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Thread: rebuttal on article in Tai Chi Magazine

  1. #1
    ddh Guest

    rebuttal on article in Tai Chi Magazine

    This was in response to a letter I sent to Marvin Smalheiser regarding a
    very inflamatoy article he printed for Justin Meehan in Tai Chi Magazine.
    The article totally **** on Chen style tai chi, saying that chen style could
    even cause brain damage. Please read my response. Marvin Smalheiser
    refused to print it saying my response was too emotional and attacking Mr.
    Meehan. I thought I was just stating some facts. You decide. Then send it
    to everyone you know.

    Mark Wasson

    To Marvin Smalheiser,

    Dear Marvin,

    On quite a few occasions you have remarked to me how better to say
    things in my articles so not to offend other styles and practitioners.
    I have taken this advice to heart and tried to write my articles in that
    fashion. Now I know I can be quite outspoken on things I feel
    passionate about, and tai chi is right up there with the most important
    things I value in my life. That is why, as a Chen stylist, I feel so
    upset about many comments Justin Meehan said in an article that just
    recently appeared in Tai Chi Magazine.
    I am very surprised that you would allow so many prejudice
    statements, not to mention totally incorrect, in print from a person as
    he compares Feng's tai chi to Chen tai chi. To those remarks I feel
    pressed to speak out and correct these misconceptions that he has stated
    about some aspects of Chen tai chi. My Commentary follows, which I
    would ask most generously of you to print.

    Thank You,
    Mark Wasson

    Commentary on The Hun Yuan Article, by Justin Meehan:

