William C. C. Chen Tai Chi Chuan
William C. C. Chen
My name is William C C Chen. I am a disciple of Professor Cheng Man-ching (鄭曼青) who was known as a great grand master of Yang's style T’ai Chi Ch’uan. His talents of five were: painting, calligraphy, poetry, Chinese medicine, and T’ai Chi Ch’uan. He started teaching painting, calligraphy and poetry in college at the age of 18 and taught at several universities in China. As a result, people addressed him as Professor Cheng. It was an honor and a privilege to have Professor Cheng as my T’ai Chi Ch’uan master.
I was born in 1933 in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, China, which is on the eastern coast. A US Passport error has my year of birth as 1935. I attempted to correct it fifteen years ago with the New York Social Security office but was told that it would be easier to go with 1935 since it is on my US passport. Hence, 1935 became my official birth year.
Professor Cheng and my father were born in 1900. After World War II we all relocated to Taiwan when the Communist Government took over China. In late 1940’s my father brought me to see his old playmate, Professor Cheng. He was very pleased to meet his childhood friend’s son. He asked if I would be interested in studying T’ai chi. I enthusiastically answered “Yes!” Soon I became his youngest disciple.
Beginning in the 1950’s I was assigned to assist Professor Cheng in his advance internal body training which is to absorb a punch while he is asleep. This intensive training was carried out three times a day early morning, noon and late in the evening. I arrived at his house early in the morning and did not leave until late at night. This gave me a great opportunity to understand Professor Cheng’s lifestyle and martial arts skill. Every day, I listened to his lectures and his answers to questions about T’ai Chi Ch’uan asked by students and visitors who streamed to his house. I realized there are many advantage of staying in the Master’s house.
A few months after the internal training started, his brick fence collapsed due to the earthquake and typhoon. He asked if I would sleep over in the rear training room to guard against intruders. I stayed in this room for almost three years. Professor Cheng and Mrs. Cheng were wonderful and warm. I was treated like one of their sons.
Life living in Professor’s house was the best rehab center. Mrs. Cheng was a very sharp and intelligent lady. She helped Professor to discipline my senior classmates. While living there, I learned to be very careful and considerate so that there would be no need for her to reprimand me. I made sure that my room was cleaned and neat, similar to that of a soldier living in boot camp.
Professor had five children, three girls and two boys. At the time, the girls were about ten, eight and six years old, while the last boys were three and one year old. First part of my training was to learn to listen to Professor and Mrs. Cheng’s guidelines. Then I had to learn how to get along and deal with their five children.
They were nice kids and treated me like an elder brother. There were a few times when they acted like army soldiers and ganged up on me. When I was able to neutralize the situation it felt like doing push hands. In a 1992 movie entitled “Pushing Hand”, the T’ai Chi master was able to root onto the ground, neutralize the attackers and ward them off to survive the conflict. It is the same in our daily life where we deal with issues, problems and conflict that we face.
I had a full schedule living in Professor’s house. Besides the internal training three times a day, every morning from 9 am to noon was patients’ visiting hours. I was the receptionist who welcomed them and collected payment before they left. There were many daily responsibilities but I always managed to practice on my own in the training room.
Learning from teaching, in 1950 I was Professor’s assistant and taught many private students at their home. In 1953, I began to teach T’ai Chi Ch’uan to the Postal and Telecommunications Administrative Agency of the government. I also taught another class in a branch of the Telecommunications Bureau. Soon after, I was also teaching at China Petroleum Company and Central Trust Bureau in Taipei. This kept me busy and earned me the title "Baby Master," since all the people I taught were older than me.
Two years later, I went back to complete my high school education. I pursued school while still living at Professor’s home. With five energetic children around me, it was difficult to do my school work. Professor and Mrs. Cheng were pleased and agreed that it would be best for my education to return home.
Still, I went to professor’s house for Sunday push hand practice. My classmates and other T’ai Chi players were very anxious to come and push me at Professor’s house. I was young and flexible. It was very difficult for them to push me. I never pushed them back because they were senior classmates but instead, for two periods of two years, I yielded and neutralized like a “Roly-Poly Doll” (不倒翁). Professor was very proud of me that I was able to follow the principle of “Investment in Loss”. I was named “Snake Waist Boy” (蛇腰) by the T’ai Chi Ch’uan community in Taiwan.
