Archive for Rong Suxian

10 Questions with Yaron Seidman DAOM

Posted in 10 Questions, Internal Arts, Taijiquan with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 8, 2018 by Combative Corner

What brought you into the study of Taijiquan?

I first started with Chinese medicine and other healing arts in 1989, and when I moved to New Zealand in 1991-1992 I met my first Taiji teacher, Han Xianji. He was a Peking Opera actor who defected to China when his troupe was on a world tour. He taught me the standard government forms 24,48 and weapons that became very popular in China. I can’t really evaluate the gongfu level except that the forms were practiced beautifully, with much grace. Han helped me arrange my first China study trip in 1992, which included a further learning of the government forms with Rong Suxian, another very graceful practitioner. This is how I started learning Taijiquan.


How did you get to study with GM Feng?

I started taking frequent trips to China, more or less twice each year, to learn Chinese medicine and Taiji. I was on a mission to find great teachers wherever I could. In 1993 or 94 I met in Yang Shuo a Chen stylist, Deng Yihong, who studied with Wang Xi’an in Chen village in the 1970s. According to his story, at a time when learning in the Chen village was cheap or almost free, gathering around a fire pit in winter with the teacher (since no one had heating or hot water). When I met Deng he said learning in the Chen village was way to expensive, especially with the more famous teacher [i.e. The Four Tigers]. Deng told me that there is one good teacher left, and maybe if we both tried as a team we could get to him in Beijing, that teacher was Feng Zhiqiang. Deng told me that he went to Beijing several times to look for Feng and only met him once in the park, but Feng was too busy to talk to him. Me and Deng sent several letter to Feng in Beijing, but they remained unanswered. (Later I learned that the address was outdated). Meanwhile I was learning the Chen style Taiji from Chen village and six syllables Qigong with Deng.

In 1998 I was going to a Taiji competition in Dallas, Texas (Taiji Legacy as it was called) and I saw online, in the primitive internet of that time, that Feng had a disciple in Canada named Chen Zhonghua. I contacted Chen and as it happened, he planned to go to Taiji Legacy as well. We then planned to meet. Chen told me that in few months Feng was going to give a 2-week workshop in Holland and so I set sail to Holland. However, in those years I was on an extremly low budget, so when I contacted the organizer, Chen Liansheng, and explained the money issue, he agreed to give me half price tuition if I would only learn the Hunyuan Taiji 24 form and not the 48 that was also taught. Turned out at that event that it took me only few days to memorize the 24 and now I was squinting across the hall to Wang Fengming who was helping Feng teach the 48 form. Chen Liansheng noticed it, got really mad and wanted to return my money and expel me from that event. Lucky for me, when I landed in Holland I brought a recommendation letter from Chen Zhonghua, I was able to speak Chinese and kinda struck a chord with Feng. Feng then took me under his wing, told Chen Liansheng to keep me at that event, and from that day on I spent lunches with Feng in his room. Feng would give me some Chinese food and I would try to convince him to eat my cheese sandwich, which he thought was gross. Starting from that time every trip to China would be to Beijing to study with Feng (until 2006), as well as other places he travelled to teach like; Finland, San Francisco and Seattle.


Thinking about your time with Feng, what about him was the most surprising and/or what excited you the most about what he had to teach?

