique on Hong, Hong followed his momentum and moved a half step forward, stepping in between themans legs while at the same time executing the ji (press). The "Master" was pressed one step backward. After theincident, someone later told Hong that the "Master" was actually a prominent student of a famous master of anothertaijiquan style. Hong said he would not have practiced tui-shou with this "Master" if he knew who this "Master" wasbefore joining in. This is not to suggest that the overall skill level of Hong was stronger than the other master at thattime. Instead, it is to say that most people did not know how to step forward in order to follow the Master’smovements and therefore would be much more easily pulled back by him. He did not expect Hong to be able topenetrate so swiftly and stably into his stance. He may have been pushed away just because he was not on guard,but at least this incident illustrates that using good footwork to penetrate the opponents stance will make the handtechniques more effective.
Under what circumstances should you change your footwork ? Normally there are two situations. One is to changeyour footwork when your existing stance has reached the limit of its travel. For instance, when you try pushing youropponent with both hands stretched to their limit and your knee is already bent as far as the vertical line of the toe,then if you have no other option you should change your footwork in order to maintain your forward momentum. Thesecond situation is when your stance has not reached its stretching limit, meaning your front knee bends only up tothe vertical line of the heel of the same foot, and you only apply your techniques within the most powerful range. Ifyou intend to attack beyond the range you should change your footwork accordingly. There are two ways to changefootwork. One is to advance your front foot forward by roughly half a step and then the back foot follows the samedistance behind. The second is to allow the back foot to step forward to become the front foot. This is because oncethe stance and the hands have reached their limit, the end stage of the application will not be within the mostpowerful range. Although you would still be able to push your opponent away, the technique applied has lost its powerand the effectiveness of the attack will be much diminished.But if one wants to maintain the hands and legs in the most powerful application range, he should execute changes offootwork very well. If ones changing of footwork is not good enough, the centre of gravity will become unstable oncein motion. This will give your opponent an opportunity to take advantage of. Therefore, Grandmaster Hong imposedvery strict requirements on footwork and they are very practical in use. For instance, in order to step forward, someChen style taijiquan practitioners would require the front foot to extend forward while brushing the floor with the heelwhile others would not. Other taijiquan styles do not have this requirement at all. Grandmaster Chen Fa-kes teachingrequired the brushing action. Apart from the fact that one can actually attack his opponent by shovelling theopponents feet with the extending front foot, the main function of the practice is to make moving forward quick aswell as stable. With the front foot brushing the floor, the centre of gravity is less prone to rocking. It can also preventyour opponent hooking your leg and tripping you. Your centre of gravity can also follow your foot to move forward toan appropriate and useful distance from your opponent. Hong required the distance between the two feet to be aboutshoulder width at the moment the heel of the front foot touched the floor. The inside part of the heel touches the floorbut not the middle back parts. While the front foot should move pointing slightly inwards when moving forward, theback leg should lower slightly to maintain the groins jin This makes the brushing action quick and stable. If thesinking of the jin from the hip joint to the back foot is insufficient and as a result the front leg also needs to supportpart of the body weight, the motion will become heavy, clumsy and slow.Lasting MemoriesGrandmaster Hong was a person full of character. He was intelligent and acute, studied broadly, had a good memory,and was multi-talented. He treated people warm-heartedly and sincerely with a receptive and open mind. He was alsorighteous, practical, humorous and optimistic. Even if you did not learn taijiquan from him, just to sit down and have alittle chat with him was a joyful experience. Hong possessed many traditional Chinese virtues which are worthlearning from:1. Value on Intimacy and Feelings, Disregard for Materialistic and Monetary RewardsIn the fall of 1984, after nearly two years correspondence with him by mail, I eventually had the opportunity to go tomeet him. I wrote to him requesting that he arrange hostel accommodation for me that was close to his home. Ihoped it would make my study at Hongs place a little more convenient. Hong replied that I could stay in his home. Iwas very pleased by this since not only would it save me money but also it was convenient for study purposes.However, this caused him a lot of trouble. After arriving at Hongs home, we were chatting together happily. After allthe other students had left at night, I took out a little sum of money and some food dockets to give him (at that time,major food items were limited and strictly controlled and supplied by the government). Hong pushed them back to me,saying, "Do we still need to do this ?", meaning he had accepted me as a close friend and there was no need to paya tuition fee. I was moved by the action, saying, "I come here to share the meals with you, we still need to buy somerice for cooking." He then accepted my offer. Hongs words have deeply impressed me ever since. In todays society,many people place a lot of emphasis on money, even in relationships between father and son or between brothers,not to mention dealings between friends or students. One day, one of Hongs students escorted me to the martial artsstadium to see how Hongs other two students taught others. On the way, he told me that if I met any governmentofficials there, I had better not tell them I was staying at Hongs house and studying under him. This was because thelocal government had decided that all non-local students, including those from interstate or overseas, ought to paythem first and then they would pay Hong portion of the money. Hong worried that the financial burden would be toomuch for me to afford, therefore he would neither charge me personally for tuition nor allow the government official tocharge me for the fee. If this student had not tell me about this, I would have never known. In fact, Hong took a riskby doing this. This was because his own political problems were still unsettled. Another of Hongs students told methat when I wrote to Hong to suggest a visit, Hong said to them that I would be allowed to stay and study in his homeand I would not go to study in the martial art stadium. Grandmaster Hong had not told me anything about all this.