The First Lady of Taiwan, Madam Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), took painting lessons from Professor. Every Thursday, 3:00 pm sharp, a black sedan would be waiting at the door to take him to the President’s residence and then back in the evening. After Madam Chiang (蔣夫人) heard that I had left his house, she gave the Professor one of her German-shepherds to guard his house.
His children were not used to caring for the dog. I had to be there from time to time to clean up the dog’s mess. One day his dog gave birth, I had to spend the entire night there to help deliver the pups. There were nine pups but only seven survived.
My interest in T’ai Chi study is as a martial art. I began to compete in tournaments in 1954. That was the very first martial art competition in Taiwan. In 1956, the “Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao Tournament” (台.港.澳.擂台賽) was held in Taipei. I was on the Taiwan team which competed with teams from Hong Kong and Macao. I advanced at the beginning but eliminated in later rounds. Finally, in the “Taiwan State Olympics Competition” (台灣省運會) in 1958, I took second place in the light weight division in martial art competition.
Champion Boxer Kuo Chin-Fong (郭琴舫) was one of the Professor’s senior students and a regular visitor to the house. He loved the soft looseness of T’ai Chi which made it easy for him to yield and followed with a quick jab. It was like the T’ai Chi story of the “Snake overpowered the Crane”. I like his idea of practical fighting training with boxing gloves. I was very pleased that he offered his top student as my training partner. Without the Champ’s guidance and the training with his top student, it would have been difficult to win the second place in the competition in 1958.
My success in the 1958 competition helped me gain recognition among T’ai Chi Ch’uan enthusiasts in Singapore and Malaysia. Early in 1959, I was invited to teach T’ai Chi Ch’uan in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and later in Bangkok, Thailand.
In 1962, I enrolled as a student in the University of Hawaii right after arriving at the paradise island of Oahu. There, I was approached by various Chinese martial arts experts for friendly matches. Within two weeks I was honored to teach the Honolulu T’ai Chi Ch’uan Association. I also gave group and private classes in the community.
During summer vacation in San Francisco in 1963, I gave a demonstration at the Chinatown T’ai Chi Ch’uan Club. As a result, I was asked to give lectures to the assistants as well as some masters. Dr. Lu Hui-ching, a noted instructor who had T’ai Chi Ch’uan studio on Teller Street, requested me to teach her and her friends, and later, I was also teaching her advanced students. She wrote a book called “A Manual of Instruction on T’ai Chi Ch’uan” in 1974, giving me credit for my instructions.
In the mid-sixties T’ai Chi Ch’uan started to gain momentum in New York City. The slow unhurried movements of T’ai Chi Ch’uan are a great therapy for people residing in stressful cities like New York. The more T’ai Chi players practiced the movements the healthier and happier they felt. Before long, there were T’ai Chi classes at the United Nations and in Chinese organizations in Chinatown. As T’ai Chi popularity grew, numerous clubs and studios were offering classes. There were T’ai Chi players in the parks as well.
In 1965, Professor wrote me several times, asking me to teach in Springfield, Mass., and at the United Nations, in New York City. After my arrival in New York, I turned the Springfield offer down because it was too far away. I also decided against teaching at the United Nations because it would have meant depriving someone who was already there of his position.
It was with Professor’s blessing that one of his top students, Maggie Newman helped me find a place to hold my own classes. She offered me her dance studio on 23rd Street, in the Chelsea area. She even offered to continue to pay the rent for me. Fortunately, the studio income covered the rent. I will always remember her generosity and kindness. She is always our “Guest of Honor” at our Annual Chinese Celebrations dinners.
When I first arrived in the New York City, I was very busy running around with Professor to assist his classes in Chinatown, my own classes on 23rd street as well as studying at New York University. A short time later, Professor had several students who were enthusiastic to assist in his classes. They later named themselves “The Magnificent Seven.” It gave me more time to teach at my own studio and develop my own classes. I first named my studio T’ai Chi Ch’uan School, Inc. Later, it was changed to “William CC Chen School of T’ai Chi Ch’uan.”
