TAI CHI KUNG - CHANG
SAN FENG STYLE


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Interview

Interview with Master Ming Wong C.Y. conducted by Gaetano Ruvolo

Chi Kung, Tai Chi, Qigong, Warszawa wong_znak_kopia.jpg
Master  Ming Wong C.Y.
Master Ming Wong C.Y.

Question: What is the name of the Tai Chi Chuan style you teach?
Ming Wong: Tai Ki Kung, Chang Sam Fung style (in oficial Mandarine dialect: Tai Chi Kung, Chang San Feng style, transl. note).

D.: What is the difference between Tai Ki Kung and Tai Chi Chuan?

Ming Wong:It is the difference in pronunciation, although also related to historical and geographical factors.
The Americans, when they saw for the first time Chinese men practicing this martial art, called it shadow boxing, that is "fighting with shadow". When shadow boxing started to spread in the West, it became known under the name of Tai Chi Chuan, according to the pronunciation used in Nankin. At that time this art was known by its martial forms, consisting of 85, 88 and 108 movements. Presently a  very exotic pronunciation Tai Ji Quan is promoted, with accordance to new way of romanization of chinese script characters, which recently became fashionable in Beijing. The form associated with that pronunciation is called "Beijing Short Form" and consists of twenty four movements. It is a  simplified version, half dance half gimnastics, easy to learn and practice by a  lot of Chinese, also because of rediscovery of this form by the Chinese authorities. In Kanton it is pronounced Tai Ki Kung in reference to the original Chang Sam Fung style, consisting of 64 movements usually divided into Father, Mother and Children forms.


D.: Please tell me about the origins of the name Tai Ki Kung.
Ming Wong: There are two different sources of origin: The beginning of the name, "Tai Ki", which can be translated as "the energy, vital source" (Ki) and highest (Tai), it is the very origin, identical to the genesis of Universe. It is difficult to translate the word "Ki" because the word "energy" has many meanings. There are many types of energy: electrical, mechanical, energy from water etc. This name is ambiguous and not precise. The vital force Ki, we are talking about, exists on many levels and on each has diffrent meaning. On high level is means "spirit", on low level it means components of "matter". But it does not indicate two different or firmly separated things: there is connection between all those types of energy. The point is that it moves up and down, down and up. Microcosmos and macrocosmos are united with this, constantly moving force.

In the word Tai Ki Kung, "kung" means work. The Tai Ki Kung movements serve the purpose of enabling a   person to achieve connection, first with own body, between its different parts through spiral movements that start at the bottom and move up; and then with other practitioners and with the Master and all the chain of Masters preceding him; then with the surrounding nature, with its 5 elements and then with the Sun, Moon and other planets, with the Milky Way and finally with the Universe, the Tao, with everything. All these, so diverse stratas of relationships between time and space, are interconnected, as gears in a  machine, that by turning sets the whole mechanism into motion. In master Chang San Feng's Tai Ki Kung form part of the practice named "Father" ( which precedes the "Mother" and "Children" forms) is distinguished by circular movements, doing wonders to our joints, loosening them ( in the form "Nine Heavens") by stimulating Ki stream circulation from its stagnation points in more or less subtle nooks of out body. The movement originates from legs, the darkest and most distant from eyes part of human body, and slowly rises to connect in the tips of our fingers, the brightest and most visible part of human body. And then it aims at "High Heaven" (feet represent the "Low Heaven"). The energy then moves back down towards earth with the aid of forms symbolising downward movement of energy, such as creation of material world, mountain picks, clouds, animals, insects and humans. The "Father Forms" is also referred to by the name "Heaven" ( the nine main joints in human body are called "Nine Heavens") and "Time". The idea of time is not easy to grasp with our mind only, but practicing of "Father" form enables proper entering into "time" and leaving it with our body in its three basic elements: physical body ( Pig), energy (horse) and mind ( Monkey). The "Father" form is often considered as boring, the movements the same, not beautiful and seemingly unimportant, while in reality it is the fundamental Tai Ki Kung practice. The dullness experienced sometimes is a  measure of time. During practice one hour may seem like a  long time or almost unnoticalble time, depending on circumstances.