After I had moved to Australia, I once sent some money to Grandmaster Hong. Not long after that, I heard that therewas a plan to build a monumental stele (as a pseudo burial site where only the dead persons clothing would beburied) in Beijing, in honour of Grandmaster Chen Fa-ke. I wrote to Grandmaster Hong requesting that he keep meinformed and let me know of the final details of the proposal, since I was willing to donate some money to the project.Grandmaster Hong replied that he would use the money I had given him as the donation in my name. I immediatelyreplied to him that the money I had given him was for his own personal use. In fact, the financial situation ofGrandmaster Hong had not been good (due to his personal political problems) for many years. He was really in needof the money. However, because of consideration of other peoples feelings was more important to him than howmuch money he could get for himself, he had thought only of my own financial position.2. Emphasise on Taijiquan and Less on Worldly MaterialsGrandmaster Hong placed a high demand in practicing taijiquan, and much attention was paid to minor details. Hehad mentioned one incident: there was a Japanese lady who went to China to learn taijiquan from him every year.One day, several years later, she began to cry during training saying that she believed the learning path wouldbecome easier as the years went by, but how come it was getting more difficult ? In fact, it was Grandmaster Hongwho put higher demands on her as her training progressed further. And that had made her training feel more difficult.When I was staying with Grandmaster Hong, it happened once that one of his students held a family celebration, andhe invited all of us to his home for a meal. I said that I was about to leave for my hometown, and it would be better forme to stay back at Hongs home and practice. Grandmaster Hong then went there by himself. However, there were afew students from different places who had come to visit Grandmaster Hong. After watching me practise the lastcouple of movements of the Pao-chui, one of them told me how to perform the withdrawal of the right fist in "TheCannon Out of Bosom" posture, and it was different from what I had done. His stance was very low and thewithdrawal of his right fist was also low and turned more. I felt the way he performed the posture looked great andbegan to follow his method of practising. Later when Grandmaster Hong saw me practising, he discovered that I hadchanged this particular movement. His facial expression then changed, using a severe tone, he asked me from whomI had learnt this movement. He also explained that this was the old way of doing the movement. This was becausethe right fist had been withdrawn too close to the body and the arm had turned too much. These would make hua-jin(deflection jin) unable to be performed very well.Grandmaster Hong took an easy going attitude towards materialistic living, although when he was young he wasbrought up with a good supply of materials in an affluent family. Nowadays, the daily three meals were prepared byhis second wife or his students. He never went to the kitchen and never asked for the menu. Due to my lack ofculinary skills, I also did not go to the kitchen. Therefore, when the meals were being prepared, we chatted along anddiscussed taijiquan until it was time for meals at the dinning table. We ate whatever food was prepared on the table.He never mentioned to me anything about food or clothing. Grandmaster Hong normally did not wear eyeglassesexcept when he wrote. I asked him why his writings were so small. He laughed and told me that when he had askedsomeone to buy him a pair of long-sighted eyeglasses, a pair with excessive corrective degrees was delivered. Itappeared like a magnifying glass. This made the small writings appear not that small when he wrote. In order to avoidwastage, he kept using this pair of eyeglasses. After hearing this, we all began to laugh. Later when Master Gu Liu-xing asked me why Grandmaster Hong’s writings were so small, I told him the reason and he too began to laughhappily.3. Emphasise on Real Achievement and Less of PopularityGrandmaster Hong once wrote to me, and mentioned that one local government officer had said to him that Chenstyle taijiquan research societies had been set up in Beijing