Hello, My name is Sean Carney and I enjoy teaching Tai Chi Chuan.
My Tai Chi experience started at the age of 16 in 1974 in Vancouver, BC. Canada. I had just recently snuck out of the house at 4:00 am and taken a cab to the airport in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada in order to take a flight to Vancouver. My motivation for this move was to attend an 'Alternative School' called Total Eduction because I was disillusioned with the public school system. My initial motivation to take Tai Chi, originally for a short time from Steve Malliaris, was because of knee problems I had for years, Osgood-Schlatter Disease, that was painful and prevented me from bending my knees fully. Practicing Tai Chi cleared up that problem for me and I became hooked on Tai Chi!
Tchoung Ta-Tchen was my eventual teacher (Sifu in Chinese) and was like a father figure to me. He was also the teacher of Steve Malliaris and my logical next teacher. I attended classes every day of the week. My wake up routine was about four hours and I did that for years. Tai Chi was my life but I also managed to work part time to pay my rent and put myself through high school.
Sifu Tchoung Ta-Tchen encouraged us to go to other cities and visit and practice with other Tai Chi teachers. He spoke most highly of Cheng Man-Ching in New York. This was a couple years after Cheng Man-Ching passed away. In taking his advice, one year a carload of us students rented a station wagon and drove to San Francisco California to visit an old Tai Chi teacher, in his 90's that taught in a park every morning at 6:00 am!
National Geographic magazine produced an article on Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada which was published in October of 1978 shortly after I hitch-hiked to South America. When I returned the following year friends showed me my picture in the National Geographic Magazine. I managed to find a copy for 25 cents in a thrift store, and have since scanned in the image. I am the little blond head of hair just above/behind the teachers right shoulder. In case you haven't found me yet I am wearing a blue shirt. Let me know if you still can't find me and I will consider drawing a little circle around my head!
After returning from South America and after the birth of my daughter (Children can have a very taming effect on wild creatures!) I had a conversion experience, through many miracles and a slew of experiences that I hope to write into a book someday, and I have been following Jaheshua (Jesus) as a Seventh-day Adventist Christian ever since. This was a logical transition for me, having been raised in a Jewish home and believing in healthful living. At this time I decided that my Christian faith and the martial arts could not coexist. I kept my limbering exercises going but stopped the martial arts study.
When I turned forty I started to suffer from plantar fasciitis, which is caused primarily by tight calves and achilles tendons. This caused me to have extremely painful heals and it hurt to stand up for long periods of time! I even had corticosteroid shots into my heals. That was incredibly painful! After speaking with a Chinese Seventh-day Adventist physician, Dr. Chester Wong, about the cause of the problem, I realized that I should get back to the Tai Chi from my youth because it would help fix that problem. And... Once again the flexibility training in Tai Chi came to the rescue and caused me to get better from another of my physical ailments! As well, I was able to reconcile my faith and the practice of Tai Chi. The key to me is not to worship the created but to worship the creator! It still took me quite a while to come out of my closet with my Christian friends and admit that I was a secret Tai Chi Aficionado!
Later I came across an article written by a Cheng Man-Ching Tai Chi Practitioner who went through an almost identical experience as myself. In order for you to read this article I had to retype it because of copyright issues. I have the author's permission and the permission of the publisher, to put up the text of the article. It is a great article! I hope you enjoy it! The title of his article is: Studying the Tao with Jesus: Taijiquan and Christian Spiritual Life.
Click Here to Read: Studying the Tao with Jesus: Taijiquan and Christian Spiritual Life!
Click Here to Download Printer Friendly PDF Version of Studying the Tao with Jesus: Taijiquan and Christian Spiritual Life.
© 2003 by Russ Mason. This article originally appeared in the Taijiquan Journal 4/4 (Fall 2003) and can probably still be ordered as a back issue.
Russ Mason, M.A. has studied Yang-style Taijiquan since 1978. He teaches English and culture at the University of Delaware.
There is another article I came across on the web about a student of Cheng Man-Ching that become a Christian, dropped out of the Tai Chi scene and then came back. His name was Dr Chi Chiang Tao. Click Here to Read the Story about Dr Chi Chiang Tao. The article about Dr. Chi Chiang Tao was written by Richard Farmer of Rising Dragon Tai Chi and was reprinted with his permission. Click Here Read the Original Article from Rising Dragon Tai Chi.
After deciding to study Tai Chi again I was frequently gathering in the parks in the Bay Area in California pushing hands with Tai Chi students from many styles, while trying to find a school, and was always not quite satisfied that I had found what I was looking for. One Sunday afternoon a man, Howard Wang, came to the park and pushed with us and everybody said to me "He pushes like you!". That got my attention! We pushed together and it was true. I was so happy to meet somebody with a soft touch. He told me that he practiced the Cheng Man-Ching style. I remembered then that Tchoung Ta-Tchen had also learned from, and HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, the Cheng Man-Ching style. At that point I decided to seek out a teacher in the Cheng Man-Ching style.
The Cheng Man-Ching style was a natural fit after learning the Tchoung Ta-Tchen style. The Tchoung Ta-Tchen style I originally learned is the closest I have found to Cheng Man-Ching style because the Tchoung Ta-Tchen style follows most of the same principles as the Cheng Man-Ching style. It took quite some time looking, but I was finally able to find some teachers in the Bay Area that would teach me the Cheng Man-Ching style. These teachers were not taking new students but took me because I knew the form and had past experience. I felt blessed to have them teach me!
