History and Lineage of Our School
Yang Lu-chan (the founder of modern Tai Chi)
Robert W. Smith
Warren D. Conner
I attended classes in Tai Chi Ch’uan, Pa-kua Ch’uan and Hsing-i Ch’uan
with Robert W. Smith from 1973 until Mr. Smith’s retirement from formal teaching at the end of 1988.
Robert W. Smith began studying T’ai Chi Ch’uan in Taiwan in 1959 and was the first Western student accepted by Prof. Cheng Man-ch’ing. He was chosen by Cheng to coauthor the book “T’ai Chi Ch’uan, the Supreme Ultimate” which was published in 1966 especially for Western students. An early pioneer of Asian martial arts in America, Mr. Smith wrote numerous other books, including the first books in English on Pa-kua and Hsing-i.
Cheng Man-ch’ing was a student of Yang Cheng-fu and was known as the Master of Five Excellences: Medicine; Painting; Calligraphy; Poetry; and T’ai Chi. He served as founding president of the Chinese Medical Association in 1946 and his paintings are preserved in the National Palace Museum in Taipei. The importance of Prof. Cheng’s medical skill and leadership to modern tai chi cannot be overstated. He emphasized the health and ch’i kung (qigong) aspects of the practice and clearly elucidated how to use tai chi principles to transform daily life. All this along with his exceptional martial skill.
Yang Cheng-fu was the son of Yang Chien-hou whose father, the famous Yang Lu-chan, founded modern T’ai Chi Ch’uan and the Yang family style of T’ai Chi Ch’uan. The Yang family taught in the Imperial Palace in Beijing among other places and, thus, they brought forth T’ai Chi Ch’uan to China and, hence, to the world.
As a result of Mr. Smith’s many friends in the martial arts community around the world, it has been my good fortune to study with a number of excellent teachers.
I have studied T’ai Chi Ch’uan with Lo Pang Jeng (Benjamin Lo), a senior student of Cheng Man-ch’ing, beginning in 1975 during Mr. Lo’s regular visits to Mr. Smith and I accompanied Mr. Lo during his visit to mainland China in 1992 (and there I took T’ai Chi Ch’uan classes in Yang long form with Yang Zhen-duo, the son of Yang Cheng-fu).
Study with Liu Hsi-heng, a senior student of Cheng Man-ch’ing, occurred during his visits to the United States and during my visits to Taiwan.
While the above are the teachers to whom I owe the greatest debt, I have also received instruction from a number of other wonderful teachers who visited Mr. Smith’s school. A partial list includes: Maggie Newman; Ed Young; Tam Gibbs; Herman Kauz; William C. C. Chen (all senior students of Cheng Man-ch’ing), as well as Wang Yen-nien and Rose Li. While my time with these teachers has been brief, my memory of their teaching and their art is strong.
A great debt is owed to all the above teachers, especially Mr. Smith.
I began teaching T’ai Chi Ch’uan in 1975
at Mr. Smith’s suggestion and with his assistance
while continuing to attend his classes several times a week.
T’ai Chi Ch’uan “flows like a great river”;
it is a never-ending study and truly a joyous journey.
Photo: Sunrise at the Gulf of California.
Photo by Warren D. Conner, copyright, 2017, all rights reserved.