I assisted Professor in his internal training for about a year and a half. After I returned back to my home, I applied the internal training to myself which enable me to absorb punches in body in free fighting and also in public demonstrations. As a result of this training, I was able to take very powerful punches from many martial artists throughout the years. Among those who punched me were world-renowned Karate Grandmaster Fred Hamilton and the Karate Champion Chuck Norris who punched my stomach at the “Oriental World of Martial Arts” in New York City in the late 1960’s.
In 1969 I got married in New York City. Professor and his family attended my wedding. I was much honored that Professor Cheng and Mrs. Cheng stood in as my parents. The wedding was very successful, as is our marriage.
Now I have a family of four: my wife Priscilla, my daughter Tiffany and my son Maximillion. Priscilla and I not only raised our children together, but she and I also manage the affairs of our T’ai Chi School. Priscilla performed the T’ai Chi Movements on the Johnny Carson Show in the 1960’s. In the 1990’s she won the gold medal in Baltimore, MD. In 2000, she won the bronze medal in push hand in the ladies’ division at the “4th Chung Hwa Cup International Tai Chi Chuan Championship.” in Taipei, Taiwan.
Tiffany is the undefeated national and international T’ai Chi Push-Hands Champion. She was the 2003 San-Shou (Chinese kickboxing) Champion held in Brazil. She was also presented with a Special Award for the “Best Lei Tai Performance by a Female Athlete” of the World San-Shou Championship in Brazil. In 2005, she won the silver medal in the 8th World Wushu San-Shou Championship in Hanoi, Vietnam. She was the silver medalist in the 2012 New York State Golden Gloves.
Maximillion Chen in the past several years has won the West Coast, East Coast and US Champion in Chinese San-Shou competition. In 2005, as a member of the USAWKF Chinese Martial Art San-Shou Team, he received the bronze medal at the 8th World Wushu Championship in Hanoi Vietnam. He won the bronze medal as well in 2007 at the 9th World Wushu Championship in Beijing. At the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing he competed for the USA San-Shou Team.
For the public acceptance that I have received in the United States I should thank many people. Among them was my classmate Master Robert W. Smith, whose book “Chinese Boxing: Masters and Methods” contains a chapter about me. Another is Aaron Banks, the greatest martial arts promoter in New York City. He invited me to give exhibitions starting with his very first session of the Oriental World of Self-Defense in 1967, and for many subsequent years.
I thank Bronson Dudley who, in the August 1968 article issue in Black Belt, called me “The Barnum of Brawl”. I also like to thank David Cater who was the editor of Inside Kung-Fu Magazine which published numerous articles about me. Also, thanks to the writer Robert Dreeben. All of the above helped me gain recognition and acceptance not only in America, but all around the world.
T’ai Chi Ch’uan is an internal martial art system as well as an inner body exercise dealing with inner energy (qi) flow. The inner energy flow is directed by a feeling from the heart. As the awareness of the feeling gradually increases the slow motion of the fingers guide the palms outward and upward as the toes gently press downward. The soft slow motion of the movements is like Hawaiian hula dancing. I call the motions of T’ai Chi Ch’uan “Fingers Dancing with the feeling heart”.
When the feeling suddenly intensifies, the swiftly flowing qi triggers the fingers that drive the knuckles out for a punch. This is an energy (qi) punch without activating muscle tension. The fighting art of T’ai Chi Ch’uan applies the inner energy (qi) for action while the muscles are used to help sustain the impact and provide support to meet the resistance. To be a good martial art fighter, he or she must fight. There is no shortcut. The same applies to push hands.
At 80, I still benefit from the slow motion of T’ai Chi Ch’uan, which alleviates stress and floats energy (qi) throughout my body. It optimizes the metabolism and enhances the respiratory system. This keeps my body going like when I was in my 60’s. I am able to run, jump, squat and spar in my San Shou classes and do my punching drills like a professional fighter. I continue to enjoy my workshops in the United States and Europe. This priceless art of T’ai Chi Ch’uan is maintaining my body and mind in balance and in health. It is a great blessing that I continue to learn from teaching and sharing my knowledge with my followers.
