The Professor of Shadow Boxing
hose who have followed my articles know how often I speak about my last
master, Ch'ang Tung Sheng. I have recalled in some detail memories of my
experiences with the Master in an article entitled "Will The Real Ch'ang
Tung Sheng Please Stand Up." As I said in that article, I began to realize
how famous Ch'ang was in Taiwan, where Ch'ang acted as Chief Judge in
my fight with Wu San Ju (see photo below
After the fight Ch'ang presented me with the Flag of
Mei Jung Style (see photo below
Master Ch'ang was not for all students. Yes, Ch'ang was my last teacher, but I
was ready for the Master teachings because I was already primed by other
noted Masters in my life. Without the teachings of these Masters I'm sure my
martial arts karmic road would have been much different. At the point in my
life when I met Ch'ang, I knew there was something missing in my training. I doubt
anyone could have filled that gap but Ch'ang himself. I needed to know about
Shuai Chiao, and who better to learn it from but the best? Working with the
Master was the icing on the cake. I knew that my
past teachers were indeed excellent, for Ch'ang demanded a good basic
understanding from his students. My past teachers taught me well, and the
Master said so after seeing me fight. I was ready for whatever Ch'ang
would teach me, thanks to them.
Let me tell you about one such teacher with whom I am very honored
to have studied. He, like many Chinese, used an American name-
Franklin Y.C. Kwong. His Chinese name was
Master Kwong was a native of Canton,
Mainland China, but he later moved to Taiwan. When I met this quiet
and unassuming Master he was living in a moderate apartment in
the Flushing area of New York. He was my classmate when I was
learning Chan Meditation under Master Rev. Shen Yen. I had had
previous training under other Chinese teachers in New York's
Chinatown, so I was already acquainted with Tai Chi. However, I
found Master Kwong's method of instruction to be very complete,
covering all aspects of Tai Chi Ch'uan. What I learned from him
raised my level of understanding a great deal. Because of Kwong's
teachings my skills in the solo form and Tai Chi Sword Form
improved greatly. His movement was beautiful to behold. His form,
structure and precision were perfect, and he had a storehouse of
information on tway shou (pushing hands) techniques.
Kwong was a highly educated man. (see photo to right of Master Kwong and myself)
His schooling was very impressive. He went to Sun Yat Sen High School, in
Canton, China in 1934. He moved on to Sun Yat Sen University, in Canton, China
earning his BS in Electrical Engineering in 1938. He furthered his education by going
to New York University, earning his MS in Electrical Engineering in 1941. He
graduated and worked at the Taiwan Power Company in 1953. He specialized in
planning and designing power generators. In the early 1950's he
taught at Chieng Kung University in Taiwan and Hwa Kio University in Macao.
Master Kwong's martial arts background is impressive. He was
the disciple of Yang Ch'eng-fu and his oldest son Yang Shou. He
also studied with two of Ch'eng's top students, Chen Wai-ming, and
Ying-chieh. Because of his extensive knowledge of Tai Chi Ch'uan
he was known as the "Professor of Shadow Boxing." Master
Kwong's Pa Kua teachers were also very famous, namely Chien
Yun who was the daughter of Sun Lu Tang, and Fu Chun Shoong.
He studied the classical eight (8) mother form, the Pa Kua Sword,
as well as the rare Palm of the Dragon Pa Kua, a form not seen in
this country until Kwong came to the United States. Master
Kwong's Hsing-I teacher was Sun Tsing Chow, who was the son
of the famous Sun Lu Tang. He also knew the Sun style of Tai Chi
He was instructor to Vice Admiral Doyle, former commander of
the U.S. Taiwan Defense Command. He was host instructor
for a show on Taiwan Television called "Let's Learn Tai Chi Ch'uan"
from Jan. 14th, 1964 to Dec. 27th,1965. He was the teacher of Mr.
Houphouet Boigny, the president of the Ivory Coast, Africa. He
was sent as a representative of Taiwan to teach the president Tai
Chi Ch'uan and Tai Chi Jen (sword) fencing. Although he planned
to stay a short time, he spent five years teaching in the Ivory coast.
He has been written about in a number of books. Two in particular
are: "The Fundamentals of Tai Chi Ch'uan" by Wen-Shan Huang,
printed in 1973, by South Sky Book Company in Hong Kong, and
he is mentioned in Robert Smith's book Chinese Boxing. One of
Kwong's classmates was the noted Cheng Man-Ch'ing of Taiwan.
Kwong was a small thin man. He was 5' 3", and his body weight never
exceeded more then 110 pounds. At first glance you would not suspect that
he had Kung Fu skills (see photo to right of Master Kwong, another of my
teacher's: Chung Tsai, and myself), but in fact, his skills were superb.
His original reason for studying Tai Chi Ch'uan was to improve his health.
Kwong had suffered digestive problems, headaches, and sleepless nights.
Kwong taught the practice of postures and forms to
enhance chi flow and the control of vital breathing with movement.
In fact, Kwong had the ability to hold his breath for as long as five
minutes, longer than most trained skin divers. Dr. Fang Huai-shih,
chief of the physiological department of the National Taiwan
University Hospital, said it was a very rare phenomenon which had
much to do with one's physical well-being. It was written in the
China News in Dec. 31, 1964 that Dr. Fang tested 157 Chinese Air
Force fliers in 1942 and the average time they could hold their
breath was 65 seconds. An ordinary man could hold for about 45
seconds. Master Kwong's ability to hold his breath for five minutes
is considered to be a world record.
