Master He Weiqi teaching 18 taiji qigong
by John Kang Sr.
He Wei Chi, a national champion of martial arts in China in the 1960ís was born in a very artistic family. She was deeply involved in literature, drama, and dancing at a very early age. As a young girl in gymnastics she was asked if she wanted to learn "monkey boxing" without knowing the hard training that comes with wushu. Her parents enrolled her for professional training by the Shanghai Martial Artists. Since then she has been devoted to the martial arts for more than four decades.
Wei Chi recalls the curiousness of being a 13 year old chosen to be a member of the famous Shanghai martial artists, but after regular training in stretching and basics of taijiquan and wushu, lack of interest lay in wait. Training day after day brought on aches and pains of back and leg. She remembers losing all the sense of curiosity and mystery, ready to give up for all the tiredness and misery. Fortunately during this initial period of enlightening she remembers such mentors as Cai Long Yu, Fu Zhong Wen, and Wang Ju Rong helping he realize that the meaning of martial arts is not for personal gratification, but for the inheriting and passing on from generation to generation the treasure of the chinese civilization.
In recollecion of her masters she mentions the following:
Wang Xiao-Rong- known as the "hero from Guandong," was an expert in the xingyiquan sect of internal arts, as well as the Spring-autumn cleaver, nine section whip, xingi was his most common demonstrated in his repertoir. Wei Chi learned Gong-fu basics and the 10 route leg kicks from him.
Fu Zhong Wen- the direct heir of Yang taijiquan, served as teacher of the Shanghai martial artists from June 1961 to may 1966. Wei Chi learned Yang style taijiquan, Sword, push hands, staff, and basic gong exercises from him.
Cai Hong-Xian- Deputy Head of the Shanghai Hall of Martial Artists excelled in the Shaolinquan arts. His style was graceful and postures wonderful. Wei Chi owed this master her Changquan, Sword, and double weapon.
Lu Zheng Tao- was the inheritor of the Mitsung (tractless) sect. His artistic level was unsurpassed, unfortunately he died young as a victim of the cultural revolution. Master Lu excelled in Yen tsin Ja, Mizhongquan, Lohanquan,, Fu chen sword, six route tsin ping sword, Golden Rooster Struggle, and Peach Blossom fan. Wei Chi said she was relatively more influenced by him.
Chuguei Ting- was well respected authority in Tajiquan, Baguazhang, and xingyiquan, he died at the age of 99.
Wang Jurong- the famous daughter of Wang Ziping and practitioner of Cha quan. Was well versed in all aspects of martial arts.
Before the Cultural Revolution these famous martial artists would on weekends or fortnightly make presentations of "18 varieties of martial arts" to the public. These included Tan Tuei, Tao-lu quan, Double rings of Chien-kuen, Pure Yang sword, spear, Hua chuan confrontation, spear vs double daggers, opposing spears, ect. With such a comprehensible list, these shows were really spectacular.Wu De- Martial Ethics
Wei Chi explains that while these master were teaching martial arts, they also emphasized the importance of martial ethics. They taught that "cultivate the man before you teach him martial arts", and "to learn martial arts is to practice martial ethics." Now that having become a teacher, she lives by these mottos and vowed to pass down the truths to the younger generation.
Wei Chi began to distinguish herself in 1963 after two years of diligent practice. The first time she went to the national competition, she won recognition for her excellence in swordsmanship and was nicknamed one of the "three swordswomen of China" together with Chen Dao-yuin and Zhang Ling-mei. Being exceptionally artistic, with a beautiful figure achieved through years of physical training, quck reflexes, graceful in movement and charismatic in actions, wei chi was admired and envied. No wonder some older athletes in the 1950ís considered her a threat in spite of her young age.
The real threat however came from the calamity of the cultural revolution in which the chinese martial arts were denigrated as never before. In the past as "national treasure and heritag", they were now cursed a "remnants of a feudal past". All regular training was stopped, atheletes scattered, and wei chi had to bid farewell to martial arts at the zenith of her fame and development.
In this stormy era, Wei chi was made a laborer in factories and docks. Because of her background as a performer, she was then asked to join the "Red morning cloud performing troup" in Beijing, a city permeating with gun powder smoke and danced in a play titled "Red-lamp Glow." At one time she performed in front of Chairman Mao with the group. The misery of that kind of existence is hard to comprehend for people who live in a free society, WeiChi explains. It wasnít until 10 years when it was over that she returned to the Shanghai Athletic Palace, there she began her career of coaching martial arts for the youth at the school of amateur athletes. She was also able to travel abroad to the United states, Japan and Mexico to demonstrate Taiji and Wushu with such greats as Li Lin Ji at the White House in D.C. in front of President Nixon when relations with China began to increase.
It was here that the significance of the work she was embarking on would develop a comprehensible training method of martial arts through trial and error. Based on child psychology, this method let the pupils play and dance to the accompanyment of music at the beginning of aa training session to allow their muscles to relax and their senses to become comfortable. She then devised a series of drills on three levels of difficulty in which the students will design their own routines. If the routine is good they will receive much applause if its enjoyed by all. This resulted in a lively class. In addition she maintained close contact with each students school and parents, checking on grades at school as to not allow martial arts to be at the expense of education. Through this effort many of the pupils were admitted into "emphasised middle schools."
In 1979 Wei Chi was invited by the Hong Kong Phoenix Movie studios to be its martial arts coach in the filming of "Fight for treasure in the West," and "Stand Up,Man!" directed by Wu Bin, teacher of the hero in the movie and also one of Wei Chis swordsmanship coach. WeiChi for the first time was in films with other well known martial artists like Sun Gen Fa, Guo Liang, Dong Honglin, and Yen Ping.
As her filming experience came to a close she returned to Shanghai Athletic Palace to train her students. This time the training was intense and the students highly motivated and older. The fame of this Young Martial Artists Group began to spread even to national television. Childrens martial arts eventually became an acceptable and respectable branch of athletics and employed by the government as a key entertainment for the visitors to China.
Since 1980 Wei Chi and her group have made more than 100 presentations. 60% of these have been to foreign dignitaries including the King of Sweden, King of Denmark, King of Jordan, President Mitterand of France, Chairman of the Olympic committee,ect. These young artists who excel both acedemically and athletically live up to their reputation.
Twice in the Pan China Martial arts Learning and Exchange meet, five out of the six represented sent by this amateur group distiguished themselves and won the first place team award for six consecutive years.
Wei Chi came to the United States in 1989 to join her husband a successful swim team coach for the University of Tennessee. Later in 1991,they were invited by Richmond virginias City Manager Robert Bob to be apart of the Parks and Recreation Department. Coach Xu (wei chis husband) developed a first place city swim team and qigong research group, while Wei Chi developed award winning Taiji and Wushu competitors. In 1997 she was invited by the Ross school in Long Island New York to teach for the Physical Education Department.
Life in the USA she observes is on a very fast track. People work very hard, fight the traffic in the morning and evening, work on the house or garden, taking the kids places for various activities. There is little time to rest. When in middle age, people begin to complain about various aches and pains, and all sorts of illnesses. Wei Chi believes that Taiji qigong is an excellent remedy for all kinds of maladies. She has collaborated with Master Lin Hou of the Shanghai Institute of Qigong in writting a book entitled "18 modes of Taiji qigong." She has given classes on martial arts one after another without knowing that she has activated and enlivened the life of many people.