Article by Patrick Kelly
Master Huang was well known and respected in Chinese martial arts circles around the world for the subtlety and strength of his internal power and his ability to use it in the Tai Ji pushing hands. Unfortunately few Westerners ever experienced his abilities first hand and many disbelieved his skill and felt the need to convince others of their disbelief with rational arguments founded on lack of personal experience.
I have never met one person who was lucky enough to get to practice with Master Huang, who had any doubt of his capabilities. Some did argue that his 20 years of practising Fujian White Crane under some of the most famous masters of his time was a major factor in his later success at Tai Ji, and he never denied it, but while giving due credit to the three Daoist Sages who taught him White Crane from the age of 14, he always attributed his Tai Ji skill to the late Grand Master Cheng Man-Ching.
Master Huang met G.M. Cheng Man-Ching in 1949 in Taiwan. He kneeled to and was accepted by him, the first Tai Ji exponet who had been able to deal comfortably with Master Huang’s White Crane in a friendly test of skills. Master Ben Lo Pang Jang of San Francisco, a famous student of G.M. Cheng, was present in those early days and he told me that when Master Huang first attended Cheng’s school he was already able to throw normal people 10 metres using his White Crane hands, but the relaxed students of G.M. Cheng could escape his push to some extent.
Because of this, at first G.M. Cheng refused to believe that Master Huang had not learnt Tai Ji somewhere before but then Master Huang showed G.M. Cheng the secret White Crane training manual handed down from his Daoist teachers containing on the first page the characters: Sung, Sung, Sung; meaning: Relax, Relax, Relax; and on the second: Yi, YI ,Yi: meaning: Mind, Mind, Mind, G.M. Cheng said he could see that the systems were similar and that Master Huang had already achieved the first 10 years of Tai Ji through his training in White Crane.
Master Huang stayed with G.M. Cheng until 1959 when at G.M. Cheng’s injunction he emigrated to Singapore and later to Malaysia stting up home in Kuching on the Island of Borneo.
There he remained for most of the rest of his life, steadily practising, teaching, experimenting, developing his training system and opening new schools as well trained instructors became available.
Master Huang was noticeable in his teaching in many ways, but one which I as a foreigner experienced was his insistence that it was not a person’s race (being Chinese) or the family lineage that had any influence on the learning Tai Ji, but the person’s attitude, practice method and the help of a good Master that led to success. He told me that in his experience neither the very rich nor the very poor would succeed in learning Tai ji as they were both too concerned with money.
In the form while most teachers stressed the postures themselves he stressed the changes that occur in the moving from one posture to another. Throughout the 70 years over which he devolped his skills he constantly sought to refine and internalise them through hours of daily practise and original thought.
Over the last 20 years of his life I saw the physical movement he used being withdrawn from his legs and arms then being concentrated and minimised within the centre of his body until at the last it would appear to all but the most experienced eye that he would yield neutralise and issue with no visible changes. this is the stage of pure mind intention (Yi) and all the genuine internal masters have this to some degree.
But over the same time a more important refinement was taking place unnoticed by most but he attempted to explain it on occasions. it involved removing the intention or “Yi” from the process of issuing energy so that the issuing phase appeared naturally and spontaneously during the sinking and letting go of the mind with the result that it felt both to his mind and to others involved that the receiver of his energy threw themselves. This paralleled the Taoist ideal in daily life of doing nothing yet all things still being done (not to be confused with the elementary psychological method of splitting ones attention and simultaneously doing and observing).
He asked each person to go back to first principles and study nature and the animals to understand and rediscover the Tai Ji priciples for ourselves as the old masters who founded and developed Tai Ji had done in their time. This he had done for himself over the years and he often talked about the results of his own studies. He felt that Tai Ji was a living teaching and that it must grow within each person rather than become stagnant and fixed. He also acknowledged the individual contribution of all genuine practitioners of Tai Ji whatever their level. Knowing that I was involved in other internal disciplines simultaneously he advised that all teachers have their strengths and their weakness’ and to make sure that I learnt from each one’s strong points and not their weak ones as he had done himself over his lifetime. This was the open-mindedness that held me and so many others to him while at the same time leaving us free to find our own path.
Some of his old Daoist sayings that I remember and that characterised his life are:
* Don’t be content with being the student of a successful Master; you must make a success of your own practice.
* Learn less and practice more.
* It is all in the Tai Ji Form.
* If I teach and you don’t practice, we are both wasting our time.
*Tai Ji is not important; the Tao is.
*Some people think the pushing hands is all technique but they do not understand that unless they are an upright and principled person they will never get past a certain level.
* Even after 70 years of struggle, things do not get easy; it still requires a daily effort to live a worthwhile and successful life.
* When you drink the water, remember the person who dug the well.