Who Was Grandmaster Tchoung
Copyright H. Kurland 1999
he prefers to stay to himself and not boast of his ability, Tchoung Ta-tchen was
a well know figure in the tai-chi ch'uan world of Taipei, Taiwan, Seattle, WA
and Vancouver, BC. When experts who really understand tai chi met him, there was
no question that they knew they have met a true grandmaster of the art.
Tchoung Ta-tchen moved to Canada in 1972. In Canada he was welcomed by t'ai chi
students who were of hungry for real knowledge of the real art of t'ai chi.
Previous to moving to Vancouver, he taught in Africa and Taiwan. Tchoung was
originally from Hunan and became a professional soldier. As an Officer in the
Calvary, he fought with Chang Kai Shek against the Japanese. When Chang fled to
Taiwan, Tchoung and many other notable masters went too. Tchoung became the head
of the "T'ai Chi Ch'uan Health and Defense Institute of Taipei" and
was a member of the Chinese T'ai Chi Ch'uan Association (Main Tai chi chuan
Organization of Taiwan).
In Taiwan he
had several notable friends and practice partners. A few of his friends were
Cheng Man-ch'ing, Kuo Lien Ying , Liang T'ung Tsai, Wang Shu Chin, Wang Nien
Yien, Yuan Tao, and others. Most of who were related in some way to Chang's
government and fled Mao's China. Tchoung studied the pushing hands method of
Cheng Man-ch'ing and worked out with Cheng and other masters. He was well known
in Taiwan for his fa-jin and rooting ability. More recently he taught pushing
hands in Mainland China to groups of Chinese students and masters in an attempt
to bring the real t'ai chi ch'uan "Energy" back to China.
Sifu Laurens Lee when Tchoung was in Taiwan there was a statement in martial art
circles that "Big Tchoung cannot be moved, little Tchoung cannot be pushed
off balance." Little Tchoung was Tchoung Ta-tchen.
asked by the Chinese Tai Chi Chuan Association of Taiwan to be the personal
tutor for President Bongo of Gabon. Tchoung taught president Bongo O'Mei ch'i
kung (Emmei qi gong) and t'ai chi ch'uan then Tchoung moved to Johannesburg,
South Africa, where he taught his unique style.
Master Martin Lee, who is The Chairman of the "Vancouver Tai Chi Chien
Masters and Friends Club", "He (Tchoung) has extraordinary tai chi
power. His pang-jing (peng-chin) is super-powerful� Whenever he pushes with
anyone he always wins, he has never been defeated by anyone. Only one or two
people can break even with him�When Master Tchoung pushed hands, both arms are
soft like cotton; when you touch his arm, you feel nothing. He is truly reaching
the level of "Invisibility". When he attacks, he moves like a speeding
arrow, with great power. Lots of martial art Champions and tai chi followers
respect Master Tchoung's methods." Tchoung has had a number of t'ai-chi
champions come out of his school and several masters of kung-fu and ch'i kung
have studied with him.
As a young
man Tchoung studied his family style of t'ai chi ch'uan and tui-na. He also was
a track athlete. He became a professional soldier and Army officer. He traveled
in China seeking out the top masters. In 1943, he studied ch'i kung (qi gong)
and t'ai chi ch'uan with the Senior Taoist, Abbott Hui Kung, at the O'mei (Emmei
Shan) Mountain Monastery in Sichuan province.
studied the Old Form of Yang Family Style based on the lineage of Tian Zhao Lin
(Tian Shaolin) of Hangzhou. Tian (also spelled Tien by some) was a famous
student of Yang Chien-hou, though some say he studied with Yang Shou-hou, or
both. In 1959 Tchoung studied with Shi Tiao-mei, student of Tien and the head of
the police academy.
studied Natural School (Nature School) Boxing, also called the "Natural
Style" of kung-fu with a Hsiung Chien-yuan famous teacher of Nature School
Boxing. Hsiung was called the "Great Old Man of Hangchow". Tchoung
learned pa-kua chang (baguazhang) from his friend Wang Shu Chin and Hsin I
Ch'uan (Xing-Yee quan) from his friend Yuan Tao. He studied the t'ai chi San
Shou with the famous Hsiung Yang Ho, who was also a student of Yang Shao-hou.