I think that there were many excellent things, not just one. First, the level of teaching was very high, the kind that gives you butterflies in the stomach. But more than that his demeanor was very special, charming, graceful, always made everybody happy around him. When I learned with him (he was in his late 70s) I heard many stories about being hot-headed and very combative when he was young, but like many other masters as they reach old age they become very health conscious.  I was exposed to Feng when this “older” aspect was very dominant, we often practiced Neigong and Qigong in addition to the Taiji forms and weapons. He often would say “people who practice Taiji today often fight with themselves and hurt themselves” referring to all the fajin and explosive movements that young practitioners love to do, feeling themselves very strong by shaking the body and making big noises. When Feng would do fajin it would be very crisp, to the point, without superfluous noises or wiggling. For myself, coming from the medicine side, these things made perfect sense. I wanted to practice the martial art, but not necessarily did I want to get sick or die young, which for anyone learning history of the martial art, is very apparent. Many famous masters died quite young despite being fierce fighters. If you would ask me of one thing that inspired me more than others, this would be a workshop in Finland. I was translating for Feng in that 2-week event, his daughter Xiuqian had to leave and go back to China suddenly and I was entrusted with taking care of Feng, so-to-speak. One time when we took a break for lunch, Feng was a bit tired and we left the teaching hall to go back to the room, but then he realized that one of the disciples was still back in the teaching hall, so he wanted to wait for him. Feng’s wife told him “forget about it. You are tired. Go and rest” and Feng replied “no, he is my student I will wait her for him”. This was kind of surprising from such a famous teacher, to have a heart dedicated to his students and not a selfish one. I think that his kind heart made him really special.


People often talk/squabble about the effectiveness, usefulness and/or purpose of taijiquan. What is it all about to you?

For me, the meaning and purpose of Taijiquan changed with the years (or decades). At first, I was very excited just to be able to practice graceful movements and forms that are like a slow dance. Then it was about practicing a part of Chinese culture. After that, it became a martial art and fighting technique: grappling, catching, push hands, etc. Later, it became about health and inner cultivation. Nowadays, Taiji is about inner cultivation because people naturally want to fight, argue and disagree and we don’t need even more of this in the world. My life is now dedicated to creating harmony and helping people and in Taijiquan there are many good things that can help harmony and people. Taiji for health has been propagated by the Communist government in China for the past 4-5 decades, but I think that Taijiquan has much more to offer than the current propaganda.


How did you meet up with Chen Zhonghua and what made you decide to become his disciple?

As mentioned before, we met in Taiji Legacy in 1998. I was looking for Feng and Chen Zhonghua was willing to help. In that event I had my first experience with Chen Zhonghua and I would say with real Taijiquan. Chen Zhonghua was invited to the event as a teacher and judge, but had no students at the event. I was the only person he knew and we had just met. In the evening there was a demonstration where the invited teachers were asked to demonstrate their craft. Chen asked me if I would demonstrate with him and I agreed. On stage, behind the scenes, there were a few teachers with their students – each were instructing their students how to “play attack” the teacher, which hand to use, and how to roll off. They all were synchronizing a “show”. When I asked Chen Zhonghua, he said “do whatever”, which in years to come I heard many times. Chen didn’t want to put on an act, he just wanted to do it. When I went with him on stage and punched and attacked him I was flying in a very abnormal way. When we came off stage and I mixed with the crowd I heard many people say “how fake Chen Zhonghua was” – where actually he was the only one not faking it. I then realized that most people who practice Taiji, actually have never seen what real Taiji gongfu looks like. When I came back from Holland, Feng sent a letter to Chen Zhonghua and asked him to take me under his wing in the Hunyuan family. At first, the idea was that when I get to a minimum level I will be recommended to become a disciple of Feng, and for the first couple of years this was the intention. But then things changed for me, my shifu had a very special skill in his own right coming from Hong Junsheng (i.e. Practical Method) and we became close, plus in the Hunyuan school there were all kinds of politics and since I was a grandson disciple I was not competing with the other disciples.  So every time I went to study with Feng I would constantly be by his side, disciples will remain in the park and I was the only one going home with Feng. Partly by design, partly by destiny, this was best for me.


You really impressed me early on, when I saw a video of you speaking Mandarin on (Beijing) television (via Youtube).  When did you begin studying the language and how crucial was learning it in order to come to your understanding of taijiquan?