D.: The mythical history of Tai Ki Kung goes back to Chang Sam Fung as originator, but you say that it is more ancient.

Ming Wong: Chang Sam Fung created Tai Ki Kung by combining different forms, of very ancient origins, that were practiced by Taoist masters in the Mountains of China. One of these forms, named Siu Kao Tin ( Nine Little Heavens), we mentioned before, also refered to by the name of Kao Lun Kun ( "power or work of nine wheels") associates the relation of these nine wheels to nine little heavens ( i.e. the nine groups of joints in human body). To these forms Chang Sam Fung added Five Elements Forms in their earthly manifestations (such as clouds, mountains, animals) as well as more social forms : The "Mother Form" called Sab Sam Sae (" the thirteen base movements) and "Children Forms", called Kao Zi Lin Uan Kin ( "nine Sons constantly moving").
This system of movements in its original shape remained as the style we practice now, while over the centuries some mutations of these forms emerged, because some masters paid more attention to those aspects of practice that suited them more, instead of maintaining the richness and completeness of the original practice. Advancing from mountains to lowlands, Tai Ki Kung was gaining more social dimension, was developing its martial aspect. The specialization was directed into combat applications or more emphasis was put into dance or gimnastics aspects of the forms. Eventually, in the process of separating Tai Ki Kung into different styles, the overall vision of this art was lost, being the cost of developing only those aspects that would excite, interest, give immediate pleasure. The "Father Form, described as dull, is not practised in any other school, because it lacks the beauty that the Mother Form possesses or the combat aspect that the Children Form has.

D.: So Tai Ki Kung is part of more comprehensive teaching?

Ming Wong: Chang Sam Fung systematized movement forms, called Tai Ki Kung, in order to clearly show the movements of Yin and of Yang, specially in a  way of movement that is both Yin and Yang. It is not easy to keep the balance in combination of Yin and Yang. For example some nutritional systems are based on static contrast between Yin and Yang, without consideration to its constant and natural (almost inborn) interchanging of one of this polarized forces into another. This line of reasoning leads to development of lists of activities that should be done and others that must not be done. Black and white, bad and good. The taoist world vision, created on the base of constant interpenetration and unceasing transformation between the forces of Yin and Yang, is more comprehensive and plainly combines all aspects of nature and life, unlimited by ideological and rigid clasification of their manifestations.

D.: Are there any rules and rituals specifying the way style Chang Sam Fung should be taught?

Ming Wong: There are rules and rituals that help the practitiones to follow the way proposed by Chang Sam Fung and other taoist alchemists.

D.: Does it mean some secret teachings? How is it passes on?

Ming Wong: As in other systems also in taoism there is more internal teaching, leading to deeper aspects of human nature, not met with widespread interest in the society. It is surrounded with aura of banality, sometimes disguising the "simplicity" of these, very deep teachings. Usually people want to gain pleasure and something palpable from their practice instantly and they are not happy with teaching systems in which, like in Tai Ki Kung, teacher repeats the same movements for ten long years and never explains anything, never tells what he is doing. And even when he does say something, it is obscure, symbolic and mystical.

One of my students, who lived in India many years ago, told me that once he met a  little-known teacher of Yoga, who taught a   small group of followers. (…). The young man from Milan asked the master for his tutoring and wanted to join the small group of his pupils. But the teacher talked little or kept silent, he only smiled and asked the young man whether he slept well and ate enough. After some time, the young man, growing more and more surprised with the behaviour of the teacher, asked other, more experienced students of this group for explanation (..). They xplained to him, laughingly, that it is very important for a  human being to find harmony in very simple activities, but fundamental for life, such as eating and sleeping (..) In this regard Taoism resembles the original, devoid of routine, Zen, where the master stimulated student to be opened to the present moment, to life surrounding him. Similarly taoist master could demontrate the Tai Ki Kung movements in silence or travell with his followers like ordinary tourists, turning their attention occasionally to some landscape detail, explaining some architecture detail of a  building they are visiting or a  shrine, or asking his students about some nature fenomena such as a  branch of a  tree, animal movements or the structure of a  seashell.




