Much appreciated for your post to brought forward such inspirational Taiji practice and Taiji life of GM Yang Zhenji.
It had moves me so that I will change my Taiji practice attitude from this day forward
I thank you both
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Louis Swaim:
<B>As a tribute to Yang Zhenji, who passed on March 27, I thought I would translate a bit of the biographical material from his book, Yang Chengfu Shi Taijiquan. The biographical sections in the appendix are based on the research and interviews of Yan Hanxiu, martial arts journalist. I’m going to be away for a few days, but when I return I’ll try to post some more from the book.
Yang Zhenji, the second son of the great Yang style master, Yang Chengfu, is 69 this year . In the third month of spring, I went to interview him. He was large and tall of build, quick-witted of speech, resolute and rich in philosophical qualities, frequently explaining taijiquan theory from contrasting points of view with quick witticisms that made an easy impression. Although he had not made a life career of teaching taijiquan as had his forebears, he still never departed from studying and teaching the art. He has suffered deprivations and hardships, yet led a life full of drama and color, so that until now most people understood little about him.
Yang Zhenji was brought up in an extended lineage of martial artists. His great grandfather Yang Luchan, his grand uncle Yang Banhou, his grandfather Yang Jianhou, his uncle Yang Shaohou, and his father Yang Chengfu were all men of exalted stature in the martial arts realm of modern China. Studying under the influence of such profound erudites, he began testing his limits and studying quan beginning at the age of five. In the 1930s, when Yang Chengfu’s disciple Chen Weiming invited him to Shanghai to teach, his entire family accompanied him there. His father observed him grow more clever and solid, so he began to concentrate on teaching him form. At that time, Yang Banhou’s son Zhaopeng moved from the old family home in Yongnian Hebei to Shanghai to study with Yang Chengfu, and Chengfu asked him to take charge in managing Zhenji, Zhenduo and others in their training.
Yang Zhaopeng, like his father, was irascible in temperament, and was rigorously strict with Zhenji and his brothers in their training. At that time, Zhenji was eleven or twelve; there were some movement requirements of which his understanding was unclear—there were points in his advancing and retreating footwork and body turns that were incorrect. If Zhaopeng had to tell him twice, but he still did it wrong, Zhaopeng would strike him. If the leg was in the wrong position, he would strike the leg; if the arm was wrong, he would strike the arm. Moreover, Zhaopeng’s skill was considerable, so Zhenji would persevere, restrain the tears, and bear the strikes. After completing several training sessions, his entire body aching, he could barely lift his legs to climb the stairs, and could only crawl up. Even under these conditions, he would still train late into the night each day.
His father often watched them train, and would correct their movements, but he never struck him. Yang Zhenji later said, “Papa’s skill was formidable, but he did not like to hit, so he had uncle Zhaopeng manage us.”
When Yang Chengfu went down south to Guangzhou to teach, the family resided in a small loft. Downstairs there was a spacious parlor with a backyard. The parlor was the place where Yang Chengfu and Yang Shouzhong taught quan. Shouzhong also practiced with Yang Zhenji and a few others in the backyard.
In Guangzhou, Yang Zhenji entered the middle school attached to Zhong Shan University to study. Because he lived far from school, he would set out early in the morning for the long walk to class, and then as soon as classes ended would return home. No one in the entire family went out to movies or performances. Any spare time was for training quan. Their father stipulated that Zhenji and his brothers must train at least three times every night. If they were reluctant to practice, they would still have to practice; if they could not bear practice, still they must practice. If they were not training effectively, they would continue to practice. If they hadn’t practiced enough times, they were not allowed to go to bed or to attend school. Training quan was primary; attending school was secondary. It may be OK to miss school, but it was not OK to miss training quan. Life was wholly focused on training quan.
When Yang Chengfu was teaching them, he was extremely rigorous about each move and every posture. No missed detail was let go. Usually he spoke while he was observing, saying: “Place your hand towards here, place it towards there, move your foot toward here a bit.” If the position and placement were right, he didn’t say anything. In this way, from a young age Yang Zhenji was able to lay a good foundation. Yang Chengfu was very fond of him, often using the endearment, “Lao Er” (second son) when he took him places. At night he slept with his father near by.
In 1936, Yang Chengfu passed away, and not much later the war of resistance [against the Japanese occupation] erupted. Pressed for a means of livelihood, his mother decided that Yang Shouzhong should remain and teach in Guangzhou, while she would take Zhenji, his brothers, and one of Shouzhong’s daughters back to the family home in Yongnian county. Mother said to them: “You must persevere in your quan training; the Yang family art must not be lost. In the future when circumstances have improved, you can again go out and teach quan.” Besides attending school, the three brothers practiced quan at home behind closed doors uninterruptedly. Hebei had already been occupied by the Japanese, and in that region some youths had often been abducted, unaccountably disappearing in the middle of the night.
Yang Zhenji had grown to adulthood. One day his mother said to him: “There’s no gain in your remaining home. You have brother masters in Beijing and Tianjin. Why not go there and see if you can find work?” As a result he was able to get recommendations in Tianjin, first working at the Wanhua Bank, and later at Dahua Company as an office worker. During his time at Tianjin, he was often able to meet with friends to practice quan together and hone their skills.
In Guangzhou, his older brother Yang Shouzhong had been very concerned about him all along. In 1948 Shouzhong inquired with Fu Zhongwen in Shanghai about his brother’s whereabouts. Learning that he was in Tianjin, Yang Shouzhong asked Fu Zhongwen to get word to him to come to Guangzhou. By then, Tianjin was ravaged by the war. Yang Zhenji was jobless and penniless, with no means to travel. Yang Shouzhong sent him some travel money, which he used to take a boat to Shanghai, and then take a plane to Guangzhou. His brother met him at the airport. After such adversity and turmoil, seeing his older brother moved him to tears.
When the two brothers returned to his home, Yang Shouzhong said, “Come, let’s practice quan together.”
When Yang Chengfu used to teach his students, he would most often first rely on Yang Shouzhong to demonstrate, and later let him correct students’ movements. Having long accompanied his father in teaching quan, he attained his father’s true transmission, and became a representative of Yang family taijiquan. In Guangzhou, Zhenji practiced the movements of the form in unison with his brother. Since Yang Zhenji’s cultural foundation was fairly good, and had ceaselessly practiced quan, he also attained his older brother’s teachings, and quickly grasped the marrow of the family’s taijiquan.
—Yan Hanxiu, in Yang Zhenji’s book, Yang Chengfu Shi Taijiquan, 1993, pages 227-229</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>