INSIDE KUNG-FU
INSIDERS

Lifetime Achievement Award Goes To William C.C. Chen
By A. Marston Thomason

LONG BEACH, Calif. — As Hollywood braced itself for the upcoming Oscars, tai chi legend, fighter and teacher, Grandmaster William C.C. Chen, was presented with an award even harder to earn at a banquet and performance at the appropriately named Dragon Restaurant here during Chinese New Year.

"We want to honor a true master in all senses of the word who embodies the great transference to the West of this most-precious of treasures — tai chi chuan — that happened during the second half of the 20th century," explained Dan Paik, president of the National Tai Chi Chuan Association (NTCCA), which presented the award.

"We wanted someone who is universally respected and whose life and career represent the kind of dedication to the development and honest sharing of the art we hope to encourage in others...grandmaster Chen is such a person," Paik added. 

 

Preceding the award, a program involving demonstrations of some rarely seen forms and practices from the-over- 7,000-year development of this art were presented as a sort of historical background for the award.

Thousands-of-year-old wu chin hsi (five animal frolics) were demonstrated by students Michael Jue, Kathy McConnell, Jerry Petal and Paul Berolzheimer of the host school Qi Dojo.

Dr. Carl Totten, director of the Taoist Institute in North Hollywood, Calif., demonstrated lu ho ba fa, a pre-tai chi Taoist kung-fu style. Nancy Zoss of the NTCCA performed a little-known pre-Yang style tai chi chuan set learned from her teacher, master Shen Hei Min. Master Wen Mei Yu performed a rare Wu style fast set. And Doria Cook-Nelson, Simone Forti, Paik and Zoss of the NTCCA demonstrated part of a Yang-style family slow set.

The martial interactive aspect of tai chi was also demonstrated. Wu family master Tony Ho showed the power of tai chi to repel an attack, bouncing heavyweight Lee Scheele across the room. Push hands former national champion Chris Luth of Pacific School of Tai Chi in San Diego, Calif.,

pleased the crowd with some push hands with his 11-year-old son. He followed this up with a more challenging opponent, finishing with a demonstration of two-person tai chi sword sparring.

"We wanted to show that tai chi chuan is an alive and constantly evolving force in the world and always has been," said Michael Shaman, program narrator and chief instructor at Qi Dojo. "All too often people get lost in the ‘my-school-and-lineage-is-the-only-true-system’ syndrome and lock themselves away from the important truths that may come in other packages."

Along with the performing masters, others in attendance to honor grandmaster Chen included, Dan Lee, Joseph Lopez, Michael Krubiner, Sam Barnes, and Manny Marquez.

The event was also attended by teachers and practitioners of other martial arts.

"Throughout my career I’ve heard about William Chen as being someone who truly knows about the relationship between ki and effective body mechanics," said aikidoist sensei Joe Crotty. "I couldn’t let this opportunity to meet and honor him pass."

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