D.: How does Taoism differ from other grand religions

Ming Wong: We can say about other grand religions, that they are more or less direct and succesfull reflections of a  particular Master's teachings like Budda, Jezus or Mohamet. There is no master of the name Tao in taoism but various testimonies coming from many ancient teachers combined into global and common vision of life and existence. Each person, on the basis of his ability and understanding, takes what he can from this global vision, thus developing thousands of aspects of Tao, of which true and deep meaning remains obscured and difficult to grasp.

D.: lot has been said about taoist alchemy, but in reality little is known of this subject.

Ming Wong: When alchemy is mentioned, the immidiate association coming to mind is with the West, where the alchemist attempted to transform less precious substances into gold. Words in the West have much narrower range of meaning than in China, they are more precise and reduce the concept they describe. Chinese words have broader meaning, so the word "alchemy" in China, apart from seeking for the Philosopher's Stone, which in fact is a  part of practice of taoist "alchemists", also means working on internal processes of a  human being, within his own body, his Energy, the Ki tai Ki Kung energy. In more general meaning, the word alchemy means search for knowledge and awareness, that can be achieved mainly through experience and individual experiments a  person undertakes.

D.: How many times a  day one should practice Tai Ki Kung and what time of the day would be best ?

Ming Wong: Ideally would be four times a  day, like the ancient taoist masters practicing in the mountains, did. We do not have so much time at our disposal, so we have to practice whenever we can, as many times as we are able to, depending on circumstances. It is very important to practice every day, at least once a  day. As for the best time of day for practice, there are four such periods in a  day. The most important time is twice: between 11.00-13.00 in the noon, and from 23.00 to 1.00 in the night. In other words in the midday and midnight. It is the time when Yin changes into Yang. The other two parts of the day important for practice are at down and at sunset.

D.: When did you start practicing Tai Ki Kung and who were your masters ?


Ming Wong: started when I  was five years old, encouraged by my grandfather, who was , as I  had later learnt, an important taoist master and practitioner. At first it was kind of a  play, later it started to fascinate me. I  practiced not only the style taught by my grandfather. Between twelve to twienty years of age I  practiced with different masters all Tai Ki Kung styles and martial art forms associated with them. But I   never neglected Chang Sam Fung style, which I  practiced by myself until I  met my fundamental teacher Men Tou Zi, who was my grandfather's student and taught the same style. Men Tou Zi was known as a  great teacher; so he gathered many followers around him, but their number decreased from hundreds to few, because the practice was based on constant repeating of the same movements, so it was not too spectacular.

The Mountain position from the Father Form. Tai Ki Kung Seminar with Master Ming, Busana 2001 r. phot Anita Komorzycka
The Mountain position from the Father Form. Tai Ki Kung Seminar with Master Ming, Busana 2001 r. phot Anita Komorzycka

According to tradition, before one starts to practice Chang Sam Fung style, only the Mountain Position should be practiced for three years, because it strenghtens the roots of our body, so as the practitioner could be able to withstand in this position for the time length needed to burn one incense stick. After completion of this practice one can start to practice the father form, and then, after ten years, practitioner can start to learn some movements of the Mother Form. As the result, after yet another ten years period, we can say that we have started to learn the practice. Such schedule is impossible in the West. Life is too fast and nobody would find enough patience to follow the traditional path of practice.

D.: What is your opinion about the students in the West?

Ming Wong: Usually, in comparison to students from the East, they find it extremely difficult to reduce their attachment to their "Ego". People from the East are more yielding, people from the West are more rigid. Also people from the West are more prone to emotions, more emotional, but it can be a  virtue, because the practice becomes their passion, which could help them overcome obstacles. While people from East are more passive towards obstacles, are more prone to abandon the path of practice. It is quite common in the West that students after the initial phase of practicing dissapear for some time. After a  period of abandoning the practice they return, more motivated than before. In the East, when student leaves practice it is usually final, at least in relation to a  specified teacher.


D.: What are your immediate plans?

Ming Wong: To continue my current activities as Tai Ki Kung and traditional Chinese Medicine teacher.


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