Cheng Man Ching on Temperament

When I was a young man, I had a sense of justice, but recklessly disregarded the consequences of my actions. I had the ambition to study hard to reach the highest level, but my physical energy was low.” -CMC

I will readily admit that martial arts have been a huge portion of my life. I have ranked above Dan ranking in 3 different Japanese arts, and have spent the last 10 years almost entirely devoted to the Wu-dang Chinese styles and derivatives. As you’d likely expect, I have read a good deal of the classics.

This particular excerpt comes from “Cheng Tzu’s 13 Treatise on Tai Chi Chuan” as authored by Cheng Man Ching, the first half of which is very much as exploration of his own journey 30 or so years into practicing tai chi chuan. While the specifics of how he altered the art in ways different than his teacher Yang Chen-fu is well outside of what we are generally discussing here, the way he views the benefits is not.

Cheng Man Ching (CMC) was a poet, calligrapher, professor, traditional doctor and later Tai Chi teacher. He was particularly well known for shortening the form and using it to work through his own battle with tuberculosis. He claims himself cured through his work in traditional medicine and tai chi. If nothing else comes from it, there’s value in the fact that he practiced daily, and seemed in very good health as an older man.

The art and healing aside, though, he has some very powerful words on the subject of a regular meditative physical practice: “Even if I don’t have perfect peace and calm within, I have eliminated my reckless and uncaring attitude. I do not expect the change of temperament to be as great a change as a thorn becoming an orchid or an owl becoming a phoenix, but I think that if your spirit and physical energy are low, then even if you are young, you will be weak, and even if you are strong you will be sick. When you become weak and sick, you will not be able to improve yourself, even if you want to. You cannot effectively discuss change of temperament.”

That is a far cry from suggesting a “miracle cure” or anything of the sort, and is quite practical. Professor Cheng, and many others, have seen the benefits of tai chi chuan, and it’s well within reason that there are very few downsides to a practice that is both meditative and physical exercise.

So, with all of the other things I am working on, I will be adding a single round of the CMC37 form to my own daily practice. I can spare 7 minutes a day, as can most of us for something that should be helpful.


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