Kwong was also trained in
nurturing his psychic center and various nerve centers of the body.
He could sit in meditation for hours without moving a muscle.
Master Kwong practiced Tai Chi Ch'uan, Tai Chi Jyan, Pa Kua,
and Hsing-I. He also taught various forms of Shao-lin, such as
Flying Dragon Jyan. He was a master of Taoist longevity and
Meditation exercises. He had been teaching for well over thirty years
when I first met him.
Kwong was not a purist when it came to teaching Chinese Kung
Fu. He felt you could never make a living by only
teaching, so he worked. He enjoyed working and was paid well for
his knowledge. He would teach his martial arts every day after his
work was over. Because he did not rely on his martial arts for
a living, he kept his teaching prices very low, so people could afford
to learn. It cost about $20.00 per month to learn in a group class. I
always considered that private lessons were the best way for me to
learn. Although the cost was higher, the quality of training was
excellent, and I always received the type of training I sought.
At the time that we met, I needed Kwong's teachings.
Without his direction, I never could have fully appreciated
the methods of Master Ch'ang Tung Sheng later, nor been able to
learn Ch'ang's methods without Master Kwong's teachings. Master
Ch'ang did not teach the way Kwong taught. Ch'ang expected you
to learn quickly without going into explanation of details of basics.
He expected you to know something before he taught you anything.
He had little patience with beginners, but Kwong had a totally
different approach. He was careful and thorough, and had a world of
patience for the beginner.
His teaching was technical and precise.
He taught slowly and methodically, regardless of what the student
knew already. Each move was carefully studied and practiced until
the student fully understood. Basics always came first, and he
reviewed each step to assure that you could do it properly. If you could
not do the move to his specifications, he would patiently review it,
and have you practice it all over again. In order to advance with
Kwong you had to display what he showed perfectly. If he saw no
errors he would move you ahead in training.
Because of my background, I went through his teachings quickly,
without much need for explanations or numerous corrections. For
this reason Kwong showed a great deal of his skill to me. I would
follow him everywhere to pursue his teachings. One time he went
on a vacation in upstate New York. Little did he know that I had
followed him and checked into the same motel. In the morning, I
knocked on his door and said, "Hello, Master, I am ready for
class." He was shocked that I had followed him, but was impressed
by the interest shown in his teaching. We pushed all the furniture
aside and had a class right there. Had Kwong been of a different
nature nothing would have persuaded him to teach as much as he
Kwong was not concerned with amplifying his fame. He
had already attained a good reputation, through the teachings he had
received, and through the high quality methods he used to teach others.
He was not interested in running a Kwoon. He liked to be free to
teach where he pleased and not be committed to any one
group of students. He was deeply religious - a devout Buddhist and
Taoist. He practiced both, as many Chinese do, taking parts of both
worlds of thought. He had little social life that I know of. He simply
taught quietly and practiced his beliefs. When he died his remains
were laid to rest in a Buddhist Temple in Kent, New York.
As for Kwong's Tai Chi Ch'uan, he always claimed he taught the
original style that his Master taught, unchanged or modified in any way.
He was one of the few Masters who taught the full
complement of the one hundred and eight (108) push hand methods.
He began with single hand methods and progressed to two hand
methods with fixed steps, active steps and, finally, moving steps.
Even today it is hard to find a teacher as thorough as Kwong, who
taught so many techniques. Many
teachers today concentrate on only a handful of methods. Kwong's
approach was a complete system.
Push Hands Patterns (see outline)
Kwong's teachings on push hands were as thorough as his teachings of the solo
form. He would carefully show a pattern, and once you learned it, he would show a
counter for that pattern. He kept on doing this until the student learned how
to use the counter moves to each pattern taught. Once all the patterns were
learned he would teach one to combine the various patterns until
the student could easily create combinations of patterns as the need
arose. This procedure would
continue even into his San Shou ( Tai Chi two man set) applications.
This way, a student had an overall understanding of how to use all
aspects of Tai Chi Ch'uan for health, as well as for combat
applications. Master Kwong's approach to teaching each of the
internal arts was the same. He was one of the most organized
teachers I ever had (see photo to right of Master Kwong and
Master Kwong Yung-cheng left behind many followers. They are
scattered around the world, still proclaiming the benefits of Master
Kwong's Kung Fu teachings. To this day I am still passing on the
numerous techniques he taught me and stand honored to have
studied privately with this marvelous martial artist. I recorded over
sixty audio tapes of private conversations with this Master and
hope one day to write more about Master Kwong's insights into
Chinese Martial Arts. Until then, I hope this small tribute to
Master Kwong will suffice for those eager to know about true
Kwong Yung-cheng holds a special place in my heart for he
influenced everything I teach and profess today. The students he
taught are without number. The number of people he affected is
boundless. The past thirty years have been a sad time in
martial arts history, for we are losing the great Masters who have
molded the history of our beloved art. Truly Kwong Yung-cheng
was one of them. It is my hope that this portrait of Master Kwong will
rekindle some memories for those who knew him. As for those who
never had the chance to know him, I hope this article will make
them aware of the greatness of Kwong Yung-cheng, the "Professor
of Shadow Boxing".
- In this photo Grandmaster Ch'ang is sitting
in judge's seat just after our fight, from
the left standing are Wu San Ju, the referee
appointed by the Kuo Shu Federation of Taiwan
to officiate our fight, and myself.Back
- In this photo from left to right:Wu San Ju,
Grandmaster Ch'ang, referee, and myself)