Fast and Slow

by Todd Elihu

One day, while visiting the old stomping grounds of Hong Junsheng in the summer of 2004, we had the chance to spend some time with one of Hong’s most senior disciples, Meng Xianbin, in Jinan due to rather sad circumstances. A little man of 82 years of age at the time, Meng is listed in the Grandmaster’s monumental book, “Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method,” as first amongst all of Hong’s students in terms of seniority based on age. Unfortunately, Master Meng’s wife had suffered an aneurysm earlier that day and was being treated in a hospital. Master Chen Zhonghua had caught wind of this and decided to pay Meng a visit to lend his heartfelt support. Master Chen returned later that afternoon with Master Meng whom he had invited to our hotel to take his mind off his troubles for a little while by focusing on Taiji. I think he enjoyed meeting all of us North Americans, correcting our forms, lecturing on theory, and telling us stories of his experiences with Hong. One of the stories Master Meng shared with us involved a certain  Master Ni, an expert of ground fighting [Digongquan], who desired to study Taijiquan from Hong.

Meng met Master Ni out in the street one day. After chatting a bit, Master Hong happened to walk up. Meng introduced Ni to his teacher. Traditionally, when the teacher arrives the student stops doing the talking so Meng deferred to Hong. After having been introduced Master Ni said to Hong, “I should learn some Taijiquan from you.”

Master Hong replied respectfully, “Master Ni, your martial art is very good already. Why learn Taiji?”

Master Ni, who was about the same age as Hong, explained, “My form is too fast and I am too old to do it anymore. I’m only capable of doing some Taijiquan for health.”

Master Hong replied to him, “You say your form is too fast. I do not deny that it is fast. Tell me though, is the speed of a locomotive in front of a train fast or slow?”

“The speed of the locomotive is fast.” Master Ni answered.

“If it is so fast does it ever stop at the train station?” Hong asked.

“Yes, it has to stop. If it doesn’t stop then it would be like the Earth which goes around and around without end!” Master Ni replied.

Master Hong then concluded, “So if the speed of the locomotive is so fast and yet it can stop then how can you say that your form is too fast and you cannot slow it down. All forms of martial art can be done fast and slow. It’s not that ‘This is ground fighting; you have to be fast’ or ‘This is Taiji; you have to be slow’. These are both wrong assumptions.”

After that Master Ni didn’t know what to say.

Later on, a man named Wu, who was a disciple of Master Ni, went to Daming Lake in Jinan to look for Master Hong in hopes of studying Taijiquan. Upon meeting, Master Hong asked Wu, “What have you studied so far?”

Wu replied, “I have studied ground fighting [Digongquan].” This reminded Hong of Master Ni and their conversation.  

Hong said, “Little Wu, your martial art is already very good. Why learn Taiji?”

The man answered, “My form is too fast… I’m already over thirty and I can’t do it anymore. Some Taiji would be good for my health.”

Explore posts in the same categories: Hong Junsheng, Taiji Forms, Taiji Routines

One Comment on “Fast and Slow”

  1. Igor Says:

    🙂 If only he could slow down….no Tai Chi would be necessary!

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