Shopping Bag

Chang Yiu-chun, The Last Interview

By Erle Montaigue

In my final term with Chang I became adept at phrasing questions so that I would not end up in great pain and I would ask questions that I needed to know the answers to as I guess I sensed that he would not be around for much longer.

I told him that the way that he did his Taiji form was still greatly different to what I was doing, even though I thought that I was doing it at the highest level.

His answer was like a hammer to my head and something that I still remember with vivid detail.

"You are doing Taiji, I am not".

I was a little worried about this statement.

Before I could question him further he answered me.

"Go around to all of the Taiji classes. And then come back to me. If you still wish to do Taiji, then go and learn from them."

By this stage, I was more than a little confused but Chang would not be budged on this, no more questions.

I did what he wanted me to, even though I knew what the others were teaching and something fell on me. Even though they were doing different styles, Chen, Yang, Wu etc. They were all still "doing" Taiji. It seemed like an effort, like it was something different that they had to do each day. Whereas when Chang did it, it was as if he was not doing anything, he would talk to me while he was doing his form, he would look around, take in the local scenery, but he was always so still and at peace with everything. He would never actually finish the form, but rather just move into another area of form, like walking to his place of residence, or having a cup of tea.

My next visit to Chang, was different. I told him that he was not doing Taiji but rather living Taiji. He answered again in the negative. "No, you are still wrong, I am not living anything, I am Taiji". He went on, "You are trying to do Taiji, so you will never realise the fighting of Taiji nor the healing of Taiji. You are much stronger than me, and faster, but I seem faster and stronger than you. I am not. I am Taiji."

From then onward, I tried to be Taiji with every waking and sleeping moment being as if I were still doing the form. That was his greatest gift to me. To show me to not do Taiji.

Later and just before he left, Chang told me about the more physical reasons as to why he was not doing Taiji. He even said that he would probably not even call his Taiji, "Taiji" but rather take it back to its original name of "Hao Ch'uan" which means loose boxing. This, too came as a big shock as I thought that the name "T'ai Chi Ch'uan" had been with us from the start, but it has not. In fact, if Yang Lu ch'an came back to us now, he would probably want to learn this great new art that had the temerity to take on the name of "The Supreme Ultimate Boxing". That name has only been with us, Chang tells me, and as I have also read in other writings since then, since the late 1800's. Before that it was called Loose boxing. Chang would say, "look at them", on many of the occasions when we would stay concealed and watch a Taiji class, "does that look like loose! They are slow and very relaxed, but it is not loose, they move like a box!" And it was true, they were moving like boxes. And that was the most poignant thing that anyone has ever said about anyone else's Taiji, they move like boxes.

We spend many hours trying to get our bones all moving together, but when Chang did it, it was as if his bones were not connected, but rather, one tiny movement down here would set something in motion up here, and one tiny movement up here would set the whole body into motion, not altogether, but rather a millisecond after that initial movement. And isn't that the way was use fa-jing?" This was the physical difference between my own "Hao Ch'uan" and his. There were so many little shaking movements, so small that one would only know that there was something different. Only once did Chang do the form so that I could see all of the shakes and that was enough. That was my last lesson with him. Upon which he said, and I will use his exact words here, "No need me". He was never at our training spot again.

His muscles were gone, he could not make use of the ground any more as for this one needs to have physical strength but he was strong and I often wonder whether it was just that I was at a low level of training at that time, but I don't think so, I was strong then, much stronger and younger than I am now, and yet I could not match him, and yes, I did try. I was never one for "playing the game" of pleasing the master, which got me into much trouble in my earlier years with other masters.

I know that Chang went back to China and would like to think that he is still alive on some mountain top. But if he were here, I can hear him saying in Chinese, something like the equivalent of "Bullshit!" That's the was he was, an F.C. in the true sense of the word.

For those of you wondering what F.C. means. It's a secret society of martial artists, and others who have passed the true test of life.