    By Mark Wasson
    Copyright 2001

    As a writer I feel awkward correcting another writer's work, it is
    considered politically incorrect. In this case, however, I must let
    another part of me speak out, and that is the tai chi practitioner.
    What I feel obliged to correct is a number of mistakes that Justin
    Meehan spoke about in an article he recently wrote for Tai Chi Magazine
    in regards to the differences between Hun Yuan tai chi and Chen style
    tai chi.
    I do not know Mr. Meehan so I will not speak about his credentials
    concerning tai chi chuan. I have heard much about master Feng; both
    good and bad, though I have not met him personally. What I do know
    well, however, is Chen style tai chi.
    I got the strong feeling in Mr. Methane's article that he feels Hun
    Yuan tai chi is quite superior to Chen style tai chi. He points out
    that 'Stomping' the foot and 'fa jing' movements, that are common
    practice in Chen tai chi, can cause all kinds of maladies, even leading
    to brain damage. If this is the case I would ask Mr Meehan to bring
    forth even one Chen stylist who suffers brain damage from stomping their
    foot or using fast explosive movements in their tai chi practice, or in
    any daily activity.
    The fact is, the practice of stomping the foot in Chen style tai
    chi actually has a number beneficial effects on the body, especially in
    women. It has been shown in medical tests, on football players in the
    NFL, that all the hard hitting they take during a game actually triggers
    the bones to secrete bone building material to those areas that are
    under stress thereby building up the added bone in that area of
    activity. In countless other studies regarding women and osteoporosis
    it has been shown that hardy activity actually fights off the
    deterioration of bone material as the body ages.
    Before anyone jumps up and says, wait a minute, you can't expect an
    eighty year old woman to practice fa jing movements at the same level as
    say Chen Xiaowang, the answer is, of course not. Chen Xiaowang, who is
    my teacher, has commented on this very issue many times while teaching
    seminars all over the world. His reply is that the amount of fa jing
    that one uses in his practice is determined on his/her health and energy
    level on any given day. Fa jing movements actually stimulate the chi
    flow throughout the body, and enlivens the spirit, or shen. You do as
    much as your body tells you is ok. If you start to feel your energy
    depleting, then you back off and go softer. It all depends on your
    strength and health and age. This is of course just common sense.
    Mr Meehan also criticizes the use of low stances in one's tai chi
    practice. Again, Chen Xiaowang has said that there are three levels of
    stances in Chen style tai chi depending on one's level of expertise. It
    is ok use either high, medium, and low stances, for more advance
    practitioners in Chen style practice. Low stances do not in fact break
    the the flow of chi as Mr. Meehan stated. Quite the contrary in fact.
    Low stances actually condense the chi making it even stronger. This is
    a matter of simple physics. If you take a given amount of energy and
    condense it into a smaller space, that energy becomes more condensed,
    with that much more potential for faster and explosive force when it is
    Mr. Meehan states that Chen Wangting created seven sets of tai chi
    and Chen Changxing later condensed them into two routines, the Yi Lu
    routine and the Er Lu routine. This is incorrect, there were originally
    only five sets that were later made into the two forms that are still
    practised today.
    Mr Meehan justifies master Feng's creation of different forms and
    uses Chen Xiaowang's creation of the nineteen and thirty-eight routines
    to do so. The difference here is that Chen Xiaowang did not create new
    movements, as Feng did, but used the exact movements as they are
    performed in the longer sets.
    In regards to the differences between the Xin Jia routine created
    by Chen Fake, and the original Lao Jia routine, Chen village mostly
    promotes the Lao Jia routine, and only teaches the Xin Jia routine to
    someone when they feel he has reached a level that he can understand its
    complexity. Chen Fake did not in any way change the Lao Jia routine as
    Mr. Meehan stated, Chen fake only created another form to better
    demonstrate many of the hidden movements that are not so apparent in the
    Lao Jia form
    Also, it should be understood that the Xin Jia routine was created
    by Chen Fake, a Chen family member, so naturally it would also be called
    Chen style tai chi. It is expected that when Feng Zhiqiang dies his
    system of tai chi will be called Feng style tai chi to honour its
    creator as is done with all the other styles of tai chi.
    I am glad that Mr. Meehan states that the Hun Yuan system is not
    traditional Chen style tai chi, but a hybrid of things Feng Zhiqiang has
    learned over the years. This distinction has cleared away much
    contention between Chen village and master Feng because Chen village
    felt that Feng style tai chi no longer represented Chen style tai chi in
    its original form and the principles that Chen style are based on. With
    the declaration that master Feng teaches something other than Chen style
    tai chi there is no longer any reason for argument.
    In one other note, or correction, that does not pertain to Mr.
    Meehan's article, but to C. P. Ong's article regarding how the name of
    the Four Buddhist Warriors came to be. Everyone in Chen village knows
    how that name for Chen Xiaowang, Chen Zhenglei, Wang Xian, and Zhu
    Tiancai, came about. It was created by a Japanese journalist who was
    studying Chen tai chi in Chen village during the early eighties. This
    journalist was so impressed with Chen tai chi that he wanted to write
    something that would promote Chen tai chi and Chen village.
    Many people believe that these four masters were chosen
    specifically by their teacher Chen Xiaopei, because of their outstanding
    skill, to go forth and promote Chen tai chi. This is absolutely false,
    and if you ask any of the Four Buddhist Warriors they will only say that
    Chen Xiaopei installed in all his students that it was their duty to
    promote the Chen family treasure that is known as Chen tai chi.
    The standard bearer for Chen tai chi is Chen Xiawang. The other
    Buddhist Warrior's will confirm this. If something were to happen to
    Chen Xiaowang, then the responsibility of carrying on the tradition of
    teaching Chen tai chi would fall to Chen Xiaoxing, Chen Xiaowang's
    younger brother, and who is currently head of all tai chi in Chen
    village since his older brother is constantly travelling throughout the
    world to promote Chen tai chi. If something were to happen to Chen
    Xiaoxing, then that responsibility would fall to one of the two
    brother's sons, the one whoever was most qualified to take up that
    title. Anyone who knows Chinese tradition knows this is the way things
    are done in China, and the Chen family takes this responsibility very
    seriously. Every member of both brother's families are well versed in
    Chen tai chi and would easily be considered a master in this country.
    I hope in writing this I have not offended anyone, but instead made
    more clear to tai chi practitioners throughout the world about some
    controversial aspects that crop up from time to time regarding certain
    aspects of Chen tai chi.
    As far as master Feng and his new style of Hun Yuan, I wish him
    well. If he and his style are all that Mr. Meehan claim then I think
    that's great. But we won't know that for a hundred years or so. It
    takes that long for things to really prove themselves in regards to
    kungfu and tai chi styles. If people are still practicing Feng style
    then it will have proved itself, and deservedly so.

