My first Tai Chi Class and Mr Liu
Roy Wilson, a long-time Tai Chi practitioner who trained with me in England, interviewed me about Cheng Man-ching, my teacher Liu Hsi-heng, and my time in Taiwan. I have adapted a short excerpt:
Roy: I imagine there must have been a lot of Internal martial artists and Tai Chi teachers in Taiwan when you were there. Why did you choose to study with Mr Liu? What impressed you about Mr Liu that made you want to study with him? How was your first meeting with Mr Liu?
William: I did not meet Mr Liu before deciding to study with him. A few months after arriving in Taiwan (late 1981) a friend and I met with one of his students, Rick Moran, who described Mr Liu and the class. It was a semi-private class, open only to those who had an introduction from someone in the class, or from someone like Ben Lo. I had to decide based on what I heard and Rick showing my friend and I what the Tai Chi looked like. And he had to decide whether we were serious and sincere about studying Tai Chi, because Mr Liu did not want to cater to people coming and going, and not being committed to the training. Rick let us wait for a couple of months to see if we were seriously interested. I had been looking for a Tai Chi teacher since arriving in Taipei, and this sounded most like what I had in mind — a small group of people dedicated to practicing with a teacher who embodied the depth of Tai Chi. When we finally met Mr Liu himself, he was humble and serious about his own practice, which was inspiring to us as he was 67 at that time. He seemed respectful of his students, many of whom were in their twenties, without being chummy. Most of all there was a naturalness and dignity about him. And then of course his Tai Chi was fluid and very relaxed, and in pushing hands, very effective. He wasn’t only interested in getting the result of unbalancing a person in pushing hands, but whether you did it in the most relaxed and efficient way, in keeping with Tai Chi principles. `Tai Chi Principles’ was a phrase we constantly heard, along with yield, relax, sink, rootedness, straight, and centred. And Mr Liu clearly had internalized much of that practice to the point that his way of being was imbued with his Tai Chi practice. It was this impression that I got from talking to his student, and which was only strengthened when I met him when I joined the class.
This excerpt is from an interview that appeared in Tai Chi: The International Magazine of Tai Chi Chuan (August 2008, vol. 32, No 4).