Since the 1950s, there have been countless published articles here and abroad about my involvement in Tai Chi Chuan. The following represents a partial listing of awards, honors and articles of recognition in different publications (books, magazines and newspapers) by noted individuals and organizations.
June 17, 1967 "Oriental World of Self-Defense" at Town Hall by Aaron Banks / Award of appreciation for participation and support.
Feb. 4th 1968 "East Coast vs. West Coast" Karate Championship by Aaron Banks / Award of appreciation for participation and support.
July 1968 "Orient vs. America" Open Karate Championship Tournament by Aaron Banks at N.Y. Hilton / Award of appreciation to William C. C. Chen for participation and support.
Oct. 3rd 1971 "Howard Lee's Annual International Open Karate Championship" Rockville Center, NY / Award of appreciation to William C. C. Chen for participation and support.
1972 "First Chinese International Tournament" / Award of appreciation to William C. C. Chen for participation and support.
July 1973 "Chinese Kung-Fu Invitational Tournament" by Fu-Jow Pai / Award of appreciation to William C. C. Chen for participation and support.
Feb., 1974 "Fu-Jow Pai Award" for Excellent Performance / Award of appreciation to William C. C. Chen for participation and support.
Aug. 31, 1974 Eastern U.S. Kung Fu Tournament - Jow Ga Kung-Fu Association / Eastern U.S. Kung-Fu Federation Dean Chin / Award of appreciation to William C. C. Chen for participation and support.
May 30th 1977 - Masters in Action Award nominated by Prof. Ron Van Cleef, Ph.D. Martial Arts Zen Psychotherapist for William C. C. Chen to the University of Martial Arts and Science Hall of Fame - for proper mental, physical and spiritual essence of true Martial Arts ideology his many to the world of Martial Arts.
1980 "Cheng San-Feng Festival" Tai Chi Society / Award of appreciation to William C. C. Chen for participation and support.
1981 - The Turtull Gold Cup "HALL OF FAME" Proudly inducts Master William C. C. Chen for his steadfast and continuing contributions to all martial arts, sciences and philosophies. Presented by E. Walter Boze, Jr. Oct. 18th 1981
1992 - Inside Kung-Fu's Fifteenth Anniversary Issue, selected "William C. C. Chen for Tai Chi Chuan" as one of "50 Influential Martial Arts Personalities"
1996 - "Journal of Asian
Martial Arts" Vol. 5 Number 4, pages 21-26
"Breathing in Taiji & Other Fighting Arts" by Robert W. Smith Read the article here ---> Noteworthy Articles
April 20th 1996 - Great Lakes Kung Fu Championship Sifu John H. Ervine, Jr / Award of appreciation to William C. C. Chen for participation and support.
June 30th 1996 - "U.S.A. Wushu Kung-fu Association's
Lifetime Achievement Award"
for dedication and perseverance in introducing and promoting the beauty of the Chinese Martial Arts presented to William C. C. Chen at the "Chinese Martial Arts Summer Bash Tournament" in Chinatown, New York.
March 27th 1998 - "New York Times" page E43
Weekend Warrior - "Getting Sweaty and Spiritual" by Jerry Beilinson
November 29th 1998 - "Lifetime Achievement Award"
Presented by International Tai Chi Chuan Federation Headquarter of the Republic of China to William C. C. Chen for his years of dedication to the Art of Tai Chi Chuan at the "4th Chung Hwa Cup Tai Chi Chuan International Championship" in Taipei, R.O.C.