    Mark wasson

    About the Author: Mark Wasson is the first Westerner to ever have been
    accepted into the Chen family as a disciple under Grandmaster
    Chen Xiaowang.

  2. #2
    ddh Guest


    I thought this response which didn't get into Tai Chi Magazine should get the attention it deserves and this forum is a good place for thoughts on the matter.

  3. #3
    Ma_Xu_Zha Guest

    Thanks for sharing

    Glad to have read your response and that you were motivated by the article. I didnt know that Chen xiao wang was the Head of the Chen Taiji. In the DC metro area he has come here, but also Chen Zhen lei and Zhu Cai Tien have been here teaching also because of CP Ong, Chris Pei and Anthony Goh.

    Each have there different way of teaching and lessons, so I guess its most important to learn what Chen xiao Wang teaches, if pure lineage is what your after.

    As for bone strenthening, thanks for the information, i will take it as 'no pain no gain' in chen taiji, as for mental brain damage, when i read that article, i thought the same thing, that how can you really get brain damage from solo form, maybe san shou, but not solo form.


  4. #4
    count Guest

    Good Point Mark

    I am surprised the magazine would not print this. It seems well written and factual. I would not take it to heart. Most of what appears in these magazines is only filler to sell advertising. I only buy them myself when I see articles about my own practices. Most of what I see in them is poorly written and biased.˙

  5. #5
    Daniel Madar Guest

    Good on you

    I liked your article. I especially appreciate the discussion about doing the form low, as I am *sick* of people who can't do the form low because they are too weak, trying to justify it by saying it breaks the flow of chi.

    And I don't even do chen style!

  6. #6
    patriot Guest
    I don't think Mr. Meehan is a disciple or a spokesman of the Feng family. He has clearly indicated that he was expressing his own opinion in the article.

    Feng's taiji is based on Chen (he was the last disciple of Chen Fake) but greatly influenced by the Xinyi style which he also studied under the great grandmaster Hu Yaozhen. It doesn't mean that he is trying to disparage the traditional Chen forms. Other great disciples of Chen Fake such as Hong Junshan in Jinan has also evolved from the original Chen sytle.

  7. #7
    wujidude Guest
    I'm surprised Marvin wouldn't print Mark Wasson's response, either. He certainly has published more inflammatory material in the past. I even think he's printed articles by Mark before, although I could be wrong. I know Mark has written on Chen taijiquan before.

    Well, there is no doubt in my mind that Chen taijiquan is difficult to master, and requires long and diligent study. Hard practice even in the internal arts can produce injury. Chen Xiaowang has injured his back more than once. But the brain injury idea of Meehan's article does not stand up to close scrutiny. There are simply not that many "stomps" in the Lao Jia Yi Lu and Er Lu, and proper execution should not result in brain injury.

    Having said that, the more strenuous practice does predispose knees and hips and backs to injury, even in otherwise well-conditioned athletes. But Feng's own routines have produced injuries as well (I know this directly). Even the very soft, relatively high stance of Cheng Man-ching's Yang-style derivation has caused knee and back injuries to some of its leading stylists.

    I don't necessarily regard Justin Meehan as a leading exponent of Feng Zhiqiang's Hun Yuan taijiquan. He certainly is far from being Feng's most skilled or insightful student. Hell, it had been twenty years since he'd even seen Feng Zhiqiang until just before he wrote that article Mark Wasson is so upset about.

    At the same time, the attitudes of some of Chen Xiaowang's American disciples are equally ****y. Chen is not "the" leading representative of Chen-family taijiquan. I've never seen the other 3 "Buddha Warriors" specifically state that he is. He is a good decent man, highly skilled at his family's taijiquan and a compassionate and dedicated teacher of the art. Period.

