Cheng Jin Cai with Chen Zhao Kui
It has been just over 2 years since the passing of one of my amazing Teachers Shifu Cheng Jin Cai. As I work on this website there is a flood of memories of my precious time with Cheng Shifu, he was one of the "Old Guards." One of last students of famed Chen Style Practitioner Chen Zhao Kui.
Cheng Shifu dearly loved Chen Tai Chi Chuan, for he truly believed that it had saved his life. In this, him and I had something in common, in his book: The Legend of Chen Tai Chi he tells of his trials as a young boy growing up in rural China with Pernicious Anemia. He tells the story of how he was so weak and would get dizzy so frequently he could barely stand. Some days his parents would walk into the room and hold a mirror under his nose to see if he was still breathing.
In rural China, during this time, he was fortunate that he was male. However, since he was weak, he was becoming a burden on his family for they were having a difficult time caring for him. Cheng Shifu tells of how it was due to the love of his Grandmother that helped keep him alive. After a time of being so weak he was unable to even move from bed and developed bed sores on top of the Pernicious Anemia.
His Grandmother was fortunate to hear about a wandering Doctor that had come by and she asked the Doctor to help her grandchild Cheng Jin Cai. The Doctor examined him and said he was close to death and was not sure if his treatment would work, but he would try. He heated a copper Chinese coin in a fire and placed it between Cheng Shifu's kidney's, hoping that would save his young life.
I do not want to tell the whole tale here as it is well recounted in his book. Although I will say that it was through his future studies in Chen Style Tai Chi that Cheng Shifu was able to make a full recovery from Pernicious Anemia and go on to be one of the only recognized Disciples of famed Tai Chi Master Chen Zhao Kui, one of only two students under Chen Mao Sen and a student of the Famous Wang Xian. Cheng Shifu's tale continues as he also recounts of his decision to come to America and set up Chen Tai Chi in Houston, Texas.
Cheng Shifu practiced Tai Chi everyday, one of the first things he told me in his best english was: "Don't ask student how many years they study Tai Chi, ask them how many times a day they do form. Then you know their skill. Chen Zhao Kui do Xin Jia Er Lu (New Frame 2nd routine) twenty times a day."
Cheng Shifu loved Tai Chi, I remember one time we were talking and we got on the discussion of vacations and he said "Me no vacation in 30 years, always practice, always teach." Indeed he was legendary for having classes no matter what, one time I was down training in Houston and his Daughter was getting married. It was on a Saturday night and the wedding was at 7:30pm. Cheng Shifu taught class till 7pm.
I would drive down to Texas (14 hour drive) on a Saturday and spend an entire week training with him. He would let me do all of his public classes, then through the week we would train for 3-4 hours in the morning and 3-4 hours in the evening, he taught me both Chen Tai Chi and Tui Na that I will write about later.
The last time I trained with him was June 2016 (I usually went down in Spring months and fall months), it would be the 2nd to last time I would see him. As I was leaving this time he walked me to my car in Houston China town and he oddly gave me a hug and smiled and "Thank you, Joe, tell me you get home ok."
It was the first week of October 2016 that I got the news that they had found Cheng Shifu had stage 4 pancreatic cancer. It was a shock to many as very few knew he was having any problems. Upon finding out I drove down there that weekend to see him one last time, he was too weak to come in to the school frequently, but I was fortunate enough that he came that Saturday. I got to see him one last time, before the disease took him on 11/6/2016.
As I mentioned before, working on this website has brought up many of these fond memories with Cheng Shifu. One of my personal goals was the same as his, to share these Traditional Arts with as many people as I can. Working on this website and with someone with a similar love and interest in Bradford Tyrey, I feel in some small way I am able to continue just a small piece of all the work that Cheng Shifu did to bring Chen Style Tai Chi to the U.S.