"Inside Kung-Fu, pages 90-96 January, 1999 Issue"
"William C. C. Chen's Ancient Recipe for Yang Fighting Excellence" by Robert Dreeben
February 21st 1999 -
"Lifetime Achievement Award"
Award Ceremony and 64 Birthday Celebration, jointly sponsored by Red Road School of Tai Chi Chuan, Pacific School of Tai Chi and Chi Kung, the National Tai Chi Chuan Association and the QI Dojo to William C. C. Chen in Long Beach, CA
March, 1999 - "MEN'S JOURNAL" page 86 The Mind-Body Connection Section / "Silent Strength" by Carl Hoffman
March 22nd 1999 - "Outstanding Martial Arts Promoter"
Award Presented by General Thao-Ping Chang on behalf of the International Tai Chi Chuan Federation of the Republic of China to William C. C. Chen for his many years of contributions to the martial arts at the "International Chinese Martial Arts Championships" Bay Front Center Arena, St. Petersburg, FL
April 10th 1999 - "Lifetime Achievement Award"
Award Presented by Master Jesse Teasley of the Messianese Multicultural Center of Baldwin, NY to William C. C. Chen in recognition of his outstanding contribution for the advancement and promotion of holistic health and Chinese Martial Arts at the first "World Tai Chi Day" at the "Mitchell Field Athletic Complex" Uniondale, LI, NY
MAN of the YEAR - IKF's HALL of
Inside Kung-Fu's first Hall of Fame of the Millennium, Man of the Year, William C. C. Chen - IKF has chosen someone who will go down in history as one of the finest and most-influential traditional internal stylist of his generation. Feb. 2000 Issue pgs. 44 & 45 Read the article here ---> Noteworthy Articles
July 2nd 2000 - "Lifetime Achievement Award"
Award presentation by Grandmaster Chan Pui of the Wah Lum Kung Fu of USA and the United Kung Fu Federation of North America during the Tournament 2000 International Kung-Fu Championship in Orlando, FL to William C. C. Chen for a lifetime of Dedication and Support to Chinese Martial Arts.
August 4th 2000 - 2000 HALL of FAME "Lifetime
Award presentation to William C. C. Chen at the International Wushu-Kungfu Festival & Championship Dinner, Sheraton, Towson, MD. in recognition of his lifelong contribution in teaching and promoting the growth of Wushu Kung-Fu in the United States and Worldwide.
January 8th 2002 - Martial Artist Association - International "Certificate of Honor" Award presentation by GroBmeister Bernd Hohle, to William C. C. Chen for a Honorary Membership of the Martial Arts Association. www.Budo-Welt.de
August 5th 2002 - Guest
of Honor at The
CHENG MAN-CHING EUROPEAN COMPETITION/FORUM
presented by William Nelson at Perigueux, France
December 1st 2002 - Martial Arts Achievement Award presented by Chan Te-Sheng, Chairman. of the International Tai Chi Chuan Federation honors William C. C. Chen as a paragon of Tai Chi Chuan enthusiasts Taiwan, R.O.C. Award for consummate skill, great contributions to teaching, successful transmission of the torch of learning, unflagging propagation of the Tai Chi heritage and devotion to the investigation and cultivation of Tai Chi Chuan.
William C. C. Chen Tai Chi Chuan Cable TV's "The learning Channel" Martial Arts: The Real Story (2000, 2001, 2002, etc.) A copy of "Martial Arts: The Real Story" Video, contact: Pacific St. Film Project www.psfp.com
July 2003 Inside Kung-Fu William C. C. Chen / Tiffany F. Chen "The Secret to Combat Breathing & Power" pg. 38-43 Read the article here ---> Noteworthy Articles
June 19th/20th 2004 - Grandmaster William C. C. Chen received award for acknowledgement and gratitude for his teaching at Asociación de Tai Chi/Qigong Corazón de Dragón and Escuela Internacional de Tai Chi Chuan Luis Molera: Málaga, Spain
WORLD PROFESSIONAL MARTIAL ARTS ORGANIZATION: William C.C. Chen Recipient of G.G.M. Aaron Bank's 2006 HALL OF FAME AWARD January 29th 2006 at Madison Sq. Garden
1958 - Taiwan Team after the Taiwan National Olympics Competition.
William C. C. Chen is the second fighter from the right.
Banner Award from the 1958 National Chinese Martial Arts Tournament Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C.
1959 - William C. C. Chen and students of the Taiwan Telephone and Telegraph Co.
This is where he started the first class of Tai Chi Chuan.
William C. C. Chen is on the right behind Prof. Cheng Man-Ch'ing.
Professor Chen Man-Ch'ing This autographed photo was presented to me from my teacher in 1960.
Robert W. Smith practices Form Application with me in the early 1960's.
The "breathing machine" made by one of our members, David Kimball, was presented to Master William C.C. Chen
Master William C.C. Chen on the cover of "Oriental Fighting Arts - Vol. 1" July 1974
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Last updated by FJP on: Friday May 10, 2013