    Finally, it should be remembered that Feng taught many of the 19th generation masters much of what they currently know and practice.

    Thanks for bringing Mark Wasson's article to this forum. I'd just like to let people know that not everyone in Feng's school agreed with Meehan's article, and many were upset by it. Someone should let Marvin Smalheiser know that.

  8. #8
    Sam Wiley Guest
    I have only one copy of T'ai Chi Magazine, and if I remember right, I bought it to read about Feng himself. It's the only time I have ever found anything interesting at all in that magazine. I scan the cover for something interesting, and that's the only time I ever saw one thing that captured my attention.

    But whoever this guy is, he's writing bull****. Stomps and fa-jing do NOT cause brain damage. Not even cumulatively. If they did, the older practicioners of the Chen and old Yang styles would all be in hospitals around the world on life support!

    I wouldn't let it get to you that much, though. All the people practicing the Chen style know better than believe what he wrote. The people who count probably just laugh at him anyway.

    "To enter is to be born, to retreat is to die."
    -An Old Taijiquan Saying

  9. #9
    patriot Guest
    Sam Wiley,

    I find your remarks most offensive. You can disagree with somebody without showing disrespect.

    In case you don't know, Feng is the last disciple of Chan Fake and is regarded as one of the best. He was actually invited back to teach in Chen Village on 4 occasions and many Chen Village people, including some of the 4 buddha attendants, went to Beijing to train with him.

    In any case, the article was written by Mr. Meehan who is not a recognized member of the Feng school. So why all the fuss??

  10. #10
    wujidude Guest
    What are the low stances for then, Daniel? If for training leg strength, then there are methods to do that without the risk to knees that the twining and shaking of Chen style can impose when the thighs are forced to be constantly parallel to the floor.

    Rooting is not a direct function of how close to the floor your center of gravity is. Rooting in taijiquan is rather related to how effectively you can connect the incoming jing with your own "ground path" (to borrow Mike Sigman's phrase), after neutralizing or deflecting most of it.

    And low stances are a curse for mobility, an essential ingredient for a practical martial art. The Chen's own Er Lu "fighting form" shows that, as it is performed in significantly higher stances than the Yi Lu. Or watch Ren Guangyi, Chen Xiaowang's senior student, make any kind of significant move with his feet in demonstrating the forms. He has to move up from that ridiculously low ma bu into a much higher stance in order to be able to shift position.

    I see current prominent Chen-style teachers opting for a higher stance when demonstrating applications.

    So what are the reasons for practicing in that low stance? I believe in training forms that bear directly on the martial application. I don't see real strength or flexibility or mobility being trained by the low, wide stances.
    Yet they are in the Chen forms as taught by everyone from Chen Fa-ke (in the late 1920s) on, and may have been there before. Why?

    I'd love to hear a reasonable explanation. It sure would enliven my own Chen practice. Thanks.

  11. #11
    baji-fist Guest


    To say that stomping causes brain damage is nonsense. We of the Bajiquan/Piquazhang school can say that proudly. One of the features that stands out about Bajiquan is its foot stomping which helps us to dishcarge fa jing (in advance levels it is no longer needed). I have also seen video clips of GM Liu Yun Qiao performing Baji Lien Huan Quan into his 70's! At the age of 70 and even into his later years, he was still strong physically and mentally. Then again if you look at that guy in the article, he looks like one of those "alternative lifestyle" guys who don't like to train hard

    You must eat bitter before you can taste sweet.

  12. #12
    Sam Wiley Guest


    I was clearly referring to Meehan, not Feng. Remember when I said the article about Feng was the only one I found interesting?

    In any case, I don't recall Feng making the comment that stomps and fa-jing cause brain damage in the article I read. The article I read was on integrating mind and body. But in my opinion, if he ever said such a thing, that fa-jing and stomps cause brain damage, then he is just as full of it as Meehan.

    I was under the impression that Feng practiced Chen style anyway, because of the article and it's title "Chen style Internal Work." (Actually, it was more of an interview.)

    The bottom line is that if Meehan is full of it, he's full of it.