And he learned the unique knife style of his friend Wu Ta Nan. He passed these
form on to his students.
a particular interest is studying the sword and stick forms. He learned several
sword styles from the top masters of the day. The sword forms had names such as
"Green Duckweed Sword", green bamboo sticks of the beggars style, Kun
Lun (Kwin Lin) sword, Heaven and Earth sword, as well as the t'ai chi sword,
double sword, as well as Yang and Wu t'ai-chi knife sets. He developed his own
t'ai chi Tuan Kune or walking stick form which he taught to his students.
philosophy was to teach his students everything he could. Not hold back, as many
teachers did. That is the reason so many students left their previous schools to
study with him. He tells his students from the beginning that he can teach them
the method, but it is up to them as to what they do with it. That is if they do
not train hard, they will not achieve their potential. He says there are no
magical secret, just hard training and coaching. He saw that there was a decay
in t'ai-chi ch'uan quality in China and the world. That is the art was becoming
conceptually a calisthenics exercise or performance art, and the old martial
value and traditional method was being lost.
He felt the
previous generation's skill being lost or watered down was due to the concept of
always holding a little back from the student (as well as intentional
persecuting of the art and modernizing it on the mainland). So every generation
lost a little more, so now even the top names were merely shells of the older
art, very few had any real skill. He wanted to push his students so that the art
would be elevated and that his students would even be more skilled than he was
then if they taught their students would be better and so on. Then the long
setback after Mao took over followed by a changing the form to a calisthenics
added to the decline. Tchoung traveled to China where he taught pushing hands to
masters there to improve their skill and raise the level of tai chi in China.
believed due to differences in body type and nature that everyone will impart
their own essence to the art. They express themselves just as they might in
different writing or calligraphy styles. Even though you may learn the same
method of writing as your classmates, you will write a little different than
everyone else in the class. The same goes for t'ai chi, it is not the idea to
clone the teacher, but rather to allow the unique energy of every individual to
express itself. We are not looking to manufacture robots. He also allowed
variations in technique depending on the student's abilities or limitations. For
example once in our morning class, two advanced students asked him about the
correct way to do a technique. Each student did a different variation of the
same technique. Tchoung told them, "It depends on the use." He was
more interested in correct principles, than mindless robots. He often said all
t'ai-chi ch'uan styles were fine as long as the principles were correct.
He taught a
unique style based on what is called the Old Yang Style. He teaches his dual
form or symmetrical form where each technique is performed on the right and left
sides. This is his version of the form. This way the body is balanced. It is a
very "Soft" form with no tension allowed and the stances are
relatively high. The back is straight and the body upright. It is similar to
Cheng Man-ching's form in concept but much more elaborate. There are several
versions of the techniques in the form and a few pa-kua chang ( bagua zhang)
movements are also in the form. The fast form contains movements from Kuang Ping
style and Nature Boxing style as well.
symmetrical long form is over 300 movements long and his short form, which shown
in his book, is about 120 movements. He also does a shorter form for
demonstrations which is similar to Cheng Man-ch'ing's form. The Tchoung system
includes ch'i kung, long form, short form, san shou, a two person t'ai chi
sparring form, a fast form, pushing hands, walking stick, sword and knife as
well as pa-kua and hsin-I (which is another term for hsing-I). His focus is on
principles and energies, rather than rote teaching.
his masterwork, a 328-page book, The Annotated Theoretical and Practical Tai Chi
Chuan, in 1995. The book is written in English and Chinese and shows his
"short" form, chi kung, san shou, and pushing hands. It also contains
some t'ai chi ch'uan classics not usually seen in translation. In the USA Andrew
Dale and Harvey Kurland are certified by Tchoung to Teach his system.
Grandmaster Tchoung was in his late 80's he still practiced his art and worked
with his advanced students. He is one of the lesser know greats of the t'ai chi
world. Tchoung died in February 22, 2000.