I learned from Pak Chan for some years and did a lot of push hands training. Pak was an awesome form, push hands and sword form teacher and I really miss his classes. No matter what mistakes I made Pak would always have the same reply to my question about what I needed to do to improve; "RELAX". And, he was always right! We would meet on Sunday mornings outside rain or shine, hot or cold at 7:30 am and generally practiced until around noon, or even longer. I would then leave his class, go home to eat some lunch, and then head to other parks to push hands with practitioners from other styles. Needless to say my legs were always extremely well worked out on Sundays! If there were teachers of the Cheng Man-Ching style in the Austin area of Pak's caliber then I would be signing up as a student right away! The Cheng Man-Ching style teaches relaxation better, in my humble opinion, than any other style and that is why I am so motivated to teach it. I want to have people to practice with that follow the same principles!
Another really good instructor, and one of Paks classmates, is Ed Chan who I was introduced to by Tony Wong, a Chen Style Tai Chi teacher, in the Bay Area. We met at a San Francisco Tai Chi gathering. Tony knew that Ed was an excellent Cheng Man-Ching practitioner and helped me to contact Ed. Unfortunately, Ed was not interested in teaching at the time. Fortunately Ed introduced me to Pak Chan who agreed to teach me. Then Ed and I got together every Tuesday evening for push hands in the yard of a local school. He also is VERY skilled at push hands and I learned a tremendous amount pushing with him. I had to really learn to relax otherwise I would be pushed around like a rag doll! I am deeply indebted to Ed for all his instruction! And, Fortunately for his present students, Ed Chan is now teaching a Tai Chi class!
The pictures above show Ed Chan pushing out an oppenent at a Push Hands Competition.
I had the good fortune to meet Benjamin Lo and received a little instruction from him. Ben is the teacher for both of my Bay Area instructors, Pak and Ed. Of course, now I wish that I had gone to meet with Ben Lo more often! Hind-site is always 20/20! Benjamin Lo has had more than 50 years of experience teaching T'ai Chi Ch'uan. He has been giving workshops across the United States as well as in Europe. Ben Lo is probably the mostly highly skilled Tai Chi practitioner alive in the United States. I can hardly count the number of highly skilled Tai Chi practitioners that have learned from Ben Lo!
In my visit with Ben he walked up to me and touched the little finger of one of my hands to show me that I was holding tension in that finger. Two weeks later I totally tore that finger up, doing push hands, because the little finger was tense. I won't show you the pictures of my finger entirely black and blue. But, needless to say I learned the importance of relaxing. Injuries happen because of tension!
It also became apparent how small the world of Tai Chi is even though people are practicing around the globe. I showed Ben Lo a picture of my first teacher, Tchoung Ta-Tchen together with Cheng Man-Ching as younger men. Ben recognized Tchoung from the picture in Tchoung's Tai Chi book, and remembered Tchoung sometimes practicing with Cheng Man-Ching students during their early days in Taiwan!
Years ago a friend of mine, who believes in astrology about as much as I do, when asked what his 'sign' was stated that he was a STOP sign. I loved his answer, and mine is similar; I am working on learning to become a YIELD! Hence the following paragraphs.
When my wife and I moved to the Austin, Texas area both my previous Bay Area teachers, Pak Chan and Ed Chan, challenged me to start teaching as a way to further improve my skills. I was not really considering doing it because I could not imagine finding the time but then in one day out of the blue I was asked by two different people, not knowing each other, to teach them Tai Chi. I went home that evening and told my wife about it. She said that on the same day two of her staff came into her office closed the door behind them and asked to speak with her, then they asked her, "Do you think you could talk your husband into teaching us Tai Chi?". We were both a bit amazed at the timing of being asked three times in one day and felt that it was a providential leading.
The locating of a beautiful facility to teach in just one mile from our home and one mile from my wife's Medical Practice, AllMedPhysicians, is another story. The Central Texas Academy of Martial Arts had no open evening time-slots. But, I still called Ray Parra and told him I would be interested in teaching Tai Chi there. Unfortunately I only had Monday nights as an available night to teach. Ray told me that their Monday night teacher had just called and wanted to teach in the daytime instead. So, the studio was available only on Monday nights, starting immediately!
Then I let the local newpaper, The Hays Free Press, know that we were starting a Tai Chi class in Buda and they sent a reporter to take the first nights class and produce an article. That favorable article brought in quite a few new students! And so... that is how the Soft Answer Tai Chi class began. Where it ends only God knows!
CTAMA has since installed a beautiful padded floor which works great for grappling arts but did not serve Tai Chi students well. This made us sadly leave their location. We then moved outdoors to the Elm Grove Elementary Schoolyard but left because they often had large events that displaced us and there were no washrooms or good cover from bad weather.
We then moved the class to the office of AllMedPhysicians, my wife's practice. On good weather days we practiced under the canopy and in the shady areas of the parking lot. At my wife's office there was also water and washrooms which was another very good reason to have met there. AllMedPhysicians then moved down the street and the class moved to the new building. We met in any space in the new building that was currently not leased out so we moved around a bit, in the building: think Yielding! :-) However, the new building eventually leased out completely. It was at this point that the National Center for Farmworker Health (NCFH) came to our rescue and offered us their conference room since they saw this class as a worthy community service! To that we say, thank you, thank you and thank you! All are invited to come and try to class. The first class is free. Class is on Tuesday evenings from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM. We sometimes stay around till 9:00 PM doing push hands.
Another additional class is about to be started with me teaching once per week at the local YMCA in Buda. This class should also be on Tuesdays and be between 11:30 AM and 12:30 PM. The class is free to YMCA! members and will be a place for learning Tai Chi drills and forms. Yet another reason to become a member of the Hays Community Family Branch YMCA! Tentative start date for the new class is Tuesday January 17th.