Kung Fu Belts

My grandson has been studying kung fu for a few years now. The kids endured a two-hour test, then had a ceremony bestowing belts. Neat pix, I’ll edit (re-size) and share.

Meantime emails have been going back and forth. I offered an etymology relating kung fu and Confucius. Then I started remembering the guy who nudged me in the direction of that etymology: and my friend’s guru, Tai Chi master Cheng Man Ching. So, actually, this session will spill and twine all over: kung fu, tai chi, karate … this character and that … history, legend … flaws …

Cheng Man Ching
Cheng Man Ching
thanx patiencetaichi.com

I wrote white belt Benjamin’s mother a moment ago:

I picked that etymology up [follows in a moment] from a conversation with an exclassmate of mine who become the original American disciple of Cheng Man Ching, the master who brought Tai Chi Chuan to the US. He was translating Lao Tsu’s Tao de Ching, and very damn well. We were talking about Chinese roots.

I don’t remember whether Tam made the Kung Fu / Confucius connection or whether I made it, but the context was his whether he made it or not: he was the one studying Chinese etc. [My previous email offered an etymology for Confucius: kung fu (discipline) tsu (master): kung fu tsu: Con-fu-cius! Confucius, master of discipline!] [That time Tam and I had bumped into each other over a mid-day breakfast in a Chinese restaurant on Broadway, upper west side. Like me, Tam seemed to enjoy huge late breakfasts, with shrimp, and sausage, and rice, and veggies … (Tam had carried in his own giant can of Fosters! Typically you could carry your own beer (or booze) into a Chinese restaurant.)]

One thing remains vivid to me from that time: the dojo was down on Canal St. First it was just Cheng Man Ching and Tam Gibbs. Then another guy joined. But before long there were women too! and they were “playing” together!
This was truly revolutionary, because playing involves putting your forearms crossed on your partner/opponent’s chest! and pushing! and there were these girls, utterly repressing their habits about their breasts being taboo!

Cheng practiced Chinese medicine: in his culture it was all “one”: exercise, fighting, dance, medicine, health … ying yang flowing: exactly like the Tai Chi.
Unfortunately they all drank an awful lot of beer.

Drunk or not, Cheng, early seventies, would routinely step in against the sub-masters and throw them through the wall. I never saw him push the girls, or the beginners, only the most expert. (He (and Tam) had gathered a lot of students in a short time.)
Disciple #2 was this big guy, receding hairline, and as Cheng would rapidly find his point of imperfect balance, and the guy is flying through the air, he’d smile, recognizing, Ah, that’s where I wasn’t balanced! a
In battle, he’d be dead, and in ecstasy!
[That last point recalls a point I’ve been making since the early 1960s about the death of Kojiro in the Musashi trilogy.]

2014 04 14 I see wikipedia has articles on these subjects.

I’ll add the pix and edit, fill in, clarify: and tell more Cheng Man Ching stories: and conform spellings of Chinese words, names.
I meant this sharing to be quick and easy, but then the post started acreeting expansions, explanations … needs work now, dammit.

Writing Letters

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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