Cheng Manching (1902-1975)


Professor Cheng Manching worked as an art teacher, a doctor, Tai Chi teacher and also being an authority on calligraphy, poetry and literature, they called him the master of five arts. He said Tai Chi gave him the most pleasure, saying;

It... "is a crystallization of mankind's most profound philosophical ideas. Its subtle and essential elements raise it above every martial art, and makes perfection more elusive..."

As a young man he taught classes in poetry, calligraphy, and art. Later, in Taiwan he taught painting to madam Chang Kai Shek. He also started to practice herbal medicine. Reflecting back on the demand for his services, he said:

"Greeted each morning by sorrowful long faces - for my healthy patients never bothered to visit - I was shouldered with the responsibility for saving lives" he believed that in teaching tai chi he could still "... Cure illness, prolong life and Gladden the spirit..." but also himself enjoy the company of others through sharing the art.

He took up Tai Chi after contracting a lung disease, possibly tuberculosis, it was recommend that he took up the art, and subsequently made a complete recovery. Studying with Yang Chengfu from 1928 to 1935, Cheng is said to have received the full transmission of the yang style, the family secrets, in gratitude for curing Yang Chengfu's wife of a serious illness with his medical skills.

In 1937 at the outbreak of war with Japan he was head of the Hunan Martial Arts Academy tasked with training the military, police and citizens. This is when he decided to reduce the number of forms or postures in the Yang style, at one point numbering 108. In order to teach tai chi quicker he took out the repetitions, hence the form was streamlined to 37 postures. During the war he was invited to the British Embassy then in Chungking, attending the demo was a delegation from the British military "All young strong military men and bold in spirit" who where invited to test their skills in unarmed combat against the diminutive Cheng only to be repelled by several feet, much the same happened at reception for American forces. These experiences prompted the translations of his work and the teaching of the art to westerners. Cheng Manching avoided the Cultural Revolution leaving mainland china for Taiwan in 1949 and then to New York in 1964 where he taught Tai Chi Classes.

Cheng Manching's short form whilst never accepted by the Yang Family has proved popular in the west. His form is also characterised by less expansive postures than use by Chengfu, more open and relaxed hands, what he referred to as "Fair ladies hands" and also the principle of swing and return, where each moves guiding momentum initiates the following. He felt that reducing the length of the form did not detract from the profundity of the style arguing that originally Tai Chi consisted of the 13 postures.

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Cheng Manching