The first time I went to China I stayed with the family of Han Xianji, my first Taiji teacher. I could not speak Chinese and they, not a word English. These three months were a nightmare. They would try to feed me snails, send me to sleep at their friend’s house who I couldn’t speak to, and so on. When I moved from China to Germany in 1993 I started to learn Chinese at Freiburg University, but the pace was too slow, so I kept on learning the language myself until I became proficient. Speaking and reading Chinese is much more important if you learn Chinese medicine because there are many texts to explore. Taijiquan has its classics but these are very few and the ones that exist are mostly secretive. It really comes down to the teacher teaching you the art. In that respect, finding a good teacher is more important than knowing Chinese. However, in my case, speaking Chinese was very fortunate because it made my relationship with Feng close. Without speaking Chinese there would be no relationship and I would have probably gotten dispelled from the Holland seminar and never have seen Feng again – nor become a disciple of Chen Zhonghua. So even though speaking Chinese in general is not important for learning Taiji, in my case it was.

 

Do you feel that your taijiquan and qigong enhances your TCM practice? Why or why not?

Actually, my Taijiquan and Qigong practice created and transformed my medicine practice. The traditional Chinese medicine that I learned in the early years transformed today what I call Hunyuan Medicine. The inspiration, some of the content and the name come from Hunyuan Taijiquan and Qigong and Master Feng. Hunyuan medicine also had other influences coming from the fire spirit and Huai Xuan schools of Sichuan, but Hunyuan Taiji and Qigong is a big part. It is hard to describe every single thing that has changed in my medicine practice because almost everything changed, but I would sum up that at least 45% of everything I think and know is from Hunyuan Taiji and Qigong, 45% from Huai Xuan and fire spirit, and only 10% is the remaining TCM I learned in TCM school. Today I run a Hunyuan Academy that has three tracks: body, heart and medicine. The body track is all Hunyuan Taiji and Qigong related, the heart track is all Huai Xuan related and the medicine track is a combination of Fire Spirit, Huai Xuan and Hunyuan Gong.


If you had to pick one piece of advice that you’ve learned from any of your taijiquan teachers, brothers and sisters, or other mentors, what would it be? and why did you choice that one?

Don’t be selfish, because selfishness hinders progress. In the early years I remember everyone talking about discipleships, ceremonies, Taiji clothes and all sorts of superficial realities, all directed at one’s self. I think that a great way to succeed is to have a sincere intention. All kinds of Taiji clothes and ceremonies don’t move you closer to the target. There is no better prize than for one to succeed themselves in what they set out to do. This means that a person should practice diligently, follow the teacher’s instruction and become the best that they can.


What form, what weapon, and what posture are your favorite? What is your reason for picking those?

This question is problematic for the following reason –

Every posture and every form aims at practicing Gong. So when I practice a Taiji posture, let’s say Buddha Warrior Pounds the Mortar, the Qigong skill, the Taiji Ruler skill, the Neighing skill, the silk reeling skill, the Zhan Zhuang skill – all must be practiced in this one movement. It is like one big frame to practice all the many different skills in. But this is the same for White Crane Spreads Wings and all the other movements and weapons. So if you like one movement and not the other it means you don’t practice Gong. If you practice correctly it is impossible to like one posture over the other, at least for me.


If you were to give advice to any beginning taijiquan practitioner, what advice would you give?

Never get involved with all kinds of politics and agendas. Stay the course and practice to improve yourself. Know that there is not this thing called ‘authentic’ and ‘fake’. The diligent student reaches far.

Bonus:
If you could go back in time and study (for a month) with any Master of the past (living or dead and of any discipline) who would it be and why?

Also, hard to answer, because stories always tend to inflate reality. Truly great masters might be unknown and famous masters maybe are not that great. If I had to choose I would say Sun Lutang. I heard a story that when he was about to die, he got undressed, sat on a stool and waited to the end. Not sure if it is just a fake story, but if there was that gongfu I would liked to have seen that.

 

Clinic http://hunyuancenter.com
Education http://hunyuanAcademy.com
Ebooks http://gumroad.com/yaronseidman

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We at the CombativeCorner would like to thank Yaron Seidman DAOM, for his time and consideration and welcome him to the CombativeCorner family – as well as a member of our admirable list of 10-Question Interviews. For more information on Yaron, please click the links provided above. To stay current with the CombativeCorner, please like our Facebook Group page, or follow us on Twitter and/or Instagram @CombativeCorner

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