    The "fuss" is about how people who practice Chen routines with stomping and fa-jing do not show the effects Meehan talked about, nor do people practicing the old Yang style, which also has some stomps and a healthy dose of fa-jing. The San Chui/San Sau form from the old Yang style also has a LOT of fa-jing, and even some hard stomping in it. And I have yet to hear of cases of brain damage resulting from its practice.

    I also practice yet another style with fa-jing in it, and have not suffered any ill effects from practicing it. And I'm quite certain that Bagua and Hsing-I people also do not exhibit signs of brain damage from their fa-jing or their stamps and stomps.

    The problem some of us who practice styles with fa-jing and stomps in them have is not so much in the fact that a statement was made that says these practices are harmful, it is that a rebuttal of the view was written and the editor refused to give it space. The statement was either misinformed or ill-informed, and published as fact. It is, in fact, not fact at all, but an opinion based on ignorance of the facts. And the facts are that Chen style practicioners do not exhibit brain damage from fa-jing. Nor do people who practice the old Yang style exhibit brain damage resulting from fa-jing. And nor do Bagua or Hsing-I people.

    And I frankly do not see how stomping the foot could possibly cause brain damage at all. Damage to the foot, ankle, or knee if done incorrectly? yes. But not brain damage, not in the least.

    Fa-jing has been done for many years with people suffering no ill effects, and suddenly someone comes along and says it's harmful? And this is published when the editor knows it is wrong. Then someone comes along to refute the statement, and in the process basically says, "this guy's full of it, and I challenge him to present proof that he speaks the truth" and it's written for the same magazine so that the same audience will get to hear the other side, yet the editor refuses to print it because it is "inflammatory?"

    I suggest that the rebuttal be re-worded so that it is no longer "inflammatory" and sent back for publishing in the same magazine. If they don't print it even though it is rewritten and the inflammatory remarks have been removed, we will know that the editor has some stake in promoting such views, and is biased.

    So, has Feng ever made the statement that fa-jing and stomps cause brain damage? Or is it just Meehan?

    "To enter is to be born, to retreat is to die."
    -An Old Taijiquan Saying

    [This message was edited by Sam Wiley on 03-02-01 at 03:22 PM.]

  13. #13
    Daniel Madar Guest

    Low Stances

    I believe Mark explained fairly clearly why Low stances are important.

    "Low stances condense the qi making it even stronger"

    While doing a low stance not only does it improve leg strength--and if you do it long enough, your legs won't shake, it's a gradual thing, start high and work your way low--it also promotes a greater level of gathering and sinking the qi to the bones. In my experience five minutes of standing low is the equivalent of 20 to 30 minutes of standing higher for gathering purposes.

    As for low stances being the curse of mobility, there are two answers to that. The first is that the height you practice at is not the height you fight at. The second, for bagua specifically is that I have seen people move pretty darn fast in some pretty low stances.

    As to well known chen style teachers adopting higher stances, I'm unsure of whom you speak. If you could be more specific, that would help. I generally don't consider people to be good simply by virtue of being well known, as there are many well known bagua teachers who I think are terrible.

  14. #14
    stephenchan Guest

    Taiji gives you brain damage!

    The stuff that Justin Meehan wrote sounds like
    he was uncritically passing along stuff that Feng
    may have told him. I remember that Zhang XueXin
    also told folks that stomping was bad because
    it could jar your skull, give you brain damage,
    hurt your knees, whatever. Since both Meehan and
    Zhang say this stuff, I guess it may come from
    Feng. But I think that Meehan studies with Zhang,
    so maybe a lot of it is from Zhang - who knows.

    I think that done incorrectly, stomping _is_
    bad for you. When you stomp, the sound that it
    makes indicates the quality of your neijin. Some
    people who have low quality jin, just try to
    stomp hard - and they end up damaging themselves. :mad:

    Tai Chi magazine is full of silly articles, but
    folks still have to work with Marvin Smallheiser
    because it is the best way to popularize your
    teacher or your style.

    Stephen Chan

  15. #15
    wujidude Guest
    Good post, Stephen.

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