My first introduction to Master William C.C. Chen was
through my teacher, Master T.T. Liang. Liang and Chen were classmates under
Professor Cheng Man-ch’ing. Both came to New York in the 60’s to help the
Professor spread the art of Tai-Chi Ch’uan. In the book Fundamentals of
Tai-Chi Ch’uan by Wen-shan Huang, he writes,
“About a year ago, three visitors from Taiwan- Professor
Cheng Man-ch’ing and his two accomplished pupils, Professor T.T. Liang and Mr.
William Chen have remained in New York, to conduct classes of Tai-Chi Ch’uan
for primary and advanced pupils. They are also experts of Tai-Chi Ch’uan for
Hand Combatting and Medieval Weapons Fighting, which are more appealing to
youngsters and sportsmen here.”
In 1979, Master Liang had arranged for me to take private
classes in Hsing-Yi and Pa-Kua with Master B.P. Chan, who was teaching at
William’s school. During my classes, William came in, introduced himself, and
asked me to send his warmest regards to Master Liang when I returned to Boston.
I ordered a sword from Master Chen at that time, and he brought me back a
Tai-Chi sword from Taiwan.
In 1984 I began taking private lessons with Master Chen with
Master Liang’s blessings and introduction. I mostly worked on Pushing-Hands, and
studied form applications and William’s “Body Mechanics,” his unique way of
explaining and teaching the speed and power in Tai-Chi as a martial art.
When I would return to Master Liang, he would ask me what I
learned from William Chen. He always called him William Chen, like one long name.
He also always used Paul Gallagher’s full name! I would recount and show my
lessons and then get Liang’s confirmations and insights into William’s lessons.
One time pushing hands with Master Chen, he said “You push
like Mr. Liang. We call that Da-Chin, strike energy. Do you want to know how to
defend against it?” He then showed me a
couple of ways to defend and counterattack. He had already showed me his basic
pushing idea, and how to defend against it.
I went back and told Master Liang all that had transpired in
my classes and told him about the Da-Chin counter. Master Liang smiled and said
“Yes, quite right, that is how you defend against my push. Do you want to know
how to defend against William Chen’s push?” He showed me the same counter
William had, and I had a great laugh over how open both teachers were!
One time Master Liang’s classmate came from Taiwan to Boston
to challenge him. When I told William about the visit and challenge, William
said the classmate had visited him, but didn’t mention visiting Liang in
Boston. I said probably because he tried to push Master Liang and couldn’t! (Liang
was in his 80s!)
My time with Master William Chen culminated in a seminar in
Minnesota in 1987. I hosted William for two days, going over pushing-hands, form
applications, body mechanics, plus his ideas on self-defense and sparring.
During his stay, he went to visit two old friends, Master T.T. Liang, and
Master Gin Foon Mark, who he knew from New York.
During the seminar, I was hit by William with a short roundhouse
palm to my shoulder. It was the hardest I have ever been hit! It was short,
snappy, shook me to my core, and made me slightly nauseous. The speed and power
generated by his body mechanics were frighteningly effective.
After that seminar, my life was such
that I never went back for more lessons with Master William Chen. I hold
William at the highest level of ability and respect. I still use many of the
concepts and teachings I received, and his roundhouse punch as a Cloud Hand
Here are some of William’s teachings from my notebook.
-Pushing-Hands is to learn how to neutralize and be in
balance in any position. You don’t have to be upright to be balanced.
-For practice, you must have your body pushed so you can
make it sensitive.
- The speed of a push comes from the change of soft to tense.
Power comes from leverage.
-When stepping in to push, keep your hand soft, this will
give a t’i-fang affect.
- The reason the Professor (Cheng ) was so good was because
his arms were weak, so he had to develop his leg power.
- It’s faster and softer to neutralize with your body and
legs instead of just the arms.