|Tchoung Ta Tchen Dual Sided Yang Style Tai Chi|
Tchoung Ta-Tchen 鍾大振 was born 1911 and passed away in Vancouver, BC Canada in 2000. He was born in Hunan Province in China. His Tai Chi practice began in 1942. Tchoung was among the earliest Tai Chi Chuan practitioners to bring the art to North America. Tchoung taught in Taiwan, South Africa, United States and Vancouver, BC Canada. In Vancouver he formed the Chinese Tai Chi Chuan Association in 1972. Shortly thereafter he was invited to become the Tai Chi master of the Seattle Tai Chi Association where he also taught many students.
Tchoung Ta-Tchen created the 6 section Dual Sided Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan Form in the late 1960's. He felt the standard Yang Tai Chi form favored the right side, which he considered unbalanced. He taught a two man partner set called "Section 7 & Section 8" and he created "section 9", a fast set combining elements of the Natural School, Tai Chi, Bagua and Hsing-I.
Tchoung Ta-Tchen began teaching in 1970 as the Tai Chi Chuan teacher for President Bongo of Gabon. He also established the South African Chinese Health and Self Defense Club in Johannesburg.
Having been one of his students in Vancouver, BC I can testify that he loved his Tai Chi Classes and his Tai Chi Students! He was like a father to us. He cried publicly when I returned to the club to visit after years away!
One of the best stories to exemplify the character of Tchoung Ta-Tchen and his attitude towards his students was posted by Andrew T. Dale, teacher of the Oldest School of Internal Martial Arts in the NW United States on his website entitled a "Tribute to Tchoung Ta-Tchen":
"The first few months Tchoung taught through a translator since he didn’t speak any English. He would jump up and down, roll on the floor and go through many antics as he was describing and explaining lessons. The translators would then say: “Sifu says to relax!”. When asked what else the comments would be, we were told it’s too hard to translate. One day a young Chinese man came to visit the club and after one of these translations burst out, 'That’s not what he said, he said..'. Curious, Tchoung pulled him aside and chatted with him. We discovered that the translators the elder Chinese of the club didn’t want the ‘outsiders’ learning the real art and kung fu of Tai Chi so the translations weren’t correct. Upon finding this out Tchoung began learning English. After teaching a movement he would say, “You understand?” If we said yes he would require we demonstrate the move and applications to verify we had it. Otherwise we’d start over again.
Tchoung’s passion was to teach and spread not only the art of Tai Chi but the real kung fu of Tai Chi."
My personal experience was the same. Most of the students in our club in Vancouver, BC were Chinese. Sifu really wanted to communicate with us 'westerners'. He tried hard to learn English and he even tried to teach us westerners some Chinese! Those Chinese classes didn't last very long, we didn't do very well at that. But, the characters were fascinating!
Tchoung Ta-Tchen placed great emphasis on the Martial Applications for each of the postures and in the push-hands practice. He loved to "Play" with his students. And he would laugh and laugh when we couldn't push him! Even though he was in his Mid-Sixties already, nobody could even come close to pushing him out. He would even push standing on one leg to give us a chance! In fact, he would even stand on one leg and have multiple people try to push him over at the same time.
One of the most interersting experiences we had in our club was when we were visited by a hard stylist and Sifu Tchoung invited the visitor to punch him in the stomach with all his force. The visitor punched Sifu in the stomach and sifu relaxed and sucked in his stomach and the visitors hand all but disappeared. Then Sifu put one of his hands out to steady the elbow of his opponents striking arm and with a mighty exhale he pushed out his stomach and threw his attacker against the wall using only sinking his stomach muscles. His attackers own stiff/tense arm was what pushed him out. Sifu thought that was tremendously funny! And told us all we had to learn to "Relax"
Once we had a visitor come to our club from China and ask to push hands with our most senior student, who was already teaching Tai Chi with Sifu's blessing in the Vancouver area. As they touched hands together the visitor placed his hand on the senior students shoulder and sent the seniour student collapsting to the ground. This happened a few times. Then Sifu said "Do that with me now" and so they touched. As soon as the visitor put his hands on Sifu's shoulders Sifu sent the visitor sailing though the air and into the wall, across the room. After three of those slams Sifu invited him to leave the club. He felt the visitor was not a nice person and didn't want his influence in the club.
One of the almost comical (but much appreciated by his students) habits was how he would uproot us, sending us sailing high into the air. He would then run after us lightly and nimbly like a hopping rabbit securing our arm, and gently bringing us down, to ensure we would have a soft landing and not get hurt.
Another of my prized experiences with Sifu was one day when I was practicing a moving step push hands drill with one of the older stronger students in the club. I was probably only 125 pounds at the time and 17 years old. The other participant was a large person about twenty years my senior and 40 pounds heavier. I pushed the other person over a few times by yielding and pushing across his center line. This was done in front of the class. Afterwards we were required to face each other and bow to show respect. Well, I did not keep my eyes on my classmate like I should have and as I bowed to him he punched me full force in the stomach. Sifu did not say anything but just acted like it had not happened even though the entire club was watching.
After everybody was gone Sifu speaking of the experience regarding the actions of my classmate explained to me "Some people want learn kill. Bad heart... I NO TEACH KILL!" Then he told me "You good heart. You no want kill... I TEACH YOU KILL!". That began many weekly private lessons for which he never charged me extra since I was a poor teenager who had left home and was working to put myself through high school. I also led his class for him almost every night so he could pay attention to form corrections.
Tchoung Ta-Tchen's legacy continues as his class in Vancouver, BC is now conducted by Laurens Lee who learned Tai Chi Chuan from Tchoung Ta Tchen and is now the President of the Chinese Tai Chi Chuan Association and is chief instructor for Kam To Tai Chi Chuan Association. Laurens Lee helped Grandmaster Tchoung to translate and edit the book, "The Annotated Theoretical and Practical Tai Chi Chuan". In 1996, he organized a Tai Chi conference named "Tai Chi Chuan and Modern Lifestyles", which was jointly presented by the Chinese Tai Chi Chuan Association of Canada and the Chinese Cultural Centre of Vancouver.
Teaching Tai Chi Chuan in Greater Vancouver for about twenty years, Master Lee is currently the instructor of the Tai Chi Chuan classes at many locations throughout the Vancouver area. He demonstrates and performes in various community events. He has also presented an instructional Tai Chi Chuan television series in the program "Morning Exercise" on Fairchild Television.
Laurens Lee is not the only person carrying on the teaching of Tchoung Ta-Tchen in Vancouver. There are also others such as Tim Glasheen, and some of my classmates who went on to excell like Eddie Fong, Tony Chen, and others! The Tai Chi Chuan of Tchoung Ta-Tchen continues on in good hands!