and Shanghai, therefore Shandong province must haveone too. Grandmaster Hong had replied, "You guys better make sure that you can really spare the time in theresearch, as I will not have the time to do it. Whoever wants this should do it". Grandmaster Hong reckoned thatmany people just wanted to carry the titles, and they would have no practical contributions. Therefore he would rathernot have this kind of popularity. When people praised his taijiquan and push-hand skills, he often said that we had notreally seen the very best yet. He reckoned Grandmaster Chen Fa-ke was really the best. Some foreigners hadhonoured Grandmaster Hong with the title "Taijiquan Super Star". He laughed and said that super star does not serveany purpose, it is better to really understand taijiquan. Grandmaster Hong had his own unique ways of teachingtaijiquan. When I wrote to him asking for advice, he not only answered my questions, but also at times asked for myopinions on some issues. In reply to his questions, just like sitting in an examination, I would always think hard to findthe best possible answer prior to my reply. Consequently I always replied by letter very late. But this did not upsetGrandmaster Hong. Sometimes, he would send me another letter before I had replied to the previous one. This mademe feel uneasy. According to custom, students must always reply to their teachers letters as soon as possible andonly the teachers can reply late. But this did not bother Grandmaster Hong. After going through his way of learning, Iwas not only able to perform some of the taijiquan practice requirements, but also would be able to analyse some ofthe philosophies.
Although it has been many years since my last meeting with Grandmaster Hong, whenever I recalled the days I spentlearning taijiquan in his house, I would always feel intimacy and happiness in my heart. Grandmaster Hong and hiswife were living in a small apartment which comprised two bedrooms and a lounge room. Hong chose the groundfloor apartment for the convenience of practicing taijiquan. They lived in the large bedroom while I was staying at thesmaller one. Everyday I woke up at 6:00 a.m. and began to train in the lounge room. During my stay withGrandmaster Hong, he did not go out to teach taijiquan. At about 7:00 oclock in the morning, Grandmaster Hongwould open his room door and come out and I would greet him. After washing up, we would sit and chat together inhis bigger room while we were having tea. Grandmaster Hong always sat at the sofa near the door while I sat on theother one. It was either Hong’s wife or his students who prepared the breakfast. After the breakfast, we continuedchatting and drinking tea. Whenever I had questions I would ask and he replied. Whenever there was a need to seethe movements, we would both get up and experiment. Sometimes we discussed about human life and experiences.We even discussed whether the human soul existed ! It was not until Grandmaster Hong said, "Lets practisetaijiquan", then I began to learn new techniques from him. Sometimes, his other student came by. Often there werestudents from other places. When Grandmaster Hong taught them, I stayed on the side and watched carefully. I alsolearnt a lot of things this way. This continued until 9:00 oclock in the evening. It was about bed time for GrandmasterHong and I wished him good night before returning to my room. Once inside my room, I began to review and recordwhat I had heard and learnt during the day. Each day I spent more than 10 hours together with Grandmaster Hong.The routines seemed to be always the same, but every day I had new gains. Many experiences gained from that timehave allowed me to recall them until today, helping me to comprehend more about taijiquan. I believe it will continueto be like that in the future. The kind and intimate image of Grandmaster Hong still appears in my mind as if he isstanding in front of me and it will remain like that forever.AcknowledgmentsI would like to thank my students Joseph Wong, Hugh Grady, Hean K. Low, Danny McCartin and C. K. Kan for theirassistance and dedication in the preparation of this article. I also want to express my gratitude to all my greattaijiquan teachers, in particular the late Grandmaster Hong Jun-sheng, whose wisdom, knowledge and inspiration hasmade this article possible.